Edible Monterey Bay

Guilt Free Burgers

Ground Up

A burger that’s about as good for you as it can be—and you can get it with kimchee, too!

Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann 

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 3.17.36 PMBy now most of the food- and health-obsessed among us know that eating your average fast- food burger is about the worst thing you could do for your body, what with the high fat, po- tential pathogens and mystery ingredients— and that’s not to mention supporting pollution-creating, inhumane and unsanitary feedlot conditions for the cows and often poor working conditions at the big meat processing plants and fast food restaurants.

But happily for those interested in a more healthful option, some local burger joints, old and new, have been working to change that. For example, there is Burger., the Santa Cruz and Aptos institution that uses grassfed beef from Humboldt County. Monterey County has 400°, which doesn’t serve grassfed beef, but at least uses local and, when possible, organic veggies on its burgers.

And as this issue of EMB was going to press, Morris Grassfed of Hollister was in talks with a new burger restaurant about offering its beef—which would make it Monterey County’s first grassfed burger spot.

And then there’s Santa Cruz chef and food system educator Kevin Koebel, who with his new restaurant, Ground Up, sets the gold standard for local sustainable burger restaurants, using grassfed beef raised in the region, including Leftcoast Grassfed and Markegard Family Grass-Fed for house-ground burgers.

He even uses flour made from wheat grown by such local farms as Pie Ranch to bake homemade buns daily and makes his own mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise from scratch. Oh, and he uses veggies from Central Coast organic farms.

The bad news for us in the Monterey Bay area is that Koebel opened Ground Up in Half Moon Bay, a somewhat high-carbon hike up the freeway when sustainability is part of the point. It’s also only open on weekends. But there’s a lot to recommend it on flavor and ed- ucational value alone, so we’ll tell you why it’s worth the trip—especially if you’re passing through town anyway.

The burgers are as delectable as they are innovative. There’s the Bullwinkle, a patty topped with caramelized onions, a dollop of mousse made with Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. blue cheese and a drizzle of balsamic syrup; the Green Thumb is brightened with avocado, lime butter and dandelion greens; and the Wilbur is layered with house- cured bacon and melted Cheddar cheese.

I loved the Zesty Goat, a chèvre-topped burger with candied Meyer lemon and wilted arugula, while my 10-year-old devoured more than one of the Gangnam Styles, a burger dressed up with housemade kimchee and smeared with spicy aioli.

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 3.17.29 PM

And the burgers aren’t the only items on the menu. Starters include salads with greens from Route 1 Farms in Santa Cruz and chèvre from Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero. Piles of fries, some tossed with garlic and others with an Argentine-style chimichurri sauce, and Brussels sprout chips are offered as sides. Non-burger entrées in- clude el Salchichero hot dogs as well as veggie burgers, chicken and fish.

Ground Up is the latest project of Koebel’s Local FATT, a mission more than an organization that Koebel, a CAA-trained chef and son of a pig farmer, has run for several years out of the Half Moon Bay building where Ground Up is located. FATT stands for “food awareness through teaching,” and Koebel’s goal is to educate the public about where its food comes from, to support farmers and to promote more healthy local food systems.

Ground Up promises to be a delicious addition to the broader region’s culinary community, and being centered on the emi- nently approachable burger, it could be one of Koebel’s most successful food education projects to date.

Ground Up • 650.712.2100 www.facebook.com/groundupburgers