Monday, January 12, 2009

Fatburger Opens In Columbia / Elkridge

Like the Obama administration, Fatburger has arrived in town after months of hype, a big-money investment, and the hope that out-of-town innovation would change our lives.

News Flash: It's a hamburger. A good burger with great toppings and a tidy half-wrapper. But Obama better have some better solutions than adding a fried egg to mortgage-backed securities.

Thanks to an anonymous comment at 10:45 am, I enjoyed a first-day Fatburger with fat fries. With a Comcast Sports Net cameraman on scene, it was hard to tamp down the expectations as I waited in line. Fatburger is, after all, the chain that literally has people in LA squeal when they talk about double-chili-cheese-burgers -- although
Mrs. HowChow swears by In-and-Out.

I kept down my expectations and snapped up my Fatburger. That's the 1/3 pound burger -- smaller than the half-pound Kingburger, larger than Baby Fat. You get a thin, rough patty and a pile of lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles probably twice as thick as the meat. I liked what I ate. Real meat flavor. Fresh toppings. The half-wrapper must be old news in California, but it actually helped me keep the over-stuffed burger together. Next time, I'll order with chili because my LA connection sings its praises. I'll probably skip the fries, which were pretty much the same as the steak fries that Trader Joe's sells by the bag.

The Fatburger restaurant was actually fun. You order at a fast food counter, but the cook-to-order takes 8-10 minutes. So you sit at a table, and a runner brings out your tray. On the first day, the cashier called out the name of each sandwich that someone ordered. The cooks and folks in the open kitchen called it back, "Fatburger. . . . Kingburger." It's certainly a guy's joint. Loud with music. Filled with meat and fries. But the crowd was mixed. I mean, there were four women in 20 minutes. Five if you count the Comcast reporter. Two white-haired couples seemed quite happy even as I was cringing at the volume that the jukebox played "West End Girls."

Fatburger is definitely a great place to grab something if you're doing errands at Best Buy or Lowe's. I don't think it's a "night-out burger" like Victoria Gastropub, but then it isn't as expensive either. The three sizes of burgers should fit every appetite, plus you can order a Boca veggie burger, a turkey burger or even a grilled chicken sandwich. They even offer a "lettuce wedge" salad -- although I think I'm more likely to try to milkshake before I drive to a burger joint for my vegetarian meal.

Who else has visited Fatburger? What did you think? It was great fun to keep up on when this place would open. (It looks barely different than it did in September.) But now, the meat truly hits the road.

(Update: Check out the comment from Sam.  He says the Fatburger doesn't taste like the one he had had before.  He says they're cooking the meat longer.  That's interesting.  Anyone else have any experience with an LA Fatburger that they can compare?)

If you love burgers, you have to try Five Guys in Laurel or Hanover and check out the upcoming post about the Best Burgers in Howard County in the "What I Learned" series.

6630H Marie Curie Drive
Elkridge, MD 21075

NEAR: This in next to the Trader Joe's and the Perfect Pour in the Gateway Overlook Shopping Center. It's at the intersection of Rte 175 and Rte 108. Very convenient from I-95.

Fatburger on Urbanspoon


Unknown said...

How does it compare with Five Guys? I think they've gotten it down pretty good (have one up here in CT)

HowChow said...

Dan -- I'm actually considering a taste test this week. That is a local chain made good.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I tried out Fatburger this afternoon. In terms of ambience it beats Five Guys hands down, *unless* you dislike the relatively loud music from the central jukebox.

In terms of the food, I think the basic burger is comparable to but not quite as good as at Five Guys; in particular, it seemed a bit thinner and a bit less juicy. We didn't try any of the exotic bueger add-ons like eggs, etc. Those strike me as somewhat gimmicky, but maybe I'll try them in future.

For sides we had the onion rings and skinny fries. The rings were good. The skinny fries were distinctly inferior to the fries at Five Guys; they were basically an upgraded version of McDonalds fries. Maybe if they cut them a little thinner and served them with mayo (like Belgian frites) then they'd have a real winner.

My advice: if you're looking for a pure burger and fries experience you should stick with Five Guys, but if you really want things like onion rings and shakes too then Fatburger is an acceptable second choice.

Anonymous said...

Five Guys wins hands down. It's cheaper, and the food is better. I've never eaten at the one in HoCo, but there's one a few blocks from my office in DC. Fresh cut fries, in a portion that's way unhealthy, and more topping choices (like mushrooms, green peppers or jalapenos).

That said, Fatburger was ok. The fat fries are almost identical to Red Robin's, and you get a healthy portion. The burger didn't do that much for me. As HowChow said, there were more toppings than burger, and they really piled on the lettuce. I ordered the Kingburger, which is supposed to be a 1/2 lb, but Fuddrucker's 1/2 lb seems bigger to be (and tastier, and you can put your own toppings on). For the price I paid (almost $10, without any extras), I expected more.

I'm sure I'll eat there again, when I'm stopping by Trader Joes on a Friday night and I can't get a seat in one of the other restaurants in that shopping center. Next time I'll put chili and/or an egg on the burger, because what I ate tonight was a bit too dry.

Anonymous said...

Five Guys is way better. Cheeburger Cheeburger is better. Burger King was better than this .... at least based on what I had today. I got the Fatburger and it was kind of expensive for what i got. But that's OK if it was good. Unfortunately, the meat was dry and there was not much flavor. I got an order of onion rings and it was really freakin' greasy. I tasted oil, not onions.

I might go back just in case it was a fluke since the place just opened and the workers are new, but if it is bad again, I am not going back.

Anonymous said...

I've had Fatbuger before and the burger they serve in Elkridge is not Fatburger. They are cooking the burger too long. Hopefully it gets better once they learn how to cook a burger.

dynaknit said...

I've been looking hungrily at that empty space for months when I go to Massage Envy! Ate there yesterday a little after 1pm.

I don't like the loud music, some of which may have been inappropriate for young ears. My 9-year old would've been unhappy with the noise level.

The burger was fine, although it appeared to have pickle relish on it. I scraped that off.

The service was plumb terrible. After waiting for 16 minutes we asked what was taking so long... they "forgot" to put in our order? Also, the order clerk didn't hear me say "Fat Deal" so I didn't get any fries.

Five Guys is wayyyy better. Cheeburger is better if you tell them to toast the bun. Nothing compares to Majestic Burger in Jackson, MS according to the 9-year old.

Anonymous said...

Just tried Fat Burger. Even on an off hour (Saturday around 2:30) the place had a line. I agree with the review - 5 Guys wins.

It's not that the burger was bad - it was pretty good, reasonably juicy, the relish they used had an interesting flavor, the bun holds up well. The fat fries do taste the same as the frozen ones I get from the supermarket (this is not a bad thing for me - I really like the frozen steak fries), but the service was chaotic with the cashier making mistakes on many orders. By default, the burgers come with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, and relish.

They also yell out parts of everyone's orders which gets echoed by the cooks - I found it more creepy than inviting.

Would i make a special trip? Probably not. Would I eat there again? Sure, if I didn't feel going to the Italian restaurant next door.

Anonymous said...

Been a few times as it is on my way home from work. I first had fatburger in Vegas a few years back and loved it. That said, this new location is not as good as I have had at other locations. As mentioned, the actual burger is very dry. I had chili cheese fries, and they were good. I wouldn’t recommend this to a stranger though.

Also, the service is pretty bad. They seem to employ young teens (Probably high schoolers) that mishandle orders and screw up on the cooking of the food. They also play the music WAY too loud. Every time I have been in they have played loud rap music which is way inappropriate for the type of family customers that have been eating there when I stop in. The owner of this place has their head up their ass IMO.

Alison said...

Fatburger isn't fit to lick the grease off of a Five Guys brown paper bag. It took forever to get our food, and when we did it was a big disappointment. For the amount of fat and calories we're talking about, you might as well make the drive to Arundel Mills or Laurel to get the real deal. If we don't feel like making the drive out there, I'd go to Cheeburger before I visited Fatburger again. Oh, and all that incessant yelling of the orders the staff does is maddening when you're waiting for your food. (And completetly unnecessary with the automated order tickets that print out in the kitchen!)

Anonymous said...

I went with my family and my parents to FatBurger and we will not go back. We went around 5:30 p.m., the people behind the counter could care less. There was no line and they acted like you were intruding on their space. The trash was full, and the condiments were empty. You would think they would have used the time between the lunch rush and the dinner rush to refresh the restaurant. Nope. The burgers were better the Cheeseburger Cheesburger, but not as good as most of the other non-fast food burger places in Columbia. I think the only time we will go back is if we are in that shopping complex and my kids are acting up. Otherwise we will go to Fuddruckers, Red Robin or 5 Guys when the move into the area.

Kooshmoose said...

I just went for my first time this past weekend and I think they might have smoothed out some of their earlier problems as I had no complaints with the service.

The music is definitely a bit loud but the trash was emptied, the condiments were full and they were cleaning all of the tables as I sat and waited for my food.

The fries were good (Five Guys fries are the best fries anywhere) and the burger was right up there with or just a little better than a Five Guys standard burger. For me, the determining factor is whether I want to drive all the way to the mall for better fries.

Craig F said...

I tried FatBurger a few days after they opened and I was completely unimpressed. I went again a few days after Christmas, and my initial impression remained true.

Service - horrible. Smell from exhaust - overwhelming. You leave there feeling dirty. Music - too loud. I could over look all of those negatives if the burgers were as good as Five Guys - but alas... the burgers are below average and tasteless. They're cooked too long and once complete are lifeless and dry.

Stay away. Make Fatburger get better at its game or let them perish!

Anonymous said...

In one word....disgusting! Music is way too loud, had to wait 15 minutes for a shake, the fries - I'd rather eat McDonalds. The guy that owns it is an ex-Ravens player - he's rude and seems to treat his employees like crap. There is also some manager woman that shows up from time to time and she is as rude and in addition, nasty to her employees. Go to Five Guys!!