Local Chef Looks to San Francisco for Burger Inspiration

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Chef Wendi Mentink, who plans to open a burger bar in El Dorado Hills next month, recently went on a fact-finding mission to San Francisco. Her goal: to see how successful burger places do things. She and her boss, Bidwell Street Bistro owner Richard Righton, hit Macy’s Burger Bar on Union Square and Taylor’s Automatic Refresher in the Ferry Market Building. The Macy’s bar—run by renowned French chef Hubert Keller—serves high-end burgers that cost up to $60 and use ingredients such as Kobe beef, foie gras and truffles. Taylor’s is a lower-end affair, closer to In-N-Out Burger than The French Laundry. With Relish Burger Bar, Mentink is aiming for a little bit of both. “We want to have a $6 burger,” she says. “But if somebody wants a $15 Kobe burger, we’ll provide that, too.” While you won’t find $1,000-a-pound truffles on the toppings list, you might see truffle oil or truffle butter. Mentink promises to use local ingredients whenever possible, especially locally raised beef and artisan cheeses.

Righton and Mentink are opening the burger bar on behalf of a group of investors who asked them last year to come up with a restaurant concept. A burger bar was an obvious choice, given the rough economy, says Mentink. “People will never stop going out for burgers. They’re simple, they’re delicious, and they won’t break the bank.”