While In-N-Out and Five Guys are duking it out to be America’s favorite fast food chain, Coal Burger, a new “fast casual dining” concept, is quietly making its own statement in the latest Burger Wars. Although they currently have three locations, I suspect their success will follow in the footsteps of their founder’s other restaurant chain, Grimaldi’s.
When Chris and I entered their Chandler location, we immediately loved the clean and natural look of the restaurant – keeping with their “Eat Green, Live Green” image, all of the chairs and tables are PVC-free and made from bamboo. Their napkins and towels are made from post-recycled materials (from nearby Flagstaff), and their cups are compostable. They have cute little grass centerpieces on each table, which seem eco-friendly, until you look at them more closely and realize that they are plastic. Huh? I’m not sure of the reasoning on that one…
Their menu is fairly simple, but has many delicious options. In addition to their six pasture-raised, grass-fed (hopefully not plastic grass-fed) burger offerings, they also have two chicken sandwiches, a vegetarian burger, and five salads to choose from. Their menu options clearly consider many dietary considerations, so if you are looking for healthier items, or have an intolerance to gluten, you will still be able to find something satisfactory on the menu. Being the burger fiends that we are, we both decided to go with their coal-fired burgers. I had difficulty deciding – would I try the Bacon Blue Burger, a burger topped with smoked bacon and blue cheese? Would I try their Green Chile Burger, which has roasted green chilies, jalapeños and provolone? The Steak House Burger ultimately won out – mushrooms, grilled onions and Swiss cheese tend to get me every time. The burger also came with a horseradish sauce, which sounded interesting. Chris went with their Bacon Cheeseburger, but opted to go with their chipotle barbeque sauce instead of the Coal Burger sauce that came with it. We ordered their sweet potato fries, and I chose their horseradish dipping sauce to go with it.
To drink, we ordered one of their gelato milk shakes – Chris chose a Peaches-and-Cream shake with toasted coconut whipped cream. Their shakes are so thick, they serve them with an extra-wide straw. Although their hazelnut-chocolate shake sounded delicious, I was intrigued by their soda fountain – made by a company called Boylan’s, the sodas are made with actual cane sugar. In the high-fructose world of Arizona fast food, this is not something you see everyday. I had to try their root beer, which rivals that of Joe’s BBQ in Gilbert. I also tried their China Mist Unsweetened Pineapple Iced Tea, which was also delicious and refreshing. At some other point, we may try their alcohol selection, which consists of organic beers and biodynamic wines.
Our food arrived on bamboo trays, and we quickly dug in. The horseradish sauce complimented the sweetness of the onions and Swiss, and their bun was incredibly fresh and soft. The sweet potato fries were out of this world – fried in rice bran oil, they are perfectly crispy without being the slightest bit greasy. My horseradish dipping sauce made a perfect accompaniment. Cooking the beef over coal fire adds a nice flavor to the meat. Why sit around for twenty minutes waiting for someone to slop your double-double and blando fries on a tray when you can have something this tasty in the same amount of time? I mean, sure, stick with In-N-Out if you don’t want to spend a few extra bucks on a meal and you enjoy talking in a secret language to get a damn side of mayonnaise; however if you want a little something more for your lunch experience, or if you want something that tastes great and feels a little more – dare I say – mature? Coal Burger, baby.
Coal Burger currently has two locations in Arizona – one at Scottsdale Quarter in Scottsdale, and one at Casa Paloma (the AJ’s shopping Center) in Chandler. They also have a location at Towncenter in The Woodlands, TX. I suspect if you have a Grimaldi’s in your town, you have a good chance of having a Coal Burger pop up next door at some point in the future. Check them out and enjoy!