When we sat down for an organic, grass-fed, lean bison burger with Bareburger CEO Euripides Pelekanos in July of 2010, he had just opened the small, healthier-burger joint on a tree-lined avenue in Astoria, Queens.
There, New Yorkers got the first taste of the brand’s specialty: massive, flavor-dripping burgers that you could actually feel good about eating (occasionally), since the ingredients are almost 100 percent organic. (And you could even bring your vegan and Paleo friends, who would rejoice at the sight of black bean and quinoa burgers and gluten-free buns.)
Now, just over three years later, that original location is twice the size, and Bareburger has become a phenomenon, with 15 locations spread out across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, and New Jersey. The 16th and 17th will be open before the end of the year, in Hartsdale, Westchester, and Ridgefield, Connecticut. And Pelekanos is setting his sights on much further points. Get your napkins out now.
“After about a year, we all had the same inclination that we could find the right people and grow into every major city in America,” he says. “We’re just super amped to open outside of the city and seeing how we do in other places.”
We caught up with the better-burger genius to find out more about where he’s headed next, his new project built out of shipping containers, and why he probably won’t serve kangaroo anytime soon. (Phew!)
You’re expanding in the New York tristate area right now, but what about the rest of the country? My guys in Columbus, Ohio, have started construction already, and we have some other people opening up in South Carolina, Washingon D.C., Boston, and Miami. We’ll also be making moves to Chicago, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Toronto. And then California, definitely. That’s been on our radar for quite a while now. A lot of people actually thought we came from there when we first opened.
Your business practices and menu reflect a healthy ethos… I could see why people make the California assumption. Speaking of your philosophy, what are you doing with shipping containers? That’s for a real fun project we’re working on in Plainview, Long Island—a restaurant built from shipping containers. It sort of gets the blood pumping and flowing again, to really open up a place from the ground up that is as green and resourceful and recycled as you can get. We bought shipping containers that had been sitting in a port in Newark for two years rotting away. That is really cool. I’m just waiting on approvals.
Crazy. You’ve grown—and are growing—so fast. Is it because of the food’s flavor or the healthier aspect? I think it’s a combo. It’s great to serve organic, all-natural food on a consistent basis. It’s another thing for the food to taste great. That’s always been our focus, and also just building really nice looking and comfortable, fun places. A lot of guys in our industry stray away from the full-service aspect, but that’s a big part of what we do.
Most of the other thriving burger brands are also purposely gut-busting. Why don’t more people copy your healthier route? I think for them it’s a business decision made behind the scenes. It just comes down to money.
Are there any exciting changes happening in terms of the food? In a month, we’re rolling out a whole new menu. We made a lot of nice improvements to the salads and really found some really interesting and cool ingredients that you’d typically see in the really nice farm-to-table bistros.
No new exotic meats? Some people say we should do kangaroo, but you know, I don’t want to be like the Bronx Zoo and start offering every animal they have on our menu. —Lisa Elaine Held
For more information or locations, visit www.bareburger.com