Burgers. Fries. Beer. There's something very simple, very delicious and very American about that trio, which are just a few of the reasons why hungry bellies are lining up at Grinderz in Huntington Beach. The brainchild of two longtime friends, the new neighborhood eatery on the west side of Old World Village not only slings brioche buns, it also features a rad skateboarding-inspired design, an art gallery and prime proximity to the new Vans Off The Wall Skatepark.
Old World stretches its German pride across eight acres, making sure the exteriors of each and every brick and mortar within its reach maintains its quaint Euro village aesthetic. Grinderz customers will happily find that the burger joint's interior exhibits a much different look. Details of its homage to skateboarding are apparent, like the handmade wooden half-pipe counter—complete with Tech Decks—autographed skateboards adorning the walls, skateboard wall mounts, industrial aluminum siding, artfully selected menu font and cartoony burger-skateboard logo. Heck, the name itself gives a solid nod to the sport, one which both owners have been surrounded by since day one.
Ryan Vanderweel, 28, and Dan Elbard, 32, grew up on the same Westminster street and have remained close friends within the same tight group since ages 5 and 8, respectively. Vanderweel skated while Elbard watched, and when the time came to roll into careers and families, they entered very different professions. Both continuing their family's legacies, Vanderweel assumed marketing and operations responsibilities for his family's chain of local Del Taco restaurants. Elbard managed sales for his father's plumbing warehouse, opened a cabinet company with his dad, then went on to become a general contractor. The two talked about launching their own business every day until one phone call caused the daydreaming to grind to a halt.
Recalls Vanderweel of that fateful ring from Elbard, "One day he calls me and he's like, 'Ryan, are you in or are you out?' That's all he told me. I said, 'I'm in.'"
The two met at the space, which Vanderweel candidly describes as "the worst looking place I've ever seen." But they both knew they could make it work. Combining Vanderweel's restaurant operations expertise with Elbard's construction chops, the two collaborated and made smart use of the small space, which includes a cozy kitchen and minimal storage. After a full renovation by Elbard, Grinderz opened its doors on February 7, 2014, introducing a fresh, fast dining and art experience just a stone's throw from the soon-to-open skatepark—a neighbor that greatly influenced their venture.
The limited menu promises not to make heads spin. Burger offerings include the standard hamburger, cheeseburger and double cheeseburger, along with veggie and turkey burgers and a chicken sandwich. Hugged by a buttery brioche bun, the burgers come with a choice of American or pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onions, pickles and a few secret ingredients that vary from burger to burger. Hamburgers and cheeseburgers come slathered with Thousand Island Dressing, while the veggie burgers, turkey burgers and chicken sammie take a chipotle mayo. Avocado and bacon can also be piled on for just $1.
All seems pretty typical in the land of Grinderz, except for a few noticeable selections the duo made to elevate taste, like the red onions, sauces, spices and bun. Sides include beer-battered fries, sweet potato fries and onion rings—all appropriate burger add-ons that deliver a tasty crunch without the grease.
Burger joints are often synonymous with exploding bellies, but Grinderz fills up the gut without taking it to the gourmand level. Packed with visible chunks of black beans and corn, their veggie patty is solid and a sure treat for vegetarians. They've also managed to create a juicy turkey burger that has won its way to the top of the fan favorites list. For those wary of carbs, the bun can be substituted for lettuce. Diners won't need to be rolled away on their sides after eating here. Rather, they can roll right back to the skatepark for round two.
And that is exactly the crowd the founders had in mind from the start. They're not looking to wow eaters with an all-organic burger stacked high with endless add-ons and countless sides. They're looking to grill up quality, tasty eats quickly for the local community, namely those who don't care to spend more than $5 on a burger. Burgers are served up in just three to four short minutes (unless it's skatepark opening day, of course).
"If you had three bucks in your pocket, you were pumped, and there was always a burger place you could go and get a burger for three bucks," says Vanderweel, who modeled the menu and pricing after his young days as a broke skater begging mom for lunch money. At Grinderz, a cheeseburger costs just $3.25. Combos don't exceed $7.50, and a beer costs no more than $4.50. They carry Pabst Blue Ribbon (naturally), Stella Artois and San Diego-brewed Saint Archer, which was founded by professional skateboarders, snowboarders and surfers.
Bevvies, bites and top-notch customer service aside, the local artwork covering the walls is reason enough to check out the inviting eatery. The main gallery wall rotates featured artists, and eventually the crew plans to host art shows with local-curated exhibits. Other future entertainment additions include livestreaming skatepark action on their flatscreen TV as well as car shows. All elements will blend to create a "skater-type chill spot," says Elbard. Building on this goal, Vanderweel adds, "I want this to be a place where people can just hangout, be themselves and feel at home." It's a family-friendly spot that's hardly exclusive to the skateboarding community. In time the productive pair hope to build a Grinderz at every skatepark in the country.
Just two months in, Grinderz has already been embraced by a slew of regulars, and the outdoor patio will prove popular come the warmer months. Says Vanderweel, "If you want a good burger, beer or fry, come here." We concur.
Grinderz // 7561 Center Avenue, Suite 53, Huntington Beach, CA 92647 // 714-895-2800
Hours // Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.