Burger Beat represents an ongoing search for the Lowcountry’s best local handmade burgers.
The Delicious Conundrum
Nick Borregine could have called his wildly popular Shell Point eatery Plan “B” Burgers. That’s kind of how Fat Patties happened.
After years on the Beaufort waterfront, the chef/restaurateur sold his hugely successful Panini’s Café to develop another concept. For reasons we won’t go into here, that project didn’t happen and – in a nutshell – Fat Patties was conceived. Borregine’s original plan for his Shell Point property was to eventually convert it into a no-frills, walk up burger stand. Once the downtown project fell through though, Borregine knew he had to “ramp things up.”
He describes the end result as “industrial chic,” a hybridized collection of corrugated metal, polished concrete, wood and glass. Garage doors roll up to create an open-air feel when the weather’s nice. There’s plenty of outdoor seating in three patio areas with umbrellas, fire pits and a walkup ice cream window. Inside the full service bar features an impressive array of flat screens and craft beers on tap. “We wanted to make it fun,” he says. “It’s more than just a place to go out to eat, it’s more of a hangout.”
The place has “franchise” written all over it.
“That’s the plan,” says Nick. “It’s more than just a burger joint. We appeal to everyone. Everyone who drives by is a potential customer.” He smiles. “Everybody likes burgers.”
Even so, as the concept evolved, the broad appeal took Borregine by surprise. “My whole career I’ve kind of cooked for one type of person,” he says. “I had to rethink that.” The sheer variety of burger possibilities is a direct response to that “rethinking.” For starters there are five different types of patty: all beef, 1/2&1/2 (half beef, half bacon. Yeah, bacon), turkey, wild caught shrimp and bean.
“The shrimp patty is a no-brainer for around here,” he says. “The turkey is more for the women, the bean for the vegetarians, of course, and there’s the meat.”
The beef comes from the grass fed, hormone free steer herd at Southern Swiss Dairy of Waynesville, Georgia, the same source for the dairy used in the restaurant’s hand crafted ice cream.
“The flavor profile of the meat is something you can’t get anywhere else,” Nick points out. “It’s obvious that there’s something special and unique about it.”
Fat Patties’ success has helped jump-start the Southern Swiss beef operation.
“The dairy was going gangbusters, but they were having a problem rotating their beef cattle,” he explains. “Now we’re going through about a steer and a half a week. It’s opened up a huge potential for the farm to grow.”
Ordering up a burger at Fat Patties presents something of a delicious conundrum. In addition to the selection of the 5 patties (each is a half pound) you can choose from 10 cheeses, 18 toppings (sausage gravy and fried egg included) and 14 different sauces. Build your own – the combinations are nearly infinite – or choose one of the dozen specialty burgers made with the patty of your choice. The burgers come stacked on a house baked bun and Fat Pattie’s insidiously addictive Sea Salt Rosemary Fries – fresh cut, naturally. In fact, just about everything right down to the tangy 7 Spice Ketchup is locally sourced and made from scratch on premises including the creative selection of ice cream. At any given time there may be more than a dozen and a half flavors churned daily for cones, sundaes and shakes.
“The shakes are way more popular than we expected,” he says. “We couldn’t believe it.”
The shakes also come in – ahem – “adult versions” – which is to say spiked. The Burnt Marshmallow with a vanilla vodka infusion is the best seller, says Borregine. “It tastes like childhood only with alcohol.”
The ice cream flavors vary with the seasons and the available ingredients just like the beers.
“We have 19 taps. 17 of them are craft American beers,” he says. “Some are as far away as California, others are closer to home. And they change every week.”
Hang on. We sense a pattern developing. Fat Patties, it seems, is not for the indecisive. If you’re easily flummoxed by a broad variety of choices – if having it your way is a daunting, vaguely alien concept – you may be a Fast Food Lemming. If the idea of leisurely consuming fresh, made-to-order burgers on homemade buns piled to the rafters with whatever you can possibly dream up frightens you, tweet us from Mickey D’s. That’s an extra seat for us.
All This and Bacon Ice Cream
This Burger Beat expedition turns out to be a guy thing. It just works out this way. But make no mistake: this is a serious crew. To a man we are harsh, even bitter cynics in a world where convenience trumps quality, especially when it comes to our burgers.
We all stick to the beef patty – although the shear mad genius of the 1/2 & 1/2 presents a massive temptation. Most of us order specialty burgers off the menu. Jeff goes with The Boot topped with the house black bean chili, cheddar cheese and onion crisps. Gary selects the Baby Blue with bleu cheese, caramelized onions and garlic mayo. I briefly consider the Who’s Your Pattie? – a monster heaped with pulled pork barbecue (!), apple wood bacon, smoked cheddar cheese, pickles and slaw. But as my life flashes before my eyes I pinch hit with the Fuhgetaboutit, a burger slathered in marinara sauce with pulled mozzarella and basil mayo. Jon – the purist among us – goes old school with a plain beef patty, lettuce, onion and American cheese, the classic.
The food comes out surprisingly fast and the presentations are impressive, prompting “wows” all around. The burgers are stacked to the rafters with toppings and each one is cooked to perfection. I’ve ordered mine rare – any rarer and it would be licking my face. The bakery style buns are substantial, soaking up the meat juices and taking on the toppings without falling apart. The bun to beef ratio gets high marks.
In a rare consensus, we’re all pleased with our choices. The quality of the beef is undeniably superior. The flavor really comes through in every bite. Factoring in bun size and topping density this is something akin to hamburger alchemy – a lesser slab of beef would simply vanish in the mix.
My Fuhgetaboutit is basically a giant meatball burger. The marinara sauce is just what you’d expect from a guy named Borregine. Gary’s Baby Blue is big on the bleu – huge crumbles of rich cheese melting into a sweet mass of caramelized onion. Next time it will be mine. I was puzzling over how The Boot got its name until it hit the table. Now I get it. This behemoth is a butt-kicker. Nevertheless, it is no match for Jeff prompting someone to reference Jaws, “Well, this was no boating accident.”
And what of Jon’s simple, basic, no-frills, God-bless-America burger? “It’s excellent,” he says. “Really tasty beef and the rest of the ingredients are nice and fresh.”
“I would’ve liked the bun toasted.”
Then again, we didn’t ask.
We flirt briefly with the idea of dessert.
“How about a little bacon ice cream,” asks our server.
Seriously? Really? Bacon? In ice cream?
She assures us that not only is this a reality but that it’s a huge best seller.
“We’ll sample some.”
Why not? After all, it’s a known fact that pork makes everything better. What better way to cleanse one’s palate after a meal like this than with a little pig flavored ice cream?
“Sorry,” she returns. “We’re sold out.”
We ponder this for moment until Jon finally breaks the silence.
“You know, I wasn’t even expecting bacon ice cream. But now that I can’t have it, I’m a little pissed off about it. I feel suddenly deprived.”
That’s okay. It’s just another reason to come back.
The Bottom Line
Fat Patties gets four enthusiastic thumbs up from the Burger Beat crew. Nick Borregine’s first foray into the gourmet burger market is a winner. Fat Patties would work just about anywhere with an attention to detail, quality ingredients and a commitment to promoting locally sourced food for a fair price. The fries alone are reason enough to make the journey to Shell Point. And the service is top notch. “When you go out you want to be treated nicely. This is one of the best staffs I’ve worked with,” says Nick. “They go above and beyond. And that’s always the goal.”
Burgers, Brats, Beer
831 Parris Island Gateway
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