I grew up right next to the Old Port and my family still lives in southern Maine, so I visit a lot. I have driven by the two Elevation Burger locations in Portland and South Portland too many times to count.
And yet, I had never tried their food.
My first visit to an Elevation Burger was to the new Bangor location, on Stillwater Avenue, that opened earlier this year.
Going in, I was completely mistaken in thinking this wasn’t a chain, or a smaller chain at that. Elevation Burger has locations across the country (mainly on the East Coast), but a significant number of its locations are in the Middle East. Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia have multiple Elevation Burgers to choose from.
I didn’t have any idea what to expect before I walked into Elevation Burger. I had heard their food was “good,” as per my friends.
I entered at lunchtime, I believe 12 p.m. on the dot. It wasn’t too busy, which was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting to wait in line for a solid 10 minutes.
As I examined my options, I realized that Elevation Burger’s menu is relatively plain. Nothing too exciting pops out at you, with the exception of bubble letters which resembled the Microsoft WordArt feature that we all played with in the eighth grade. The bubble leaders read: “try our FANCY fries.”
The menu reminded me of the ever-popular Five Guys Burgers & Fries. The burger chain opened its doors in Bangor in 2013 and immediately made a splash. With multiple locations across Maine (including Portland and Brunswick), Five Guys has consistently made Down East Magazine’s “Best of Maine Food & Drink” list.
Elevation Burger even lists their “add-ons” in a similar fashion to that of Five Guys. You can purchase a basic burger and add a number of sauces and toppings for free. Want the fancier stuff? Pay a price for premium toppings.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I received my order of a guacamole ranch burger and fries and it looked like a Five Guys burger: a fat and juicy patty wrapped by cheese and lettuce. There were, obviously, a few differences; Elevation Burger wraps their burgers in paper to Five Guys’ tin foil — Elevation Burger serves their food on metal baking pans, while Five Guys prefers paper bags.
Of course, the biggest difference is Elevation Burger’s claim of 100% organic, grass-fed, free-range beef. According to their website, Elevation Burger has “…elevated the typical burger joint standards so you can maintain yours.”
Another difference (perhaps to Elevation Burger’s advantage) is the option of a “challenge” meal. Elevation Burger offers “The Katahdin” burger, which the menu boasts is the “tallest burger in Maine.” The burger begins with a base of three beef patties, and may stack as high as ten patties with your choice of toppings. Woah.
I wasn’t too impressed with the burger or the fries that tagged along. It tasted alright, but I was expecting to be blown away by clean-tasting, organic, grass-fed goodness. Instead, I was tasting something I had tasted many times before: a simple burger. The guacamole ranch burger was tasty, but it just wasn’t exciting. I didn’t finish my meal, partially because I was full but also because sauce and grease kept dripping from my meal all over my outfit.
My friend summed up our adventure together after a few bites: “It’s like Five Guys, but not quite.”
Overall, Elevation Burger isn’t something to write home about. If you’re looking for a delicious burger, go ahead. Go to Elevation Burger. Or go to Five Guys. Or (and I think this might be the best option, because it involves eating two burgers) get a burger from each place, compare them side-by-side, taste bud by taste bud, and tell me which you like better.