The Burger Grind didn’t just get its name because Dennis Moreau grinds his hamburger meat fresh each day.
“The daily grind signifies hard work. … We’re working hard to put out these burgers,” he said.
After years of working in burger joints in Louisiana and Tyler, Moreau, 37, opened his own restaurant.
“I don’t want to be rich, I just want to be the best at making burgers,” he said.
The Burger Grind, which opened Nov. 26 off Old Jacksonville Highway, is the second for Moreau. He opened the first restaurant in Sulphur Springs in May.
He said their attention to detail makes them different from other burger joints.
“We do everything fresh,” he said, adding that they don’t use anything canned.
Moreau grinds a 65 percent chuck/35 percent brisket blend for the burgers.
They offer seven “specialty grind” beef burgers, as well as turkey and veggie burgers, chicken sandwiches and quesadillas. Moreau gets his grain-fed beef and pork from a local organic farmer when he can. They marinate the chicken in Italian dressing, offer six different buns and six cheeses and will soon add bison to the menu.
“It’s a build-your-own to the next level,” he said, adding that some customers can get intimidated by all of the options.
Although owning a restaurant was never his plan, Moreau started in the industry when he was 17. He grew up in New Orleans and took his first restaurant job as a maintenance worker for a McDonalds.
He studied construction management at The University of Louisiana at Monroe and began a construction company when he was 23. He built apartment complexes until a friend asked him to build a barbecue restaurant in Slidell, Louisiana.
The man talked him into becoming the general manager and operating partner of the Bad to the Bone BBQ restaurant and in June 2005, Moreau left his construction business to return to the food industry. Two months later, Hurricane Katrina hit and his was the only restaurant in a 90-mile radius when it opened a week after the storm, he said.
“We had everyone who could get there … coming to the restaurant,” he said. “From open to close there would be lines out the door.”
Moreau was recruited to help reopen and manage a group of McDonalds in the area. He served as supervisor of the restaurant group for four years, working in Bossier City, Louisiana for some of that time.
In 2010, he moved to Tyler, where his wife of 15 years, Carly, took a job as a physical therapist. He said he and his wife looked from Florida to Dallas trying to decide where to move.
“I absolutely instantly fell in love with Tyler,” he said, adding that it was a growing city that was clean and had good schools for their two sons, who are 13 and 10, and their 3-year-old daughter.
Moreau went to work for Jucy’s Hamburgers, managing the store on Fifth Street.
In 2011, he came up with the idea for The Burger Grind. But Jucy’s talked him into staying by promoting him to area manager of its five restaurants.
“I put The Burger Grind in my closet and kind of let it go,” he said.
But in 2014, Moreau decided it was time to move on and open his own restaurant.
When The Burger Grind opened on the downtown square in Sulphur Springs in May, Moreau said he had lines out the door for weeks.
After the restaurant began running without him, Moreau found himself needing a job. Coaching his son’s football team wasn’t enough to keep him busy.
He decided to open a second restaurant. Because the Sulphur Spring store was so busy when it opened, Moreau decided to open the Tyler business somewhat quietly, the day before Thanksgiving.
He chose the location off Old Jacksonville Highway because of the growing area and because of the building’s garage doors. He combined two spaces into a 3,000-square-foot restaurant and used his construction experience to build the wooden tables and counters. He used 200-year-old bricks found next door to his Sulphur Spring restaurant to use on the ice cream bar.
Moreau scoured flea markets to find 1950s bicycles, which have been painted and hang from the ceiling, colorful chairs, license plates, old theater movie posters, Coke signs and other vintage finds. There also are video games.
“I’m a professional antiquer now,” he said.
Each of his restaurants have about 15 employees.
Moreau plans to open a few more in East Texas. He is thinking about a second Tyler location around The University of Texas at Tyler and Tyler Junior College, as well as one possibly in Longview.
Although he wants to grow his business, he doesn’t want it to get too big.
“I probably have too much of my heart in these restaurants; that’s why I don’t want to grow too big. I don’t have enough heart,” he said.