Next up in the burgerization of Central Florida: Burger 21. Despite the name, this is not an adults-only restaurant. I don’t know why 21 was the number the burgery decided to go with, but I suppose it’s as good a number as any. There are 21 burgers on the menu, and the franchise says that it supports neighborhood charities and organizations on the 21st of each month. But that’s about it for the 21 trope. The place makes more use, to the point of overuse, with the first letter of burger — B cause, B different, B gluten-free…you get the idea.
And, despite the provenance of this new burger concept — it was started by the folks behind the Melting Pot, a chain I’ve found to be abysmal in just about every way — I liked Burger 21 very much. It’s in the category of burger flippers that includes the likes of BurgerFi and Boardwalk Burgers and Fries, which both opened in the past year to critical dis-acclaim, at least from me.
The first of the two planned Burger 21s opened recently near Mall at Millenia (the other will open soon on University Boulevard near UCF). It’s a quick-serve concept — order your food at the cashier counter and then take your order number, find a seat and attach the number to the holder on the salt-and-pepper stand; your food will B delivered to you by one of the impossibly perky employees.
As with the others in this class of burgermongers, the product is not huge. They are more substantial than your McDonald’s or Wendy’s burgers but less so than something you’d find on the menu at Fleming’s or the Capital Grille. I sampled two burger, the Black & Bleu, with applewood-smoked bacon and blue cheese, and the basic burger 101 (burgers are available in 4.5-ounce and 6-ounce sizes). I liked the Black & Bleu Burger, which for some reason is not named the B & B B. The patty was thick and juicy (read: greasy, but in a good way) and the thick rashers of bacon added a delicious smoky flavor. Burgers, by the way, are all angus beef, if that’s important to you.
But here’s what I liked best about my burger: when I ordered it, the young woman at the counter told me that the burgers are prepared medium-well and asked if that was OK with me. I said I prefer medium-rare, and she didn’t bat an eye, she just noted that on my order. And here’s what’s even more impressive: it was delivered medium-rare. (Most places these days will humor me with the request and then cook the way they damn well please. It’s refreshing to really have it your way.)
I also tried the fries, which weren’t anything special. There is a sauce bar for condiments that I didn’t spend much time exploring.
The staff has been well trained to pay attention to the guests, perhaps to the extreme. While I was waiting for my food to be delivered I had at least four people ask me if everything was OK or if I needed anything. (Ironically, after I had sampled my burgers and wanted a takeout box for the leftovers, I couldn’t flag anyone down.)
The dining area is bright and has a decor reminiscent of the ‘60s with plastic chairs and woodgrain-laminate tables. There is a bar, but it’s more for the milk shake service. (Beer and wine are available.)
Besides the angus beef, burgers are also available in turkey, seafood and veggie versions, though I can’t imagine why.
Burger 21 comes out of the Tampa area and has been getting good notices so far as it plans to start rolling out franchises. If they all pay attention to detail as they do at this one, this should be a concept to watch.
Burger 21 is at 4192 Conroy Road (in the group of shops in front of the mall), Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here’s a link to burger21.com. The phone number is 407-203-2848.