LaVecchia branching into gourmet burgers

There's a new player in Charlotte's burger wars, and many restaurant patrons will recognize the name.

Nick LaVecchia of LaVecchia's Seafood Grille in uptown Charlotte and Old Stone Steakhouse in Belmont plans to open Nix (get the word play?) Burger & Brew with partners next month at Fifth and Tryon streets next to the Capital Grille.

These days, the hamburger is more than a beef patty on a bun ordered at the drive-through window of a fast-food chain.

So-called fast casual restaurants offering fresh, hand-prepared burgers and made-to-order fries in an adult atmosphere are sizzling nationwide.

LaVecchia hopes to cash in on the trend with what he calls a “polished casual” concept emphasizing quality, service and interior design.

Food industry experts say “higher class” burger boutiques typically focus on freshness and quality to distinguish themselves from fast food's Big Three – McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's.

Adult customers are willing to pay more, they say, to treat themselves to something out of the ordinary in a restaurant that entices them to stay longer.

LaVecchia said Nix will flame grill only USDA Prime Beef and offer 20 kinds of burgers, including turkey, bison, chicken and veggie, priced mainly from $7.95 to $8.95.

The Charlotte Late Night Burger – a costlier exception – lists for $9.95 and comes stacked with a fried egg, bacon, chili and homemade pimento cheese.

Competition among dressed-up burger purveyors is intensifying in Charlotte with such restaurants as Big Daddy's Burger Bar in Dilworth, Topz Healthier Burger Grill in Ballantyne and The Counter in SouthPark.

LaVecchia said Nix, with 80 booth seats inside and 16 seats outside, aims to distinguish itself with two bars, painted metal walls featuring hex bolt accents, hardwood floors and flat screen TVs showing sports.

Located roughly between Time Warner Cable Arena and Bank of America Stadium, the restaurant should become an active participant in the uptown bar scene, he said.

The Nix menu will include more than 50 beers in bottles and on tap with side dishes ranging from fried pickles to sweet potato fries.

To enhance the experience, LaVecchia said, patrons will be invited to “Bite the Burger.” Order a double burger with chili, cheese, onions and slaw and Nix will project an image of you biting into it on the wall and feature your photo in a display case outside.

LaVecchia anticipates spending about $500,000 to remodel, furnish and equip the former 2,300-square-foot Groucho's Deli location.

Wagner Murray Architects designed the concept and general contractor Heard Ratzlaff Construction is building it.

LaVecchia's partners are his brother, Rich LaVecchia III; father, Rich LaVecchia Jr., and Matt Malone. Jim Morasso is director of operations.

Nix, which will serve lunch and dinner every day, is aiming for a mid-October opening. LaVecchia said he's working out the details of a plan to deliver orders to uptown customers.