The full force of Instagram finally arrived in the Triad, landing inside a ready-made photo booth complete with all of the necessary props.
The neon logo for Burger Batch — the new restaurant that shares a kitchen with Small Batch brewery in downtown Winston-Salem — is the first sign of the restaurant’s tailor-made hipness, glowing off-white and reminiscent of Austin, Texas. A rich brown booth runs along the right wall of the long and narrow space, abutting the white tile wall that makes it space feel like an old-school frozen custard joint. The left wall, featuring an extended horizontal mirror, is painted a robin’s egg blue, the perfect color for holding up a milkshake for a one-handed Instagram shot.
It’s not that hipster aesthetics haven’t already hit the Triad — Small Batch already had the unfinished wood thing going for it, and a vibrant purple beet gose beer. There are plenty of Instagrammable spots in town, from the Christmas-adorned bridge in Old Salem to the art park to old smokestacks. But few seem as intentionally designed with social media snaps in mind as Burger Batch, a well-lit room that offers the ideal lighting for phone photos.
Taking selfies in front of the new murals in downtown Greensboro or sculpture in LeBauer Park are all well and good, almost rites of passage for any well manicured photo stream, but the kind of beautiful rooms where people snap pics of ornate and ridiculous food across New York and LA have so far proven elusive.
It’s not just the décor at Burger Batch, of course. It’s the $9 milkshakes decked out with candy, cereal and — more absurdly — cookies, doughnuts or a gigantic slice of funfetti cake wrapped in cotton candy.
They’re all massive, and at most tables on Sunday afternoon, at least one of the customers failed to finish the over-the-top dessert. These are for sharing, to be certain, and maybe best consumed between meals rather than immediately after taking down a burger.
But you can still Do It for the ‘Gram here without ordering a shake; try the porkbelly lollipop appetizers, for example, that come on a bed of purple pickled cabbage. The four fatty bites are too unwieldy to eat on the sticks they’re served on, going down more easily with a fork and knife. That’s true of the cake-topped shake as well — my girlfriend and I slid the slice, cotton candy and whipped cream into a dish to avoid making a gigantic mess.
After taking copious photos, of course. Just like everyone else around us.
Even if that’s not your intention when you arrive, the scene is set so well for a shoot that how could you not? It’d be modern day malpractice.
Small Batch knows how to deliver good food, something established with the menu next door, and the same carries over to Burger Batch. Unsurprisingly, I picked the Figgy Piggy burger, with balsamic bacon fig jam, goat cheese and grilled onions, and loved it. But I longed for more of my girlfriend’s Reynolds burger with its tobacco onions and Duke’s chipotle mayo sauce, and preferred the pork belly pops to both.
I know I would’ve liked the Carolina Cuban, fried chicken sandwich or Korean beef tacos given that the new spot shares a kitchen with Small Batch, and I wouldn’t mind trying the bacon-wrapped meatloaf with mac & cheese and gravy, or the chicken & waffles. For those seeking something simpler, Burger Batch sells pork & beans for $3 and three salads including one with quinoa, peanuts, pecans, cheddar, avocado, carrots, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and greens.
But I didn’t regret my order at all, except I wish I’d had space for the frozen Arnold Palmer, which can come with alcohol for a $2 upcharge. When our milkshake arrived after we’d finished lunch, the diners next to us remarked loudly about how extreme the cake shake seemed, and mused loudly about the number of calories in our dessert.
Pro tip: Don’t ever be that person who talks about the calories in someone else’s food. That’s half the appeal of this place anyway, and you’re chowing down on a burger so I don’t really want to hear it.
Their judgy comments didn’t make me regret getting the ’grammable dessert either, though the slightly sour taste of the shake itself made us wonder if we should’ve selected a different one of the four varieties available.
At a different table, four twentysomething women enjoyed their shakes in peace, each one with a different one in front of them. It didn’t seem like they actually shared though — but they definitely spent a while snapping photos before digging in.
Given that Burger Batch is an offshoot of a brewery, and that you can walk between the two spaces without going outside, I expected the long awaited new restaurant to feel more like a bar. Some treated it that way, ordering beers with their burgers and salads, but the vibe is much more in line with an Instagram-friendly New York ice cream parlor than the somewhat dimly lit bar filled with young professionals watching sports on the other side of the wall.
The good food is what will keep Burger Batch from just becoming a novelty spot, somewhere that image conscious teens and millennials bring their smart phones once in a while. But it’s bound to continue serving that purpose too, and it’s by design.
Visit Burger Batch at 237 W. Fifth St. (W-S) or find it on Facebook.