PORTLAND — The sign at 15 Exchange St. was a gastronomic gauntlet.
“Real food will be here in six days,” the wording in the window of b.good announced in late September.
A few days later, the Boston burger company declared: “real food will be here today,” and the downtown lunch crowd was ready.
Burgers made with beef from Pineland Farm in New Gloucester and fries hand-cut from Spiller Farm potatoes in Wells are the core of the healthy, quick-serve enterprise founded in Massachusetts nine years ago.
Portland is the company’s first foray into Maine, but for founders Anthony Ackil and Jon Olinto, who were in town last week for the launch of b.good’s 13th location, this is familiar turf.
“This is where we get a majority of our products,” said Ackil, surveying the layout of the restored two-story brick building in the city’s Old Port. “This was a natural for Portland. Our food fits in well here. It’s a real foodie town. You want to be in a place where people appreciate real food.”
House-ground and hand-packed burgers, are b.good’s signature. All-natural beef, turkey, veggie and chicken burgers are topped six ways. Avocado, cilantro, salsa, chipotle puree and lime (the West Side, $6.49) can be paired with with baked “real fries” ($2.59) or crisp broccolini, grape tomatoes and wild mushrooms ($3.59).
Salads, served fresh and lightly dressed, are gaining on the almighty burger, said Ackil. Because they are fast and affordable – avocado and orange, southwestern chicken, strawberry and goat cheese ($7.59) – their menu tends to skew toward women.
“It’s a place where you can get the food you love and feel good about eating it,” he said.
That’s what attracted Ben and Bill Zolper from Bangor. The father and son are b.good’s first Maine franchisees. After the Portland store finds its footing, they plan to open two more b.goods in the state, and said they are looking at South Portland and possibly Bangor, Ben said.
B.good’s healthy, natural and local mission spoke to the pair, as did the company’s family values (if you are a regular customer you are in the family) and “food made by real people, not factories” mantra.
Bill, 23, visited his first b.good on Boston’s Newbury Street a year and a half ago and was struck by the company’s “honesty and transparency.”
“They tell you exactly where their food is from,” the University of Southern Maine graduate said.
And when he found out a large portion of what’s on the menu is from Maine, he called up his dad.
Ben, who owns New England Pain Management in Bangor, is a doctor who was ready to help. Being part of a healthy, fast foodery that just added a kale shake to its menu, impressed him. But more importantly, “this is a continuation of a father and son relationship,” said Ben.
The co-venture capitalizes on three top trends: local, fast and healthy.
“There is a lot of room for growth. People are more attuned to what they are eating,” Bill said.
That’s why this is the first b.good to have a tap room. Upstairs, Maine beers from Allagash, Rising Tide, Sebago, Baxter, Shipyard and Maine Beer Company will be in tap rotation and on Friday and Saturday food will be served until 2 a.m.
Bill, a basketball player at Bangor High School and USM, is carrying on the b.good tradition.
As athletes in college, Ackil, who went to Harvard University and Olinto, a Colby College grad, detested the fast food they fueled up on.
“We loved how it tasted,” said Ackil. “But hated how we felt afterwards.”
On his first weekend, when Bill ran out of potatoes, he got in his car and drove to Wells for more and upon return, impressed customers with his purchase.
“They said, ‘This is so fresh,’” said Bill. “I said, ‘It should be, they were in the ground a few hours ago.’”
Ben and Bill Zolper of Bangor opened b.good on Exchange Street in Portland this month. The Boston-based burger restaurant takes a local and healthy approach to fast food.