FORT GREENE — Mark Charles and Greg Evelkin both noticed the same thing at the same time. Myrtle Avenue in Fort Greene has almost every type of food imaginable but it lacks one thing: a really good burger.
Charles and Evelkin decided to meet that need. Charles opened Mark’s Gourmet Burgers in June, and in mid-July Evelkin will open Burger UrWay. Four blocks apart, the two restaurants might be competing for the same clientele, but the owners are banking on the fact that demand for burgers just may be high enough in Fort Greene to allow for the success of them both.
Charles, 39, originally from Canada, has lived in Fort Greene for over 11 years. His parents owned a French restaurant in Toronto and, at age 12, he started washing dishes and slyly watching the head chef with fascination.
“That’s when my love of cooking really began,” he said. “That chef was tough, but he was a genius at what he did.”
But instead of following in his parents’ footsteps, Charles went off to play college football and later played in the Canadian football League. But because of a shoulder injury he was forced to hang up his cleats. But there was a blessing there, as Charles could now focus on cooking.
He moved to New York and studied at the French Culinary Institute, later becoming head chef at The Speakeasy in Clinton Hill and the lead cook at Le Grand Dakar under "Iron Chef" competitor Pierre Thiam. But his dream, like that of his parents, was to open his own restaurant.
“I started trying a lot burgers at different places,” he said. “None of the meat seemed to have a lot of flavor.”
Charles said he decided to create the best burger Myrtle Avenue has ever seen. He gets up early every morning, buys fresh grass-fed beef and grinds it himself. He then adds secret seasonings to give it a unique flavor.
Mark’s Gourmet Burgers has a few French influences, a nod to Charles’ history. The burgers are served with brioche buns. Poutine, the French-Canadian specialty that combines cheese curds and gravy on top of a pile of fries is a menu option.
Charles said he is exited and humbled to own his first place. His storefront, on the corner of Myrtle and Waverly Avenues, puts him on the border of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.
Is he worried about Burger UrWay’s opening?
“Not really,” he said. “We each bring something different to the table.”
He then added that what really matters is making people happy through food.
Burger UrWay franchisee Evelkin, will be opening his doors on the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Adelphi Street in the next two weeks. Like Charles, this is Evelkin’s first business. But at age 27, after eight years of working as an elevator technician, he has less experience in the business.
“But I know burgers,” he said. “I guarantee people will love the food.”
Growing up in Sheepshead Bay, Evelkin loved to eat hamburgers and considers himself somewhat of an expert. So when the Burger UrWay Chain opened in Brooklyn, he went to have a try. He loved the taste and liked that he could put his own stamp on the business.
In April of 2010, when Hardees Chinese Food Restaurant caught fire, forcing it to pack up and move across the street, the future storefront for Burger UrWay was born.
Evelkin had his eye on the site and when renovations were done, he jumped at the chance to rent the space. He has made it his own with dark walnut wood and exposed brick walls, and he is going for a homey feel that will soon include large communal dining table.
Evelkin said he is not competing with Mark’s Gourmet Burgers. He added that deep down he thinks everyone’s favorite food is the hamburger, so there can never be too many great burger joints. He explained that his menu will also feature several different types of fish, as well as chicken wings.
“The fact is people love burgers, he said. “There is enough of a market for both of us to succeed.”