Chef brings gourmet burger operation to downtown

Robert Krause, left, and Simon Bates — purveyors of gourmet burgers and fries at The Burger Stand.

Lawrence chef Robert Krause has gained a national reputation for serving $100-per-plate, six-course meals out of his east Lawrence home.

You know the type: Seared scallops with carrot puree, smoked New Zealand mussels in a lobster-saffron broth, prime tenderloin in potato gratin with a red wine reduction, roasted garlic chive oil, and — of course — pistachio butter.

What? Oh, you don’t know the type.

Join the club.

That’s why you might be surprised about Krause’s newest culinary project: the hamburger.

“There has been this national craze of upscale burger joints, and it sounded fun,” Krause said.

And that’s a good way to describe what Krause has done. Krause and another fellow CIA-trained chef (no, it’s Culinary Institute of America) recently opened up The Burger Stand at Dempsey’s, 623 Vt. The burgers are upscale, but the “joint” is not. Krause and culinary partner Simon Bates operate the restaurant out of the Irish bar’s kitchen.

But what comes out of the small diner-style window is anything but typical bar food. All hamburgers are made from a custom blend of tenderloin, strip steak and rib-eye. The restaurant makes its own gourmet pickles, and has unusual toppings like apple chutney, shallot-bacon marmalade and tzatziki sauce.

Yeah, I don’t know either.

But that is part of the point.

“A lot of the kids come in here and order our classic burger — our cheeseburger — and they love it,” Bates said. “Then they come back and they’re trying something with pickled cauliflower on it. And they love that, too. So, we think it is a great way to expand people’s tastes.”

Plus, it may just end up being good business. Amanda Pritzker, a spokeswoman for Zagat Survey, the national restaurant rating service, said the company’s editors have seen an explosion of upscale burger restaurants.

“It is something we have been seeing in New York for quite some time, but it is definitely spreading west. It is something that has a great price point. You get something better than fast food, but you don’t have to pay steakhouse prices.”

Prices at the Lawrence restaurant range from $7 for The Classic to $9 for a Kobe beef burger. Fries, though, will cost you extra, and also will force you to make a decision: Go with the old standbys of regular or chili fries or perhaps kick it up a notch (yeah, I watch the Food Network) with sweet potato fries or truffle fries. And you could ask for ketchup — it’s homemade with “an edge of roasted garlic” — but you also can dip into guadillo chili dip or parmesan roasted garlic aioli.

Yeah, I don’t know.

The prices are a little less than you’d shell out at Krause’s reservation-only east Lawrence operation. There, meals start at about $80 per plate, and if you want the wine (man can’t live on bread alone) it will cost you another $50 to $60.

“Our (east Lawrence) restaurant is clearly for special occasions,” Krause said. “But I could see people eating down here once a week.”

Yeah, and you might even figure out how to pronounce all the offerings on the menu.