It’s been a roller coaster for Ever, the ambitious $5 million restaurant that opened in July from Curtis Duffy, the chef who left three-Michelin-starred Grace to open his own restaurant. March’s COVID-19 shutdown didn’t halt service as the restaurant was still under construction. But when the restaurant debuted, it was scaled back due to reduced seating capacity and other pandemic concerns. As Duffy and business partner Michael Muser developed a rhythm and on the cusp of Ever’s three-month anniversary, the state suspended indoor dining in October.
In November, Ever began carryout, and while kitchen staff have enjoyed prepping dishes like braised lamb stew, Muser says there was a need to do more: “We have this ginormous kitchen just sitting there.”
Starting on Thursday, that fancy space will serve as a ghost kitchen with the introduction of Reve Burger. The Ever staff will crank out griddled double cheeseburgers and fries. It’s a stop-gap measure as Ever waits for the return of indoor dining, Muser says. These aren’t fancy burgers, but Duffy’s take on a well-executed fast-food sandwich. They’ve stuffed two, four-ounce beef patties, melted a few slices of American cheese, plus Vienna dill pickles, and special sauce between a brioche bun from Highland Baking Co.
Reve Burger is meant to complement Ever’s existing to-go operations which will continue. Carryout is something that may stick around even after indoor dining is restored, says Muser. Muser often refers to Duffy’s “computer brain.” That is, Duffy receives an idea and the chef then takes the time to process the information and use his talent to spit out a result like a 3D printer. Don’t expect Reve Burger to be a gourmet sandwich with truffles and luxurious ingredients. Chef du cusine Justin Selk mentions his tenure working at a Culver’s in Wisconsin, where he learned to work the griddle. This burger is supposed to evoke that type of nostalgia, and there are also chicken fingers and grilled cheeses for the kids.
The kitchen teases Muser that the sauce is a secret formula. Selk admits that it’s Sir Kensington’s ketchup mixed with Duke’s mayonnaise. There’s also a Beyond Burger version for vegetarians. If customers eat this burger for lunch, Muser says they may need a nap before a late dinner.
“You eat this thing and you’re not coming back for more,” he says.
Muser says he and Duffy had mulled the idea for a while. “Reve” spelled backwards produces the restaurant’s name, and it also means “dream” in French. Burgers, tacos, and pizza can be profitable and travel well. These are popular choices for restaurants during a pandemic.
Selk mentions a new “technology” used in the french fries. Selk wasn’t talking about Duffy’s computer brain, but a coating that will keep the fries crispy. The spuds will allegedly get crunchier after a customer microwaves them at home. These shoestrings fries are frozen, available from Simplot Foods. It would be one thing if Ever were serving fries in its dining room; Duffy would no doubt come up with a precise cooking method. However it’s about volume at Reve. Duffy is applying a chef’s touch with a special southwestern-style spice blend. A burger and fries is priced at $19.
It’s 2020 and restaurants are trying to survive. In July, before Ever opened, as many Americans were first learning about coronaviruses and positivity rates, Muser said his restaurant didn’t have much choice other than to open. Grace closed at end of 2017, and Muser and Duffy were forced to wait until opening a new restaurant thanks to a non-compete clause with their former employer.
Neither Duffy or Muser expected to be opening a virtual restaurant in 2020. But they’re happy to keep some staff busy and employed through the pandemic. Muser is hopeful that the state will resume indoor dining soon. In the meantime, he’s hopeful burgers can help keep Ever going.
“This is just me annoying Duffy enough to finally do burgers,” he says.
Reve Burger, open 11 a.m to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Order via DoorDash.