First Look: Elevation Burger Not Scaling New Heights

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Burgers and fries will never be good for you. But the conceit behind Elevation Burger, a small chain that recently opened its first of three planned DFW locations in the Hillcrest Shopping Center, is that fast food could be good for the earth.

Elevation Burger claims to be the only franchised burger chain serving organic beef. And it's not just organic: It's grass-fed and free-range, too. According to signs posted on the wall of this brightly lit counter service joint, that means there's "no risk of mad cow disease" for customers.

Raising the specter of encephalopathy could make for a gloomy sandwich eating experience, but Elevation adheres to the chipper brand of world-saving entrepreneurism pioneered by hedonistic environmentalists Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. The company's literature is rich is exclamation points. No pesticides! No antibiotics! If more carnivores ate this way, a brochure claims, our air would be cleaner and our land wouldn't be so badly abused.

But there's a fair amount of distance between the brain and the gut: Elevation's burgers may flatter eaters' senses of virtue, but can they please their palates?

After one visit, I'd file a half-hearted vote for "I guess so." My burger was well-seasoned, and I liked the salty crust, but the meat was leaner than I'd prefer -- a profile consistent with grass-fed beef, which comes from cows who like to go for walks. The patty wasn't the least bit juicy, which made an un-cheesed burger a bit of a chore.

I also wasn't taken with the bun, which according to the menu "complements the burger rather than competing with it." In practice, that means an innocuous, slightly sweet, eggy bun that's never crossed paths with a toaster or a sesame seed. I'm biased toward brash burgers in which every element vies for attention, but I'm willing to concede my preference for sturdy buns amped up with onions might be mine alone. I also really like my burgers with jalapeños, which aren't even among the 11 conservative toppings offered at Elevation Burger (a figure that includes mustard and ketchup.) The friendly staff did direct me to a bottle of Tabasco near the soda machine.

The skin-on fries and chocolate milkshake were decent, thank goodness, since it's impossible to fill up on a burger here. The compact patties are remarkably small, as if the folks designing the menu at this do-gooding spot wanted to be done with beef as quickly as possible. There are two veggie burgers available, one which apparently tastes like meat and one which tastes like vegetables. For the uber-ambivalent, there's a "half the guilt" burger featuring one meat patty and one veggie patty.

The upshot of a dry, compressed burger is the total lack of grease: I could have joined a cow for a fast-paced stroll after eating. But I'm not totally sold on the payoff: If I were to return to this already popular eatery, I'd probably grab the Elevation Burger, which comes with two patties and a double serving of cheese - which would still leave one hand free for patting myself on the back.

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