One of the ultimate comfort foods, the Hamburger, has obtained main stream culinary acceptance during the past few years as evidenced by the inclusion of gourmet hamburgers on many restaurant menus and recently established restaurants dedicated to these gastronomic delights. On the forefront of this trend, Kory Wollins followed his dream and opened his first Burgers, Shakes & Fries on Delavan Avenue in the Byram section of Greenwich in 2007. The first time I entered the Greenwich location and spoke with Kory, we had an in-depth conversation about his product, his ambitions and our mutual love for great hamburgers. Years later I still thoroughly enjoy the BSF hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and shakes at the Greenwich and Darien locations, and I have watched the passion that Kory brings to each of his restaurants.
So one beautiful afternoon, Kory and I sat overlooking the Saugatuck River, and discussed hamburgers and how his vision for good food, good people and good prices were transformed into Burgers, Shakes & Fries. With so many people enjoying one of the best hamburgers in Fairfield County, CTBites is pleased to give some insight into the creator of Burger Shakes & Fries, Kory Wollins.
You graduated from Cornell, worked in the food industry for years and then one day, you decided to follow your dream and open a restaurant focused on hamburgers, shakes and fries. How did you make the decision to dedicate your career to creating the perfect hamburger restaurant?
- Basically it was one of those days. I just wanted work for myself, not that my previous employer wasn't great, because she was, and continues to be nothing but caring, kind, and generous to her staff. I drove by the “For Rent” sign in the window on Delavan Ave. so many times and I just had a good feeling. I had an idea of what i wanted to do there, but I didn't really nail down the complete concept until I was pretty close to opening, almost eight months after I signed the lease.
You have over fifteen years in the food service business. What prompted you to open Burgers, Shakes & Fries?
- Burgers were gaining a lot of ground in NYC, and I thought that the concept of BSF would give me a real leg up as there really weren't many burger-centric places around that were knocking it out of the park. It would be a limited menu, and really gave me a chance to focus completely on perfectly producing the few things that we serve. And with very little, if any, waste, we could keep the prices extremely fair, and offer a real value to our guests.
How did you and why did you decide on grilled bread versus a roll for your hamburger? The Darien location offers rolls…are they selling at all?
- We sell a lot of burgers on rolls. It seems as if one person sees someone eating the burgers on the rolls, it’s like a domino effect, and everyone wants it that way. It was the original way I planned to do it, not on the bread, but the flavor profile of original burger blend from a local butcher didn't stand up to the potato roll very well, so for a goof we tried it on the buttered, griddled bread, and it was a winner. I ended up switching to Master Purveyors for the burgers about one year in, because the fat content from the original butcher was all over the map, lean some days, fatty the next, and when we did switch, the flavor profile was so much better. Now if you eat the burger on a roll it works extremely well, but the buttered white toast is, in my opinion, still a little better in the realm of bread to meat ratio.
How did you decide on the meat purveyor for the hamburgers? Did they modify the product to meet your vision of the best product?
- We sampled meats from several different meat houses, and the Master’s blend was just better. It was also nice to know that the company is local, family run, and the product is ground fresh daily. The other aspect about Masters is that they are a hand cut prime house, so there is no added fat pushed into lean product. The product's prime grading ensures that the fat content we require for our specific blend is already in the meat to begin with, which makes for better texture in the final product.
How is the table service concept working at the Darien location? Was it difficult to open on Sundays?
- Really good. People are much more relaxed. My staff interacts with the customers so much more now than ever, which I think is part and parcel to the quality and value of the BSF experience. As far as Sundays are concerned it was not difficult. We had the people in place to work and the customers kept asking for it, so it was almost a no-brainer. Opening in Darien on Sundays worked out so well that we implemented lunch hours on Sunday in Byram as well.
You receive numerous Best Hamburger awards, how do you keep the concept of BSF a fresh product?
- Just doing what we always do. Best product, best price possible, and always putting the smiles before the dollars; no secret really. Everyone gets treated the same at BSF no matter where you fit in the economic spectrum, I think that is part of the appeal. We're just nice.
What is your favorite hamburger combination?
- Lately, my favorite combination is American cheese with pickles and ketchup. For a little while it was gorgonzola and caramelized onions, that one is killer! The funny thing is I really don't like onions, but I guess that’s just how well the combination worked.
What do you do on the weekend when you are not overseeing your two BSFs?
- I work most weekends. When I'm not working, spending time with my wife and kids, without them I would be lost.
What keeps you up at night?
- Just about everything. I get a lot of ideas in the middle of night, BSF and non-BSF related, and sometimes I think about them for one or two hours before I can get back to sleep. I think it’s just a part of me. My mind is never quiet, I am always thinking about something, middle of the day, or middle of the night makes no difference, the gears just don't stop turning.
Any plans for the future you can share with us at this time?
- We currently have some irons on the fire and when my signature is on the dotted line, CTBites will be the first to know.