Chris Hamilton has a passion for a good burger.
So much of a passion that he spent eight years visiting burger joints across the Carolinas to find just the right flavor combinations to make the perfect gourmet burgers. Then, last summer, he opened Higher Ground Char House in Chapin, where he began making and selling those burgers – minus the gourmet price tag.
“Higher Ground burgers are modeled after the burgers made in high-end burger places but with the price knocked down 40 percent,” Hamilton said.
In addition to its traditional CharBurger, Higher Ground features 14 craft burgers such as the Totes Ma Goats burger – with roasted tomato, garlic herb goat cheese and bacon aioli – and the Cow-A-Bunga – with provolone cheese, alfalfa sprouts and avocado aioli. All burgers are made with fresh 100 percent chuck choice beef that that is covered in Higher Ground’s dry rub and charbroiled.
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For those who might issue what Hamilton refers to as “the veto vote” on Higher Ground because of an aversion to burgers, the restaurant also offers some highly requested shrimp and flounder, as well as fresh salads (14 dressings, all house-made), wings (smoked first), fries (hand-cut), fried flounder and quesadillas, or “flips,” filled with cheeses and a choice of chopped beef or chicken.
“Surprisingly, burgers are not the only popular items here,” Hamilton said. “You would be amazed at how much flounder and shrimp we’re selling. We had to get much bigger equipment to handle the volume. And our flips are selling like hotcakes. We also sell a lot of wings and barbecue.”
A selection of 12 to 16 craft beers also rotate on tap, most locally or regionally brewed.
How did Higher Ground get its start?
Hamilton has worked in the restaurant business since age 13. Before opening Higher Ground, he spent 16 years providing human resources consulting for multiple chain restaurants, then worked as a recruiter for Applebee’s chains across the Southeast.
Living in Chapin, Hamilton wanted a restaurant with higher-quality burgers served at a good price point. When he couldn’t find one he felt fit the bill, he decided to open Higher Ground.
The restaurant was an instant success.
“The first couple of months, we were a littler overwhelmed by the response and were busier than we anticipated,” Hamilton said. “We have done quite a few things to handle the volume, including a complete kitchen redesign. We can handle the crowds much more efficiently now.”
Now, Hamilton’s long-term plan is to add five more area restaurants:
“One a year over five years,” he said.
Who eats here?
The restaurant has been so well-received by Chapin-area residents that word of mouth has gotten out and the restaurant even draws many out-of-town visitors traveling through the area.
What does the place look like?
Located in the home of the former Ellie’s Steakhouse, Higher Ground features a clean, modern, industrial look with corrugated sheet metal, stained wood trim and wood floors.
Higher Ground Char House
WHERE: 211 Chapin Road, Chapin
WHEN: 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; closed Sunday
COST: Burgers range from $9-$12 while the popular “flips” average $8. Sides start at $2.50.
INFO: (803) 575-8470; www.facebook.com/highergroundcharhouse