There was a place in Cedar Rapids that my sister-in-law was telling me about that served never-frozen 100% Black Angus beef burgers. "It's pretty good," she told me. "You need to try it!" I tried to get to their location a couple years ago, but road work in the greater Cedar Rapids area deterred me from getting to the place without some roundabout and out-of-the-way driving. In the meantime, they were forced to change their name, they opened a second location, and closed their original location. On a visit to Cedar Rapids with my wife awhile back, we stopped in to try a burger at Burgerfeen.
Burgerfeen is owned by the Igram family - father Jim and his sons Omar and Ali. The Ingram's are not strangers to the restaurant business in Cedar Rapids as Jim Igram ran a burger joint called Jimbo's in the 1970's. Through the years, the family also owned two other Cedar Rapids area restaurants - Charlie's Pizza and Laziz. With the gourmet burger craze in full force across the nation, the Igram's opened their new place they called Burgerfry along 16th Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids in the fall of 2014. The new burger place - that also served ice cream, hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches - was an immediate hit with Cedar Rapidians.
It wasn't long that lawyers for Florida-based BurgerFi sent a "cease-and-desist" letter to the Igram family for trademark infringement because of the similarities of the two company's names. (Click here to see the Road Tips entry on BurgerFi.) The Igram's were forced to change the name of their place and chose Burgerfeen about the same time they opened a second location in the summer of 2015 in what was the old Spring House restaurant along Center Point Road in north Cedar Rapids. Earlier this year, they closed the original location along 16th Ave. SW and continue to run the Center Point Road location today.
My wife's father had been hospitalized in Cedar Rapids for an ailment earlier this year and we went up to see him one evening. We were there for about an hour or so before we decided we needed to let him get his rest. As we were walking out to the car, my wife said, "Are we going to eat up here or down in Iowa City."
"I was thinking of trying that burger place," I said to her.
"You read my mind," she said. We took off through side streets around Cedar Rapids to get up to the Center Point Road location of Burgerfeen. Once again, street construction and my wife's fuzzy memory of Cedar Rapids street grids (she was a native of C.R., but moved away 22 years ago) sent us on a somewhat wayward trek. But we finally pulled up to the Burgerfeen location around 7:15 p.m. (see map)
Just inside the restaurant was the front counter with the backlit menu situated just above the counter. You order at the counter and there are a lot of options for toppings on the burgers. "Spreads" include ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, steak sauce, hot sauce and peanut butter. "Toppings" include lettuce, tomato, onions (raw or caramelized), pickles, and jalapeños. You can also add Swiss or American cheese, as well as pepper jack cheese. There is no alcohol served at Burgerfeen, but they do have specialty milk shakes as well as fountain drinks.
My wife was having trouble reconciling the fact that this used to be the old Spring House Restaurant, a place that she had been to numerous times when she was a young girl and a place she had taken me to a couple times before it closed in 2014. The remodel both inside and out of the building gave it a sleek contemporary look. There was a main dining area with a series of sturdy tables and chairs, and there was also a smaller room off to the side that could be used for overflow or for group dining.
We both went with basically the same thing - a pepper jack cheese burger. Cindy went with a single, I went with a double bacon pepper jack cheese burger. We got a small order of hand-cut fries to try along with our burgers. The small order of fries were still a big helping and the right size for two people.
On the double burger they put a slice of pepper jack cheese on the top of both patties. The cheese oozed over the sides of the somewhat misshapen hand-pattied burgers. The burger patty was reminiscent of many of the other and more famous "fast-casual" burger joints that have popped up such as Five Guys, Shake Shack and BurgerFi. The beef patties were flat-grilled, thick and very juicy. The bun was thick, but airy and spongy, and held together well with the oozing cheese and the juiciness of the burger patty.
While some people may call Burgerfeen a rip-off of the growing number of fast-casual burger joints that are popping up around the country, my wife and I thought the burgers we had were very good. Juicy and tasty, the double pepper jack cheese and bacon burger I had was worth many of the local accolades Burgerfeen has received since it opened. If the national places aren't going to open in a locale like Cedar Rapids, it's up to a place like Burgerfeen to let the people experience what a good fast-casual burger can be like. And I think they do a very good job of capturing the essence of those kind of places.