by Eric Ginsburg
Tim and Ryan kept apologizing, but really, it’s for the best.
At Small Batch Beer Co.’s recent pop-up burger event — a limited preview of what’s to come with the brewery’s adjoining burger restaurant — somehow I was the first to order after they ran out. That Thursday night, almost all of it before 8 p.m., was busier than even their best Saturdays, owner Tim Walker said as he stood outside with his wife.
Later, via phone, his co-owner Ryan Blain agreed.
“We got, I mean, just our asses handed to us last night just because the space isn’t really equipped to handle all that volume,” he said.
But when I reread exactly what I had ordered — a burger I picked instinctually after seeing the other two were more basic and one layered in pimento cheese — I was a little relieved. I had only noticed the burger’s name, Fat Elvis, and that it came with peanut butter drizzle. If I continued reading on the next line, I would’ve seen “torched banana, Duke’s bacon mayo, served on a Krispy Kreme glazed bun.”
The photo I found later on Small Batch’s Instagram looks every bit as absurd as the item sounds.
Blain admitted that when Burger Batch — the restaurant that will be accessible through a hallway at the back of Small Batch and which will also front Fifth Street in downtown Winston-Salem — opens, they may tone down that doughnut-based experiment.
Lessons learned at the brewery will inform how the adjoining burger business operates. After Small Batch launched, Blain and Walker scuttled a plan to avoid more regular beers in favor of about five experimental taps bolstering the brewery’s more consistent offerings.
“We like to experiment, but we’ve kind of found you can do that with a couple items,” Blain said. “You need to have things that people will come back for.”
He expects the burger place, which has a target opening of early December, will provide about five out-there burgers, rotating similarly to Small Batch’s beer selection.
Small Batch already serves food — its menu is a balancing act between conventional and less so, too. Burger Batch is designed to capture a weekday lunch crowd with a completely different menu of about 10 burgers, a chicken sandwich, a vegetarian option and gluten-free choices. Likely at 10 p.m., the burger joint will close and Small Batch will shift to a late-night menu that includes a burger, Blain said.
Winston-Salem lacks burger restaurants the way Greensboro’s hot-dog landscape is barren — somehow the two cities split the difference. That began to change after Small Batch began work on its sister restaurant next door with the unexpected opening of burger joint Local 27101 a block down Cherry Street — try the Español burger with avocado, jalapeño and pepper jack cheese if you’re interested. But last week townies and transfers alike slammed Small Batch’s pop-up, suggesting that the neighborhood may be big enough for the both of them.
Visit Small Batch Beer Co. at 241 W. Fifth Street (W-S) or at smallbatchws.com.