Tell me how you came to start Better Burger Company.
We opened in mid-September of 2010. It’s a long story, but basically I always knew the owner of the space who used to be involved with Burger Chefs, a popular chain 30 or 40 years ago. A lot has changed since then – habits, foods, marketing. I was in a career shift when this opportunity came up, and I jumped on it. I knew Thayer Street so I knew this was a great possibility, and I didn’t need much convincing. In a way, we were starting from where they left off and bringing it into the 21st century.
Has anything changed since you opened?
We have kept the core of our food and concept the same, but we’ve focused on constantly improving our quality, service and product. Our goal is completely homemade, good meat, good cheese and quality food. Our challenge is how to deliver that kind of quality but stay within a price range, plus be able to do it at a high volume. It seems like it would be easy because this is a relatively small place, but developing all the different recipes, testing and so on, with the resources of a small place, is quite a project. Another change is that we’ve added a bar – it’s a casual place to have a drink after work.
What’s coming up?
In the fall, we will be introducing a few new items. We will have ice cream and frozen yogurt made from organic milk. We’re going to offer stir-fried vegetable sides and no-bun burgers. We’re also improving our fish and salmon burgers. We’ll continue to add vegan and gluten-free options. Another development will be our new homemade sauces: smoked tomato aioli with a touch of orange and little bit of chipotle pepper, chipotle aioli, ketchup, mayo, ranch and barbeque with a bit of bourbon whiskey. It would be easy to buy sauces from a supplier, but homemade tastes so much better.
What do you think makes a good burger?
Personally, I like a burger when it’s cooked in the char broiler. Some people like to cook burgers on a flat top, but I prefer the burner. The quality of the meat, the cut and the seasonings you use are all very important. The bread should be real - less sugary and more wholesome – and it should complement the patty. Everything should be fresh and homemade sauces are the best. For cooking temperature, we recommend medium-well (just a little pink), but of course we cook to the customer’s wishes. The perfect burger is a very personal thing.
Does your Greek heritage come through on the menu at all?
We do have a couple of Greek-inspired items. One is our Farmer’s Lamb Burger. The lamb comes from Hopkins Farm, and it’s 100% grass-fed. We season the patty and top it with breaded eggplant, feta, tzatziki and onions.
What are some of the most popular menu items?
The Farmer’s Burger is a favorite – it’s our 100% grass-fed beef burger. The lamb burger I mentioned is also a hot seller, and people love our Falafel, our Salmon Burger and our Black Bean Burger.
The mural inside the restaurant is great. What inspired it?
We wanted our interior to reflect life in Providence. Thayer Street is a great place to be. It’s a diverse, international crowd. I think it’s the most international area in Providence because of its proximity to Brown University. People come and go with the seasons, but we’ve made a lot of friends from all over the world.