Local Delicacies: Chelsea Burger brings a fast, laid-back concept to historic downtown

CHELSEA – A quick burger concept fills 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. Foot cherry wood bar, and donated the ceramic exterior tiles and front door of the tavern to the local historical society.

The couple then washed the inside and facade of the narrow space white for a bright, modern look. Local artist and former Chelsea High School student Olivia Maldonado contributed a mural depicting Chelsea landmarks and a street map of the city.

Savur, a chef with roots in Ann Arbor, and Fredenburg, a foodie who owns a farm near town, decided years ago to bring a quick eatery to Chelsea. They considered pizza and tacos before settling on burgers for their simplicity and reliability. In keeping with the thinking that less is more, the menu is short and tasty

“We wanted something people were familiar with,” said Savur. “Something we could post on a limited menu so you don’t get tired.”

Creating the perfect burger took dozens of hours and hundreds of iterations of testing and sourcing various ingredients, Savur said. For example, they searched high and low for the perfect “blooming” brioche bun and even considered baking in-house before settling on an egg-free item from an Ohio bakery.

Savur made similar efforts to get the perfect brine for the restaurant’s pickles and the right ratio of lemon and garlic in the signature sauce.

The CB Original Burger offers double smash style patties with American cheese, bitter caramelized onions, homemade pickles and the Chelsea burger sauce. For those looking to step it up, the restaurant offers a triple patty burger as well as a fried chicken sandwich. Vegetarians can choose between a vegan quinoa and black bean based burger or grilled cheese on a brioche bun.

Chelsea Burger also offers shakes made with dairy products from Guernsey Farms of Northville – chocolate, vanilla and strawberry are available year round, in addition to a seasonal flavor that is currently a spearmint chocolate shake for St. Patrick’s Day.

The restaurant was initially only open to takeout orders due to COVID-19 restrictions, but started offering dine-in service from March when restrictions were eased to 50 percent capacity.

Initially, the restaurant expected sales of around 150 burgers a day, but on the opening day of the to-go service, 120 orders were placed in around 20 minutes.

The community was understanding, welcoming, and eager to visit their restaurant, said Savur and Frendenburg.

“We managed to ride this wave perfectly,” said Savur of the demand for the new restaurant in the area.

For Fredenburg, who is new to gastronomy, the exciting part is still ahead. He hopes to have outdoor seating, event space, and even an outdoor kitchen in the parking lot behind the building, as well as seating on the terrace in front of the building.

The return of indoor dining has thrilled both owners to ensure that their customers enjoy their restaurant the way it was intended.

“It’s really nice to see a family come in or a couple come in and want to share a moment – they have that experience with eating,” Frendenburg said. “When everyone gets vaccinated and the virus wears off, we can welcome people and it will be a little more fun.”

As downtown Chelsea grows, Savur and Fredenburg see an opportunity to build on the site’s heritage as a hangout for locals.

“It’s such a bridge between old Chelsea and the future,” said Fredenburg. “You can nod to history – you can nod to things that used to be and really embrace them – and you can also add a little freshness, make them a little more streamlined and accessible.”

Chelsea Burger, located at 110 W. Middle St. in Chelsea, is open Monday through Wednesday from 11am to 7pm and Thursday through Saturday from 11am to 8pm. Customers can order by phone at 734-562-2916 or online at www.mychelseaburger.com.

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