Before the burger craze swept through A-Town, there was Grindhouse Killer Burgers. Now, with the mighty burger mastered (and locations in Athens and Hartsfield-Jackson coming soon), founder Alex Brounstein turns his attention to the humble sandwich. Enter Villains, which opened in Midtown last month. Since this guy’s changing the way we do lunch, we had to find out what he’s all about.
You opened Grindhouse at Sweet Auburn just before the trend came to Atlanta. What went into opening a burger stand?
There weren’t any good, quality old-school burger places. Back then, Snack Shack on Memorial was the talk of the town. The food was OK, but I loved the experience. So it came together: If you open in the right place, and you make a decent product, people will come.
Any mentors while you were perfecting your recipe?
There was this guy named Adam Biderman. He invented the Holeman & Finch burger. He’s a badass. I caught him at H&F. It was his last shift before moving to New Orleans to open his own place, so I asked if I could pick his brain.
What’s the secret to a great burger?
For a thinner burger, you have to cook it on a flattop griddle. Don’t put anything in your beef—a little salt and pepper on top, and just leave it. Let it cook about three-quarters of the way through, till it gets a nice char on it; and flip it over for a minute. Keep it simple.
Your crew at Villains rocks. How’d you join forces?
I met Jared Lee from HD1 at a Replacements cover show at The Earl. We started talking shop, ideas and next moves. I didn’t think there were any good spots that did good sandwiches, and Jared said he had a friend who worked at FLIP burger boutique who thought the same thing—Jason McClure. We all met at Grindhouse one day about a year ago to brainstorm, and one thing led to another.
And now, you’re open. What’s the vibe? For a guy who’s hooked on Dave’s Cosmic Subs, what can I expect?
We want it to look like an abandoned subway meets an evil lair. [Villains equals antihero. Get it?] Less cold cuts, like turkey, and cheese. We’re going to do a porchetta. We’re going to make our own pastrami, slow-cooked Italian beef, vegetarian meatball subs and Korean fried chicken. It’s different from a lot of the stuff you see in Atlanta.