By Kelly Stevens
Editor's Note: While Suzanne is recuperating from knee surgery, several In Good Taste readers have agreed to share their food thoughts and experiences.
Al Gore might eat here.
One night, after yoga, I went to Harbor East’s Elevation Burger. I hadn’t gone to a yoga class in years, but it seemed an appropriate appetizer to a place that had veggie burgers and organic beef on the menu. My very first impressions were it was very sanitary with friendly staff, and had Old Bay on the tables – always a good sign. A graphic ad poster on one wall declared, "No risk of mad cow disease!" Well, thank God. I’d never been worried about mad cow disease in the past, but now that you mention it…
Elevation Burger’s mission is to offer quality food that "makes a difference" both to customers and the environment and "plays a leading role in progressing beyond the age of industrial agriculture to pursue a more sustainable and healthier future." Ingredients include organic, grass-fed, free-range beef and fries cooked in 100% olive oil. They are committed to offering customers food that’s "nutritionally superior" – there is no trans-fat in any of their food.
Let me clarify what Elevation Burger is not. It is not strictly vegan; however, it can serve as the vegan’s fast-food solution.
Elevation Burger is also not a "healthy" fast-food restaurant. Don’t kid yourself – it’s still fast food and the fries are still, well, fried. But in all fairness, they do make an earnest effort to provide healthy options without completely losing that greasy goodness we all salivate for and have come to expect in fast food.
Organic beef means cows aren’t given antibiotics and are free of pesticides and other chemicals, which translates into cleaner, safer meat for us humans. Today most cows are "grain-fed", meaning they are fed a diet consisting primarily of corn. The problem is, a cow’s four stomachs aren’t designed to process grains, so they often become sick, which is why they’re given antibiotics – to counteract their weakened immune system. Grain also adds lots of calories and saturated fat to beef, making the cows fatter, as well as the human who eat them. Grass-fed beef has more healthy Omega 3s, which means less weight gain and less risk of heart disease.
So what is Elevation Burger, then? Think of it as the first green fast-food restaurant. From the food ingredients used, to the energy-efficient lighting, to the non-polluting paint on the walls, Elevation Burger’s philosophy is about being considerate of the planet and all creatures that live on it.
To my surprise, the menu consisted mostly of beef burgers, but there were two vegan burger options – fire-roasted taste, which I assume means it tastes more beefy, and then another one that tastes like veggies. I opted for the "Half the Guilt Burger," a beef patty stacked on top a veggie patty of your choice, topped with cheddar, caramelized onions, tomato and the tangy yet spicy Elevation sauce.
The burger wasn’t anything special, although it was interesting to have the beef and veggie burgers in the same bite. Overall, it satisfied the fast food urge. And, I did feel a little less guilty knowing I’m not damaging my body as much as I could be eating somewhere else. I also had a side of fries and a vanilla milk shake, which were both great.
You can choose healthy sides like a salad, mandarin oranges, or an apple. You also have the option to forego a bun and instead have your burger wrapped in lettuce – a trend that’s being made popular by Asian restaurants like P.F. Changs. My only complaint is that Elevation Burger is a little pricy – $22 for two of us, and we split the order of fries. $4 for a milkshake seems steep, even if it was really tasty.
I am one of those people who turn their noses up at the mention of McDonald’s but who sneak through the drive-thru for a Filet-o-Fish about once a month while hoping I don’t see anyone I know. That said, I enjoyed my meal at Elevation Burger and would happily go back in daylight.
Kelly Stevens is a communications manager who splits her time between Perry Hall and Columbia, and dines everywhere in between.