Sometimes you’ve just got to have it – and the it I speak of is a particular food. Sometimes said desire can be deemed a craving; or, if you’re pregnant like me, calling it a craving simply scratches the surface. Rather, it is better characterized as an insatiable yearning that – if not fulfilled – will turn you into a raving lunatic.
Regardless of your condition, a good, juicy burger is often at the root of this hunger. But here’s the rub: Where you set out to get the burger is often contingent on whether the burger you want is of the meaty or meat-free persuasion. (And, again, if you’re like me – the lone vegetarian in the family – a potential conflict is often unavoidable.) If this is the case, I’ve got the (delicious) panacea: The Burger Spot.
That is where my mother and I found ourselves Monday afternoon. (No, not even getting stuck in the snow as I attempted to leave my neighborhood could stop me from getting there.) Besides, The Burger Spot’s general manager extraordinaire Janice Kraft had told me that she had all but perfected her recipe for their new vegan burger – which is soon-to-be on the menu – and invited me to give it a try. Heck, I’d be The Burger Spot’s guinea pig for a new burger made of seaweed – the place is just that good.
The Burger Spot has been in Plymouth since 2004, but closed for a few months last summer and reopened in July 2010 after a change in ownership. Although the location hasn’t changed, the inside has. Big time. And it looks awesome. While my mother and I waited, I regaled her on little-known facts about the restaurant’s contemporary décor as told to me by new owner Frank Agostini, who also owns Plymouth favorite E.G. Nick’s: Agostini’s wife, an interior design aficionado, dreamt up what she calls “the burger color scheme” – the brown floor represents the burger, the red trim represents ketchup, the green walls symbolize lettuce, and the ceiling is a hue which favors the color of a toasted bun; Agostini’s cousin is the talented muralist behind the restaurant’s two breathtakingly detailed Downtown Plymouth and Pure Michigan murals; and the pop machine is the only original item Agostini retained since taking the place over – everything else is new.
My spiel is interrupted – albeit gladly – when the waitress delivers little cups containing samples for my mother and I to try. “This one is vegan quinoa chili, and that one is sweet-and-sour cabbage soup,” she announces with a smile. “Janice wanted you guys to try them.”
A couple of spoonfuls later, our eyes were rolling into the backs of our heads.
“You can’t even tell the chili is vegan!” my mother says, amazed.
Try as we vegetarians and vegans might to convince people that not all of our fare tastes like pureed cardboard, sometimes, admittedly, it does. Definitely not the case with this chili, which is one of Kraft’s latest kitchen creations. She tells me that the inspiration for recipes often comes from feeding her family healthy food at home.
“I cook like this at home,” Kraft explains. “We’re not vegetarian, but I’ve always fed my children healthy foods. It was just a natural progression that has worked out well...there is a demand for it because people want a healthier option, and we are The Burger Spot, so we can accommodate everybody.”
Then the moment of truth: our burgers arrive. By now, my craving had reached such a fevered pitch that I could have sworn I heard cherubs playing the harp overhead. Mom, with her classic burger spot with cheddar cheese, and I, with my newly-minted vegan, were ready to dig in. We also shared a silver bucket of The Burger Spot’s natural cut fries (which the restaurant sells 350 pounds of each week). We ate…and ate without exchanging nary a word. The consensus was apparent: bliss.
I’d like to take a moment to elaborate on my aforementioned vegan burger, which is a marvel because, well, getting a meatless burger to form into a patty without the help of an egg can be challenging at best. But it’s no match for Kraft’s skill. She tells me, understandably, that she can’t give away all her secrets, but that spinach, mushrooms, carrots, corn, lentils, and quinoa, and flax meal are key ingredients of this freshly-made burger. Another thing that I like about this burger is that all of the ingredients were clearly recognizable, unlike when I was clearly stumped by the mystery meat du jour that was found in my elementary school cafeteria line. (Gosh, how I used to despise that.)
But perhaps the most impressive aspect of The Burger Spot is what you can’t see: Many of The Burger Spot’s products are Made in Michigan, including the original Faygo in glass bottles made with cane sugar, not corn syrup; the hot dogs they serve are Dearborn Hot Dogs; the buns are from Brown’s Bun Baking Company in Detroit; the pickles, relish, and ice cream they serve are also made in our great state.
While these details aren’t commonly advertised by The Burger Spot, they certainly aren’t lost on the taste buds, and I’m sure that keeps burger fans like me coming back for more.
“There are certain philosophies we want to stick with…a fresh-ground burger, fresh-made vegetarian products, we don’t want to be a burger place that buys everything out of a bag,” says Agostini.
I’ve got to second him on that one because there is no replacement for freshness.
Agostini goes on to say that the proudest moment for him isn’t so much what’s in diner’s baskets as it is the smile on their faces.
"It’s kind of neat to see…you see their faces, and you go over and talk to them and they’re happy and they’re enjoying their experience. It makes everything and all the effort you put in in the beginning worth it.”