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Owners of ZZQ and Ardent are flipping into the burger business

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Russell Cook, Chris Fultz, Alex Graf and Tom Sullivan in front of the future home of Eazzy Burger. (Mike Platania photo)

There’s a reunion brewing in Scott’s Addition.

The owners of Ardent Craft Ales and barbecue joint ZZQ are teaming up to open Eazzy Burger in a garage adjacent to Ardent’s beer garden at 3200 W. Leigh St.

The 2,100-square-foot building is not far from where ZZQ owners and couple Alex Graf and Chris Fultz debuted their barbecue as a weekly pop-up on Ardent’s grounds in 2015 before opening their own brick-and-mortar restaurant around the corner at 3201 W. Moore St. in 2018.

In the years since ZZQ’s residency at the brewery, Ardent co-owner Tom Sullivan said they never could quite get the right food setup at the brewery. It was never quite the same without ZZQ.

“We’d struggled with food trucks and having a quality food option over the years. It was hard to get the (food trucks) we really wanted, as often as we needed them,” Sullivan said, adding that they also began offering their own in-house sandwich menu in summer 2020.

Sullivan eventually connected with his neighbors at ZZQ, who’d been workshopping some burger recipes on the side.

“We go through a lot of beef scrap that becomes beef grind which then goes into our sausages. Over the years we’ve experimented with burgers quite a bit and have generated some damn good burgers,” Fultz said.

“I’ve personally thought that if (Graf) and I wanted to do another restaurant, it would not be another barbecue restaurant, it would be a proper burger joint…We don’t see ourselves doing fine dining or anything like that. We’re going to do something comfortable and easy.”

The idea for Eazzy Burger was born, with Graf, Fultz and Sullivan as co-owners. ZZQ culinary director Russell Cook will also take the same role at the burger joint.

A rendering of Eazzy Burger, which plans to open this summer. (Courtesy of Fultz & Singh Architects)

Work to convert the garage into a restaurant began in recent weeks, and the burger joint’s eyeing a late July or early August opening. Fultz & Singh Architects, the firm at which Fultz is a partner, is designing it. Chopper Dawson Inc. is the general contractor.

Ardent owns the building as part of its compound, which it bought in 2017, and had been using the garage for storage.

Eazzy Burger will serve what Graf describes as “pseudo-smash burgers” with patties weighing in at five ounces.

“The menu’s going to be relatively simple, maybe four signature burgers but also build-your-own,” Graf said. “We also want to do some exploration into cheese fries.” She added they’ll also have vegetarian options, a chicken sandwich and meatless burger options.

Fultz said Eazzy Burger’s offerings will be priced somewhere between that of a boutique burger restaurant and a chain like Five Guys.

“ZZQ is not the most affordable option when it comes to barbecue but that’s because we use the highest-quality proteins, as well as in our sides. There’s a lot of hard work and love that goes into every single thing here,” Fultz said.

“We don’t think that’ll translate directly to the burger market. You don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a burger. We don’t see it as a boutique burger place at all, so you’re not paying $14-$15.”

Looking ahead, Graf, Fultz and Sullivan say they may not stop with just one Eazzy Burger.

“We wanted the brand to be recognizable as an extension of what we’ve created here (at ZZQ),” Fultz said. “We knew that we wanted this to be a launching off point to do a potential small chain of restaurants. Certainly in Richmond but also the state of Virginia and beyond someday.”

The plans for Eazzy Burger were first reported by Richmond Magazine.

Owners of ZZQ and Ardent are flipping into the burger business