Since their popular ZZQ restaurant opened in 2018, owners Chris Fultz and Alex “Orange” Graf have been fielding requests for new locations across the Mid-Atlantic. However, their labor-intensive Texas style of barbecue, with its massive metal smokers and endless stacks of fragrant wood, does not transport or expand operations easily. Instead, last month, the husband-and-wife duo quietly opened Eazzy Burger, a sort of test restaurant in Scott’s Addition whose charbroiled burgers could one day become more famous than the barbecue right next door.
When the owners of Ardent first floated the idea of a small test kitchen between their brewery and ZZQ, Fultz and Graf jumped at the opportunity to test a new business idea of their own. “The culture of hospitality and the high quality of the ingredients and the food we’re putting out, that is our brand,” says Graf.
“We don’t ever want to do fine dining,” adds Fultz. “We love comfort food and the fast, casual nature of what we do. We felt we could bring a really extraordinary burger to the market that could speak for itself, and this is something we think we could grow to more stores around the city and state.”
Tucked between ZZQ and Ardent, Eazzy Burger aims to turn previously dead space into something of a micro food court where all three businesses seamlessly share customers across their different concepts. The integrated nature is apparent in the QR codes on the tables of Eazzy Burger which allow patrons to easily order beer from Ardent in addition to their burgers.
Moving from a sell-out business model to a more modern on-demand dining experience couldn’t have happened without the help of Dale Richardson, the operations manager, and Russell Cook, the culinary director for both ZZQ and Eazzy Burger. Without their expert assistance, Fultz and Graf may never have felt comfortable that their new restaurant could ensure the level of freshness and flavor that ZZQ customers rave about.
Hinted at via the pastoral mural of grazing cattle on the wall, part of the plan to ensure top-tasting burgers involves the new joint’s reliance on regeneratively ranched beef. Smoking up roughly 2,000 pounds of meat per week, ZZQ imports its beef from Colorado due to the lack of organic ranchers in our region.
By partnering with a regenerative ranching collective based in Maryland that raises high grade black angus bulls, Fultz and Graf hope to bring the supply chain for their burgers closer to home. “Eazzy burger is my soapbox to educate people about regenerative ranching,” Fultz says. “You can feel good about what’s going in your mouth in that it’s also helping the planet, and you’re part of the change in the beef industry, which is one of the biggest culprits of climate change in the world. It creates a better tasting product, too.”
In addition to the lack of hormones or pesticides used to raise the cattle, the farmers Eazzy Burger works with also dry age the meat for two to four weeks before they grind it down, creating richer flavors in the beef. By making the materials they use compostable or recyclable as much as possible, Fultz and Graf are trying to offer customers a fast, casual experience they can feel good about.
The creative takes on classic flavors that embody Eazzy Burger’s offerings should impress patrons. With an interior decor reminiscent of the 1950s, customers should be transported back in time to the golden era of the burger.
Many menu items harken to America’s Southwest where the couple frequently travels when not in Richmond. Picky eaters should be pleased by the build-your-own burger option, but the menu is full of fun flavors for those willing to go along for the ride. [They're also testing out a new chicken sandwich].
Fultz’ favorite is the chile relleno burger featuring a poblano pepper skinned, grilled, and topped with cheese that goes on a patty with a second type of cheese and a pile of crunchy fried shoestring onions. “It’s like an enchilada on a bun,” he says.
Graf’s top pick is the Guthrie, a nod to an Oklahoma style burger that boasts caramelized onions cooked straight into the patty plus pickled jalapeños, cheese, and a special sauce.
Since “every burger joint should have a chili burger,” according to Fultz, the Big Iron is a quintuple smoked affair with its patty, cheese, bacon, tomato jam, and sauce all getting the smoky treatment. As a reference to both the Marty Robbins song and the metal meat cookers next door at ZZQ, Fultz calls this burger “a smoke bomb in your mouth.”
As Graf didn’t eat meat for over a decade, Eazzy Burger offers a surprisingly strong suite of vegetarian options ranging from the No Bull classic burger to the Not a Fish marinated and fried tofu that mimics a traditional fish sandwich. A chili cheese dog called the Whole Enchilada and a take on the Sonoran dog titled the Locote expand the menu beyond the burger bun.
With a variety of kids meals and soft serve flavors, it’s clear the duo behind ZZQ is ready to experiment with its new joint as long as Richmond is along for the ride.
Eazzy Burger is located at 3204 W. Leigh St. and is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.