Winston-Salem: Not Just Dawgs Anymore
For a while there…heck since forever it seems, Winston-Salem has been a “burger desert.” As far as “artisan burgers” are concerned, the city didn’t have a place that was singularly known for a burger, at least not like our neighbors down the road. Greensboro, aka “Greensburger”, as it’s known, has for years had a plethora of burger joints. Winston-Salem is known for hotdogs. But besides Bad Daddy’s (based in North Carolina but kind of a chain) and Camel City Grill Food Truck, if you wanted a burger, you had to seek it out among the many pubs or restaurants that really did it well. Then Local 27101 happened and then nothing for a while. And then…Pop! Pop! Pop! Up came three in a matter of weeks.
We’ve tried each and here’s how they stack up. This is by no means a detailed report on all the fine burgers in Winston-Salem. Simply a review of the three hot new spots in the Twin City.
Food Freaks & Beer Geeks, 1630 Fox Trot Court
The popular food truck has now added a brick and mortar establishment, sort of. Located on Hanes Mall Boulevard in the location that used to be Kernel Kustard, Food Freaks is walk-up to order, then you have a seat outside or in the covered patio. It’s heated in the winter and has a picnicking feel, if picnicking includes television. Yes, large screens adorn the wall along with heaters and a fireplace that is going in the winter. Food Freaks is known for its stuffed burgers. Stuff your burger with goat cheese or mozzarella or pimento cheese. You can bet it’ll be gooey and flavorful. I got the Pimento Cheese Stuffed burger that had bacon jam on it and it was perfectly cooked and piping hot. Then Mr. Foodie got an Italian-themed burger with Italian meats and his was awesome too. Big streak fries alongside were a hit. The littlest one, who doesn’t care for burgers, got a grilled cheese and that was pretty tasty. You can grab a local craft beer at the attached bar while you wait. Food Freaks seems to always be concocting new burger creations so you’ll have to follow their Facebook page to see what’s in the works and being added to their small, but creative menu. It appears they’ll accommodate a custom request as well. A must visit.
Cin Cin Burger Bar, 1425A First Street
(Pronounced cheen-cheen) By far the largest, most family-friendly and group friendly of the three newbies, Cin Cin comes from the Michael family that owns the beloved Mama Zoe Michael’s and Waldo’s Wings in Winston-Salem. It’s housed in the old Twin City Diner and doesn’t resemble its predecessor in the least. A beautiful space. It’s gourmet burgers meets speakeasy. The bar plays on that with lots of prohibition references. Large cozy booths line the walls with a sun room and patio dining too once it warms up. The menu is the largest of the three as well, with plenty of starters, salads and sandwiches to choose from. The burgers are very inventive and fun with a slew of options if you decide to build your own. The concept is very scalable and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another Cin Cin pop up elsewhere once this proves profitable. We made two visits to Cin Cin. The first burger I ordered was the Juice Joint burger. With caramelized onions and mushrooms and a dipping jus. Perfectly cooked and hot. Second go round, I ordered the Carolina style Southern Belle burger with chili, slaw and mustard. Also delicious and cooked as I ordered it, however my burger wasn’t as hot the second time and neither were my fries. The service was impeccable both times, so I’m not quite sure why the food wasn’t hot since my server seemed to be on it. There’s also the milkshake option at Cin Cin, with a variety of options that you can even make “grown up” with some spirits. Fries are great, when hot, and so are the onion rings. Highly recommend the saganaki for an appetizer…especially if you like cheese that’s lit on fire!
Burger Batch, 237 West Fifth Street
The most recent edition but probably the one that was most anticipated of the three. It’s the baby sister of Small Batch Brewing, which already serves a tiny menu of eats along with its impressive artisan beer and expert cocktails. Small Batch has been doing burger pop-ups getting a lay of the land, all the while knowing that owner Tim Walker and his cohorts were going to open a sit down restaurant in the space next door to the brewery. Walker is trained as a chef and he uses that knowledge for brewing his beer. Now, the burgers are ridiculously delicious. I opted for an old school burger called The Reynolds that was made less old school by homemade everything (tobacco onions, pickles, mayo, ketchup) and yummy local grass-fed beef and locally sourced ingredients. Super cute and served in a pan. You can go simple here, get one of their creative burgers and go gluten-free too. There are some pretty cool non-burger options as well. The fries are hand-cut and perfect. Or you may opt for sweet potato tots. But you must save room for one more thing. And you will have to share, or you should, because the Burger Batch’s milkshake brings all the boys to the yard and theirs is better than anybody’s. It is the milkshake you see in photos for restaurants in cities that are way bigger than Winston-Salem. It’s the milkshake for food tv. You get a choice of four and my family of four ordered two. And we lived to tell about it! Barely.
We ordered “It’s a Surprise” with a cake batter shake, lots of fun stuff (which in our case was cotton candy, strawberry syrup, sprinkles galore, icing with sprinkles). But it literally had a giant piece of birthday cake on it. I mean, come on. The other half of the table ordered an Oreo inspired chocolate shake called the Black & White. The other options are a peanut butter Elvis-inspired shake with Whoppers and a banana pudding cake with vanilla wafers and Cap’n Crunch, among other fun things. Truly, seeing is believing.
I’d have to say, Burger Batch was my overall favorite. It’s just smaller and low-key, yet full-service and the burgers are on point, service is excellent and well, those gorgeous, dreamy milkshakes don’t hurt either. But all of these new artisan burger joints are worthy of a visit. Just, go really, really hungry.