Cult Burger cooking up a following
When chef and co-owner of Cult Burger in Tahoma, Quinten Frye, saw the space become available for an idea that had been marinating with him for quite some time, he knew he had to jump at the chance.
Frye, who has an extensive background in fine dining having worked for James Beard award-winning chefs and in a four-diamond hotel, was nominated for his own James Beard award as the Rising Star Chef of the Year semifinalist in 2013. His experience in fine dining helped translate that knowledge into crafting his personal style – one that focuses on taking a few things and simply making them great.
Frye’s food career started in culinary school in Austin, Texas with stops in Mexico, Washington D.C., Colorado, Hawaii, and as of three years ago, Truckee and Lake Tahoe where he ultimately was brought on as chef and operator of another Tahoma establishment, Dog and Bear.
“The first of January I was done over there and was able to focus energy over here,” said Frye. “We built Dog and Bear into something special and I met a lot of folks in the community and created a following.”
However, that following would have to wait for Frye’s new endeavor to open as the winter to start 2023 took its toll on construction and renovation of the existing space.
“We were slowed down a lot with eight feet of snow on the roof,” added Frye. “We had to crane the hood vent over the roof, through the back door and up through a duct – we couldn’t put the fan motor on top until the ice and snow melted.”
Eventually the ice and snow did melt and on April 4th, Cult Burger opened its doors.
“I’m from Texas and thought it would be cool to do a western-type theme,” said Frye. “We’d done a few pop-ups in places we’d been and always had a cult (non-religious) following. This food has that inspiration.”
The 800 square feet, grab-and-go at the pickup window type of joint focuses on, as you can imagine, crafting high quality burgers. The patty blend is a mixture of beef chuck, brisket and short rib to help create a balance of flavor and juiciness. Their number one seller, the Cult Classic, features the patty on a brioche bun with American cheese, their house made cult sauce, and Frye encourages people to add on other of the restaurant’s made-from-scratch toppings.
“We’re making all our own sauces, a tomato jam, smoking our own bacon, two different house made pickles – it’s all good quality stuff,” added Frye.
As for Frye’s favorite burger on the menu, it’s one that will be added to the menu soon: the Longhorn Burger, which carries the base of the Cult Burger with the addition of pickled jalapenos and smoked bacon.
“It’s just a really good burger.”
Frye’s attention to detail on other items also doesn’t go unnoticed, like hand-cutting their own fries, making their own shakes, using quality aged cheddar – it’s those subtle nuances that make all the difference. And while you can sit inside (or out) and enjoy your food there, what also makes the restaurant unique is the walk-up counter style ordering.
Frye, who lives in Truckee with his co-owner wife (Kristin) and their son, whom Frye jokes is two-and-a-half and going on 18, has a pretty good understanding of the flow in Tahoma given his recent experience.
“I feel like we have a strong local following, but we get a ton of tourists between Emerald Bay and Tahoe City but outside of that we get people coming in for lunch that work around here,” added Frye.
Ultimately, Frye hopes that his experience in fine dining will pay off on the front end so that he can enjoy the back end of the experience that much more.
“Having a kid, I’m trying to create more time away from the kitchen so I’m trying to create an easy process to replicate and be able to train the right people so I can step away more often than having to run a full-on kitchen.”
Based on word of mouth and a growing following, Frye is off to a great start.
Cult Burger is located at 7000 W Lake Blvd #1B in Tahoma, Calif. For more information and menu items visit them online at eatcultburger.com.
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