CHELSEA – A fast-casual burger concept is filling the space left by a historic tavern in downtown Chelsea.
Chelsea Burger owners Raunaq Savur and Paul Fredenberg took over the building at 110 W. Middle Street in December after Seitz’s Tavern closed in 2019. They’ve kept Seitz’s historic neon sign, hanging it inside next to their menu, as well as the 28-foot cherry-wood bar, and donated the tavern’s ceramic exterior tile and front door to the local historical society.
The pair then white-washed the interior and facade of the narrow space to create a bright, modern look. Local artist and former Chelsea High School student Olivia Maldonado contributed a line-art mural depicting Chelsea landmarks, as well as a street map of the town.
Savur, a chef with roots in Ann Arbor, and Fredenburg, a foodie who owns a farm near town, had resolved years ago to bring a fast-casual restaurant to Chelsea. They considered pizza and tacos before settling on burgers for their simplicity and dependability. In keeping with the less-is-more line of thinking, the menu is short and savory
“We wanted something people were familiar with,” Savur said. “Something that we could put out in a limited menu so you don’t get menu fatigue.”
Creating the perfect burger took dozens of hours and hundreds of iterations testing and sourcing different ingredients, Savur said. For instance, they searched high and low for the perfect “blossomy” brioche bun, even considering baking in-house before settling on an egg-free product from an Ohio bakery.
Savur went to similar lengths to get the perfect brine for the restaurant’s pickles and the right ratio of lemon and garlic in the signature sauce.
Their CB Original burger features double smash-style patties with American cheese, bitter caramelized onions, house-brined pickles and the Chelsea Burger sauce. For those who’d like to step it up, the restaurant offers a triple patty burger, as well as a fried chicken sandwich. Vegetarians can choose from a quinoa and black bean-based vegan burger or grilled cheese on a brioche bun.
Chelsea Burger also offers shakes made with dairy from Northville-based Guernsey Farms – chocolate, vanilla and strawberry are offered year-round in addition to a seasonal flavor, currently a green mint chocolate chip shake for St. Patrick’s Day.
The restaurant first opened for to-go orders only, due to COVID-19 restrictions, but began offering dine-in service in March when restrictions were relaxed to 50 percent capacity.
In the beginning, the restaurant expected to sell about 150 burgers per day, but on opening day of to-go service, it received 120 orders in about 20 minutes.
The community has been understanding, welcoming and eager to patronize their restaurant, Savur and Frendenburg said.
“We managed to ride this wave perfectly,” Savur said of the demand for the new restaurant in the area.
For Fredenburg, who’s new to the restaurant industry, the exciting part is still to come. He’s hoping to establish outdoor seating, event space and even an outdoor kitchen in the parking area behind the building, as well as patio seating in front.
The return of indoor dining has both owners excited to see their customers enjoy their restaurant as it was intended.
“It’s really nice to see a family come in, or see a couple come in and they’re wanting to share a moment – they’re having that experience with the food,” Frendenburg said. “As everyone gets vaccinated and the virus subsides, we can welcome people out and it’ll be a little more fun.”
As downtown Chelsea grows, Savur and Fredenburg see an opportunity to build on the spot’s legacy as a gathering place for locals.
“It’s this kind of bridge between old Chelsea and what the future looks like” Fredenburg said. “You can nod to history – you can nod to the things that used to be and really embrace that – and you can also add a little freshness, tighten it up a little bit and make it more accessible.”
Chelsea Burger, 110 W. Middle St. in Chelsea, is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Customers can order by phone at 734-562-2916 or online at www.mychelseaburger.com.
More Washtenaw County local eats:
Local Eats: Frank’s Place keeps family pizza tradition alive in Manchester
Local Eats: Smokehouse 52 serving “comfort food” during COVID in Saline, Chelsea
Local Eats: Chelsea’s newest restaurant is burger joint meets sushi bar and more
Local Eats: L.A.’s ‘Bao Boys’ bring steamed-bun sliders to Ann Arbor via food truck
Local Eats: Gora’s Grill continues vegetarian tradition in Ypsilanti fast-casual space
Local Eats: Childhood friends, EMU alums open Halal burger joint in Ypsi
Local Eats: Ann Arbor’s Earthen Jar pivots from buffet style to Thali feast on a plate
Local Eats: Sip a cocktail or try steak on toast at Raven’s Club in Ann Arbor
Local Eats: Try a taste of authentic Turkish cuisine at Ann Arbor’s Ayse’s Cafe
Local Eats: Miss Kim serves a taste of Korean zing in Ann Arbor
Local Eats: Gabriel’s Cheese Steak Hoagies has been serving sandwiches for 60 years
Local Eats: Taco Tuesday, margaritas keep Maiz Mexican Cantina lively in Ypsilanti
Local Eats: Old Town Tavern has served downtown Ann Arbor for nearly 50 years
Local Eats: Jamaican Jerk Pit serves a taste of the Caribbean in downtown Ann Arbor
Local Eats: Relish Red Hawk’s comfort food in Ann Arbor
Local Eats: Savor a bowl of ramen at Slurping Turtle in Ann Arbor