LOWELL - Take an all-American classic and a classically trained chef, add in some premium beef, gourmet toppings, and a little bit of fun, and you have the recipe for some seriously amazing burgers.
Just when you think burgers can't get any better, along comes Nick Speros. After spending most of his career in fine dining, Chef Nick decided to turn his attention to burgers. So about a year ago, he opened the Lowell Burger Company, where he is definitely raising the burger bar.
"Having these burgers is really a special occasion for a lot of people," Nick observed. "They seem like they come here and they're just blown away at how good it is."
That's because the six-ounce beauties are made with beef from local farms, cooked on a flattop griddle, served on sweet and squishy potato rolls, and topped with homemade ingredients and condiments.
"We make our own ketchup. We make our own mayonnaise. We make all the sauces here. The only thing we don't do is raise the cattle," he laughed. "I would if I could, if I had the space."
While there is no room for cattle, there is space for about 80 guests in a dining room decked out with white subway tiles, a cool mural, a cozy bar, and antique tables. It's all a far cry from your typical burger spot.
"It's not a burger joint; it's a restaurant and we specialize in burgers," Chef Nick clarified.
Deciding what to order can be a challenge. First timers might want to opt for the LBC Burger, topped with cheddar, tomato, lettuce, and house made steak sauce. For something a little funkier, order the Jam-on-It, with blue cheese, tomato, arugula, stout syrup, and apple bacon jam.
"It's such a good burger, because the combination of that apple bacon jam and that really rich blue cheese on top, and the arugula that's spicy, cuts right through it. We put a little bit of stout syrup, and it's just great."
Another burger that promises to make your taste buds sing is the Ooo Baby Baby, stacked with smoked gouda, smoked bacon, smoked paprika, and smoky peppers. When it came to the name, Nick had Motown on the brain.
"I figured smoky gouda, smoky paprika, smoky bacon - Smokey Robinson," Nick said, breaking into song.
Some of the creations at Lowell Burger Company are adaptations of Nick's favorite sandwiches, like the El Esteban, which turns a classic Cubano into a burger. Other inspirations come straight from childhood, like the Orange is the New Black, topped with Cheetos.
"We're putting those really fake orange Cheetos, so every time you touch it you have that orangey stuff on your fingers, which I love," Nick said. "The Cheetos go right on top of the cheese. You bite into it and you're getting that crunch. Honestly, I love anything with o's - Fritos, Cheerios, Doritos, all those things are my favorite foods."
Even though Chef Nick might put junk food on a burger, he cooks that burger with fine dining technique, always allowing the meat to rest before serving it to the customer. Those extra couple of minutes of patience result in an extra juicy burger.
"It never goes from griddle to bun to guest. It always has that moment to rest because, as you probably know, when you're resting meats, it allows the juices to retreat. By the time the guest gets it, they're eating a fully medium rare burger, or a fully medium burger, and it's just juicy and gorgeous."
You want fries with that? Of course you do! Because they are made fresh all day long, and can be served in all kinds of styles.
There are Truffle Fries with parmesan and lemon aioli, German Fries with bacon, scallions and spicy mustard, and Greek Fries with feta, lemon zest, oregano, and garlic sauce. But if you want to take your fries to the next level, get the Poutine.
"We get these great cheese curds; we chop them up and throw them right on there, and then make the gravy, and then we just douse your fries with it," Nick described.
Rounding out the menu are sticky, sweet Maple Spiced Chicken Wings, a cute jar of house made pickles, and crispy Falafel Bites atop hummus and pita.
For dessert, try the creamy, dreamy Chocolate Custard, or a hand-spun milkshake, like the Cashew Chocolate Pudding Cake Shake.
If eating a milkshake, some fries, and a great burger make you feel a bit nostalgic, let Nick know, because that's exactly what he's trying to do.
"That is probably the biggest thing ever - when someone connects to what you're making. I think that that's the best part about burgers and the simple food is that anyone can dig on a burger."
You can find Lowell Burger Company at 145 Merrimack Street in Lowell, and online at lowellburger.co.
Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.
for more features.