Chapel Hill, N.C. — The mall is rarely my choice when I’m craving a burger, but one of our local chefs, Giorgios Bakatsias, opened a joint in Chapel Hill’s University Mall that is likely to change my tune. The Giorgios Group owns a string of fine-dining restaurants in the area, including Bin 54 and Parizade, so I was intrigued to see what would happen when this upscale, internationally trained chef took on the quintessential American meal.
The Location: Village Burgers is located inside the mall’s main Estes Drive entrance. The lime green walls are sure to catch your eye if the smell of the grill doesn’t catch your nose first. Order at the counter, and your cooked-to-order burger will be delivered when it’s ready at the tiny bar seating inside the space or the tables in the corridor.
The Food: My Tarheel Barbeque Burger came with a sweet, tomato-based barbeque sauce with a slight vinegar tang and chow chow. I added hoop cheddar from a local creamery for $0.50. Crisp and flavorful lettuce and tomato rounded out the one-third-pound burger. The brioche bun was especially memorable: beautiful reddish-brown color, chewy texture, just enough butter soaked in to make it taste rich. My cheese could have used a few more seconds of melting, but that’s my only complaint.
My friend had the Cali burger, which includes guacamole, Monterey Jack cheese, and a roasted green chili. She thought it was delicious, taking extra satisfaction from the chili pepper that was roasted to a mild heat.
On a prior trip, my friend had the sweet potato fries and thought they had an unusual seasoning combination that she did not like. Russet potato fries are also an option. We split an order of the tater tots this time, and it’s plenty for two people. They were crispy and tasty but plain. Something more unique to flavor them, like fresh herbs, would be welcome—I suspect I may have liked those sweet potato fries better myself.
The Service: After we ordered, it took about ten minutes for our food to come out, which is quite reasonable for a fresh burger.
The Final Bill: Two specialty burgers, an order of tater tots, and a soda came in at about $18. It’s not the cheapest place to buy a burger, but it is priced the same as other gourmet burger joints like Buns and Bull City Burger and Brew that also offer local ingredients and meat that’s been raised humanely. The burgers are filling enough that no sides are needed, either, and ones without the special fixings are $2 cheaper.
The Verdict: That brioche bun leaves an impression. I want to try their turkey burger to see how it holds up to the angus beef patties, and I am keeping the Farm Village Burger (bacon, fried egg, hoop cheddar) in my back pocket for when I need an extravagantly greasy feast. Sometimes, indulgence is necessary.
Rebecca Gomez Farrell is a Durham-based fantasy, horror and romance author and a freelance editor. She reviews the Triangle’s restaurants and cocktails on her blog, the Gourmez, contributes to the food blog Carpe Durham and writes television commentary for All My Writers.