The burger build-out continues. The latest entry into the increasingly saturated market here in north Jersey is Habit Burger-- a California-based chain, poised to compete squarely with Shake Shack, Smashburger, and the other upscale fast-casual blahblahblah burger joints.
When we I saw a photo of the burger on BoozyBurbs's twitter feed, well we I just knew we I had to check it out--even though he they opted for avocado as a topping (actually, we I made fun of the burger on twitter for a while before we I thought to try it--busting his their boozy balls is a favorite past-time of ours mine). How does this burger (without avocado) stack up against the competition? Pretty well, we I think.
If Habit Burger had a jingle, it might go something like "two all-beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun...and a slice of tomato." This sandwich certainly tastes like an upscale Big Mac. A very heavy, dense Big Mac.
They call their burgers "Charburgers," which is sort of a joke. Yes, they are cooked on a (gas) grill, but the patties are so thin that they have no time to form any sort of char. The meat is gray with no grill lines at all.
You might not miss the char with all of that other stuff going on. Gooey cheese, which is an add-on, along with the mayo and caramelized onions add up to a wet and messy affair. So messy in fact that it sort of disintegrated before I was done eating it. It does come half-wrapped in paper, but this is not a burger you will be eating on-the-go. Here is an unappetizing photo taken mid-meal:
This burger is aggressively seasoned and has a lot of textures and flavors--both of the important flavors in fact: salt and fat. I submit that the burger would be even better if cooked on a flat top. But really, it doesn't matter all that much at this level. It tastes exactly how you expect it to taste, unless you are expecting char.
The restaurant is decorated in a typically generic and uninspired manner. Unless you think paintings depicting life in southern California (think cycling, surfing, palm trees and buildings with terracotta roofs) are interesting. It's also a bit loud. This is likely due to the fact it is really, really busy at the moment. People were lined up out the door by 12:30 pm.
Habit Burger doesn't seem to do much to ease those lines, what with some strange and inefficient procedures. Like when you order the burger, the person taking the order will recite all of the toppings that come on the burger and ask if that's OK with you. Symptomatic of a society that isn't used to taking care of itself. No doubt people don't read the menu and then complain that their sandwich appeared with mayo on it. And there's this strange move of "calling back" the order to the kitchen. Before they take your money, you will be asked to wait one moment "while I call it back." Then they take your money, which you've been holding out in your extended arm for too many seconds. I'm pretty sure they have computers and screens, so I'm not sure what this move is all about.
The drinks are self-serve. Along with Coca-Cola products, they've got three types of iced tea. Are they unsweetened? How would I know--they don't say one way or the other.
The fries are unexceptional but standard upscale fast-food fare.
There's a little pickled pepper bar, for some reason, where you can get some peperoncini, pickled jalapeno, or "chile peppers," which appear to be nothing more than pickled hot peppers. "Chile peppers" sounds very Cali.
The burger was quite tasty and satisfying. I felt like I could skip dinner after shoving the last pieces into my face. Fast food isn't necessarily my thing, but if I were stuck in a nearby office or on the road, and a Habit Burger was next to a McDonald's, I'd probably go to Habit Burger.
Update: I've returned to Habit Burger a handful of times, often finding tasteless, dry burgers. Can't recommend this place at this point.
Habit Burger Grill : 3101 Promenade Blvd, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410