Burger Champ Promises Maplewood Delicious Burgers and Shakes

Get a sneak peek at the menu for the restaurant Chris Kelling plans to open in the former Elmwood space

Sep 11, 2023 at 11:19 am
click to enlarge Burger Champ is owner Chis Kellings' second restaurant under the "champ" banner.
Courtesy Jasper Paul PR
Burger Champ is owner Chis Kellings' second restaurant under the "champ" banner.

There is earning dad points, and then there's earning the kind of dad points that most of us can only dream about. Chris Kelling — on the way to opening his forthcoming restaurant Burger Champ (2704 Sutton Boulevard, Maplewood) — earned the latter.

"Allowing my five-year-old to come in and test milkshakes got me some 'dad of the year' points, so I'm super happy about that," he says. "And the sweet potato French fry testing. They were big hits. They're fun parts. Testing was very fun."

Kelling's favorite shake might be the peanut butter and jelly, while Junior's was either the banana butterscotch or strawberry. Ultimately, Burger Champ will have six milkshakes (selection still being tweaked), and St. Louis diners will soon be able to judge for themselves which Kelling their taste buds align with.

That's because Burger Champ is aiming to open its doors sometime in October, and Kelling and his team — which includes chef Jeff Friesen, formerly of Taco Buddha and Juniper — released a preview of the menu last week. It includes a selection of smash burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries, onion rings, salads and milkshakes.

Kelling had been the first person to imagine what the menu would look like, but it took bringing in Friesen on August 1 to make it what it's become.

"It's been, of course, great," Kelling says. "He's been able to really take my menu and create a restaurant version of that, so to speak, to refine it and execute it and elevate it in the way only a chef can."

When Kelling thinks about his favorite items on the menu, he starts with the burgers, in particular the Classic Champ Burger, which includes two 2-ounce smash patties, two slices of American cheese and Champ sauce, which is a variation on Russian dressing that includes green onions.

Biting into that during the final stage of R&D was a joy — and a bit of relief. After all, Kelling has been eating multiple burgers a week around town for the last six months as part of the research for opening Burger Champ.

"I was thrilled as I ate it," he says. "I'm very excited about that, and I think that it's a really great offering of ours."

Pastry Chef Matthew Rice of Nashville's Pink Door Cookies developed the milkshake menu, and mixologist consultant company Bangers Only (Tim Wiggins and Kyle Mathis) created the cocktail offerings, which include batched recipes including a whiskey cola; the Garden Tour, a highly botanical gin and tonic; vodka and raspberry soda; and a classic Paloma.

"I love those guys' palate," Kelling says. "They both make just amazing cocktails."

This will be Kelling's second restaurant under the Champ banner. In January 2022, he opened his fast-casual pizzeria Pizza Champ (2657 Lyle Avenue, Maplewood) just around the corner. It was a big change of pace for Kelling, who'd previously been lauded for his fine-dining spot Elmwood, which closed in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Burger Champ, in fact, will open in Elmwood's former home. He says that he just knew that it was time to make a move in January and that pairing the pizza spot with a dedicated burger joint made sense for him, the Champ brand and for Maplewood.

Getting from January to now was easier than opening Pizza Champ because Elmwood's good bones made it simple to change the decor into a fun, playful space fit for the concept — just in time for opening.

"We're excited," Kelling says. "We're thrilled to have talked about something for six months, seven months now and to get it to actualization is joyous and a relief. Mostly I'm excited to be a part of this neighborhood, even more so to activate that corner and to get some people in here who are excited about serving burgers and milkshakes and some people who are excited about eating them."

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