Burger Babies now open on King Street (update: now closed )
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
by Scott Wink of CharlestonFoodBloggers.com
(Update as of Fall 2012 Burger Babies is now closed)
Charleston, SC - A great new burger place, Burger Babies, opened at 293 King Street in downtown Charleston last week. Burger Babies is bringing a refreshing spin to the classic burger. Almost every aspect of this place is unique to the Charleston food scene.
These burger babies are in the form of mini burgers or sliders. Your first choice might be either a brioche bun or steamed bun. The steamed buns are typical of a Chinese dim sum but in this case they are being used as a flat bread in which the meat and toppings are folded in to. We tried something similar to this at chef David Chang's Momofuku Noodle House in New York City this past December. We are extremely happy that Burger Babies is pushing this concept to the next level right here in Charleston.
The meat options include: beef, turkey, chorizo, tempura shrimp, shredded chicken, pork belly, and even portabella and tofu as vegetarian options. Typically I don't care too much for the vegetarian options.....especially in a burger place. In this case however, Crystal and I actually thought the vegetarian options packed some of the boldest flavors. The tofu on a steamed bun was layered with slices of mango and pickled watermelon radishes. It was crisp and light and very tasty.
The toppings are also a highlight. Microgreens, radishes, black sesame seeds, spicy cucumbers, and pickled red onions are all toppings you might see on these burgers. Chef and owner Ryan Meany says he regularly gets inspiration for burgers by walking through Marion Square's Saturday Farmers Market. He prefers to buy locally sourced seasonal ingredients. He is looking forward to offering a wide range of daily specials. I have a feeling after talking to him that his creative juices are boiling and that his specials are going to be in very high demand. I recommend that you come into Burger Babies and order outside of your normal comfort zone. Your mouth will thank you.
Ryan also plans on running constant milkshake specials with seasonal flavors. We tried a root beer flavored milkshake and not only did we enjoy it but you can see below our son Bryce couldn't get enough. Once he tasted it he almost drank it non-stop!!! We could hardly get him to slow down. I am pretty sure he gave himself a baby brain freeze. There are also plenty of adult beverages. Classics such as PBR and craft beers such as North Carolina's Duck-Rabbit are waiting on ice for you as you walk in.
Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with all the new places to eat downtown. Many with average food seem to come and go. Burger Babies however is serving up some creative and delicious food using quality ingredients. Now that is a recipe for success. You really need to put this place on the top of your list of places to eat downtown!!!
We spoke with Ryan to get to know a little more about him and Burger Babies.
Charleston Food Bloggers ( CFB ) : Your business card says Ryan Meany "Owner.Chef.Dishwasher". While it is great to have your hands in all aspects of your business it takes quite a team to make a business run smoothly. Who are some of the people you have surrounded yourself to help Burger Babies be a success?
Ryan Meany of Burger Babies: The "dishwasher" tag was initially a joke that we ended up sticking with to remind ourselves that we're not above any aspect of the day-to-day operations of the business. You have to be willing to immerse yourself in every aspect of the restaurant; the worst kinds of business owners are the ones who only show up to collect bank deposits or observe (and judge) their employees -- it creates an "us vs. them" mentality that's completely counterproductive to a healthy workplace culture.
That being said, only really foolish owners think that the success of their restaurant is predicated entirely on the ownership or management. We've gone to great lengths to interview, select and train front and back of house team members that we think will develop a genuine interest in the success and perception of the restaurant. Many already have, even in the two weeks we've been in business.
Outside of our direct employee pool, we've been fortunate to cultivate a multitude of strong working relationships. Food service distributors, merchant services providers, contractors, graphic designers, city licensing and permitting people, even pest control guys. It all starts with identifying these people and forming healthy partnerships based on trust and mutual benefit. There are SO many moving parts involved in getting a restaurant off the ground, it's easy to buckle under the pressure of the task if you don't have the right supporting cast.
CFB: Do you have any past culinary experience that brought you to this point you want to share?
Ryan Meany of Burger Babies: Most recently, I was fortunate enough to work with Sean Brock and the guys at McCrady's and Husk. My internship with them gave me the opportunity to appreciate the essential nature of locally-procured food sources and sustainability as well as expand my identification with and appreciation for different flavor/protein pairings. I've applied this, as much as possible, to Babies. Sure, we have some traditional stuff (hamburger with special sauce, l/t/o; turkey burger with sprouts and avocado) but we've also got some more progressive flavor marriages going on: the sweetness of the hoisin on the pork belly balanced out by the heat of the house-pickled cukes, the traditional Carolina BBQ on the shredded chicken alongside the Asian-style, peanut-laced slaw. We've also incorporated as many local ingredients as possible, even if it's something as simple as watermelon radishes from the farmers market or Sea Island raw milk in our shakes.
I've also done catering for Emeril Lagasse and worked on Ingrid Hoffmann's food truck in Miami, the latter of which definitely helped hone my appreciation for street food, a concept that factors prominently in what we're doing at Babies.
CFB: Have you had a favorite moment since opening this month?
Ryan Meany of Burger Babies: It may sound like a cop out but, since our concept is so new (having never really been implemented in this manner and on this level) and because us chefs are so emotionally needy, constantly needing appreciation for and validation of our efforts, I really do get tingly every time someone compliments what we're doing here. This restaurant represents my partners and my livelihood and the culmination of years of traveling and eating around the world as well as, more recently, months of overextending ourselves mentally and physically to get it off the ground. And while we appreciate the criticism we've received, both constructive and otherwise, the praise and buzz has really humbled us.