burger champ photo courtesy of google maps

Burger Champ will open in former Elmwood space in Maplewood this summer

Chris Kelling and Adam Altnether have confirmed that they will open a new concept, Burger Champ, in the former Elmwood space at 2704 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood. Burger Champ will be an extension of the “Champ” brand that Kelling and Altnether launched with Pizza Champ, which opened in January 2022 a few hundred yards away at 2657 Lyle Ave. 

Burger Champ’s menu will include smash burgers, as well as chicken sandwiches, fries, onion rings and salads. Kelling said that many details are still in development, but suggested that customers can expect a burger joint that goes the extra mile in the pursuit of quality. “In the same manner that we brought a focused attention to detail to Pizza Champ, we’ll do the same with burgers and sandwiches,” Kelling said. 

“We want it to offer more than a typical neighborhood burger joint while being a typical neighborhood burger joint, if that makes sense,” he added. “There'll be lots of salads, and a chicken breast option to add to salads, and chicken breast sandwiches either fried or grilled or griddled in some manner. We’re looking at how to incorporate a turkey burger, and looking at how to bring maybe a salmon or something for both sandwiches and a salad.” As part of the transition, chicken sandwiches will be taken off the menu at Pizza Champ. 

Milkshakes will be another of the restaurant’s signature offerings, and Burger Champ will also serve a variety of alcoholic drinks including a few draft beers, a variety of bottled and canned beers and a selection of wines and cocktails. “We’ll have some batched cocktails and then probably one of each spirit behind the bar,” Kelling said. “If you needed a vodka soda we could make you that, but we won’t be making craft cocktails, that’s not the concept.” 

Changes to the interior of the former Elmwood space will include new paint, rearranging the seating and installing TVs. Kelling said the “bones” of the space will remain unchanged but that Burger Champ will promise a “very different experience” from that of its predecessor. “It won’t be as dramatic, it’ll be a lot brighter, but we’re not moving any walls and not changing anything structurally,” he said.  

For fans of Elmwood, the announcement confirms the closure of a restaurant that Sauce ranked number two among the Best New Restaurants of 2019. Kelling said that having pivoted to focus on what would become Pizza Champ during the pandemic, the company had, to some extent, “moved on” from Elmwood. Changes in the restaurant industry in the aftermath of the pandemic threw up obstacles to reviving Elmwood, but Kelling said that for both he and Altnether, the decision to forge ahead with the Pizza Champ and now Burger Champ concepts is also highly personal. 

“We are different people than when we set out to build Elmwood,” he said. “My daughter was not yet 1 when Elmwood opened, and Adam’s daughter wasn’t yet born. We closed [Elmwood] three years ago and, over those three years, I've been home for bedtime every night. That changes you as a human. My priorities are much different than they were in the fall of 2017 when we set out to open Elmwood. Burger Champ and Pizza Champ allows us to maintain our desired presence in the community, both Maplewood and the restaurant industry at large, but it also allows us to live our lives separately from what we do for a living.”

Kelling and Altnether plan to open Burger Champ in summer 2023. Follow Burger Champ on Instagram for the latest updates.