Stuart Gee had worked on the executive side of the restaurant business his entire career, so when he and his wife, Fawn, decided to buy their own restaurant, he gave it his all.
The Gees bought Tru Burger in Anthem in 2017 and have since transformed it from a casual burger/hot dog and milkshake joint to a booming bar and grill. The idea was always for it to be a “better-for-you” burger restaurant, but, while they kept the original Tru Burger name, Gee says he expanded the menu to include sandwiches, salads, entrees, appetizers and a full bar.
“We beefed up our inventory of our bourbons, Scotches and whiskeys, beefed up our craft beer selection, and then really upgraded the whole menu — from the buns the burgers go on to the burger meat itself to the fries to the recipes,” Gee says.
He also created turkey, salmon and ahi tuna patties to add to the menu, as well as an Impossible burger and veggie burger. These patties can be substituted for any of the menu items. Not only that, but he added nine different salad options to the menu as well. And, according to Gee, all of this is handmade fresh in-house.
“We needed more options to make sure that we’re appealing to all ages and all different types of folks,” he says. “I mean, there are people that don’t eat meat, and we didn’t want that to be a veto vote to come into our restaurant. So we needed some delicious items that they could have that were freshly prepared with as much care and service as we do with the burgers. And I think that’s been a big part of our success.”
Tru Burger is now serving three entrees, too — an 8-ounce Gold Canyon Angus beef top sirloin steak, a Paillard-style grilled chicken or a fresh grilled salmon, each served with skinny fries and oven-roasted vegetables.
Some of the most popular menu items are the jalapeño burger ($13.45), with pepper jack cheese, crispy jalapeño, lettuce, tomato and sweet jalapeño aioli on a brioche bun, and the whiskey BBQ burger ($12.45), which has cheddar, applewood bacon, onion rings and homemade whiskey BBQ on a wheat bun.
Gee didn’t just focus on the food, though. He also added a lot to the bar. After all, what better way to top off a burger and fries than with a cold beer? Gee says the restaurant stocks a variety of craft beers, including a few local to Arizona. As a full bar, it can mix up most cocktails as well. Its signature drink is a Smoky Old-Fashioned. Bulleit bourbon, along with what Gee calls their “secret ingredient,” is aged for two weeks in barrel to create a barrel-aged Old-Fashioned completely unique to the restaurant.
With all those changes, Gee didn’t lose sight of the restaurant’s roots. Tru Burger patties are 8 ounces of 100% antibiotic- and hormone-free Black Angus beef. He says other fast-casual burger restaurants usually use an 80/20 blend of meat and fat that is not natural, often with added hormones, which he says can change the internal body and how it works.
“Then, just from a flavor standpoint, you can get a juicy, fatty burger like that, but it’s going to taste just a little bland,” Gee says. “When you get a Black Angus burger, the meat is a little bit more coarsely ground, so it’s a little bit more like steak and it’s got a richer, deeper flavor in the meat than you normally get in another burger. So, not only does it taste 10 times better, but it’s actually better for you.”
Even despite the food, Tru Burger is known for having an excellent, friendly staff. Gee says it is a sit-down, full-service restaurant. He says the restaurant doesn’t really have a typical crowd; they see everything from families and business colleagues to burger aficionados.
In the five years the Gees have owned Tru Burger in Anthem, he says sales have grown an average of 20% each year. All of this ties into Tru Burger’s mission to inspire the local community with its “Tru” passion for a custom, fresh, high-quality experience while ensuring dedicated support to our local economy.
39504 N. Daisy Mountain Drive, Anthem