It may be early in the game to call it, but it seems 2016 is shaping up to be the year of the national burger chain. And, frankly, we're not thrilled.
Twenty-fifteen was arguably the year of the pizza joints — from local chains like Fired Pie and Eklectic Pie to New Times' Best New Restaurant 2015, Forno 301, pizza restaurants opened their doors to hordes of hungry guests across the Valley. Phoenix is undeniably a pizza-oriented town, home to some of the best in the world and reinforced by standouts such as La Grande Orange, Federal Pizza, and Pomo Pizzeria. Even though pizza is simple, uncomplicated food, we can be proud of our pizza; at least it comes from local restaurants.
But the sad truth is that 2016 seems to be offering us a lot in the way of burgers. National burgers, burgers that don't even come from chefs and creative restaurateurs here in the Valley. Sure, lots of great local restaurants offer stellar burgers, but the volume with which they sell pales in comparison to newcomers Shake Shack (opening two locations this year), Hopdoddy (opening near Camelback and 20th Street soon), The Counter, and new locations of In-N-Out.
Although national restaurant trends point us toward locally sourced produce and protein, we're now faced with an onslaught of ingredients coming from restaurant supply giants such as Sysco and National Foods. These suppliers and their lower-quality ingredients are sure to do nothing for the waistlines and hearts of our car-bound populace, and they take away the opportunity for small vendors to reach a greater market.
This is why we can't have nice things, Phoenix. We're shirking the much better trends and replacing them with lowest common denominator foods. We're sending hard-earned community dollars to national restaurant chains. We're surprisingly off the mark, and we can do better.
What we ought to do is invest more in local businesses, especially those that make use of high-quality ingredients. We're usually not too far behind the rest of the country when it comes to national trends, but the restaurants hitting the mark are far and few between compared to these fast-encroaching burger joints. National chains are a real blow to the burgeoning good reputation that these local restaurants have earned for Phoenix.
There's nothing wrong with burgers. We've been known to indulge in the delights of a cheesy local hamburger with extra ketchup from time to time, too. But can we keep it to a minimum? We've already surpassed our limit for national burgers in 2016, so let's focus our energy elsewhere.