Contrary to garnishing trends, Chevalo and Monique Wilsondebriano don’t think burgers need lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun. No, for the owners of Charleston Gourmet Burger Co., it’s all about simplicity. “Jalapeños, chili, coleslaw, scrambled eggs, and cranberry sauce sloppily piled on top take away from the essence of the burger,” says Chevalo. “To us, the best burgers have flavor in the meat.”
He should know, as he’s eaten quite a few. The 25-year New York City Fire Department EMS veteran—and 9/11 First Responder—spent his downtime in the Big Apple taste-testing burger joints. “Then I met Monique, and she loved burgers, too,” he says. “So we’ve eaten a lot together.” But it wasn’t until the couple moved to Charleston in 2008 and hosted their first backyard cookout here that their years of sampling paid off.
“We decided to use local ingredients to make our own marinade for the burgers that day,” remembers Monique. “We had more than 100 guests, and my mom pulled me aside at the party and said, ‘Look at your grill, there’s a line going through the backyard just for the burgers!’ That’s when I thought, ‘We should sell this.’”
You can find the duo manning their Charleston Farmers Market stand the second and fourth Saturdays of the month and at the Mount Pleasant market every Tuesday. “At the market, we sell the sauce as well as burgers and ‘church tea’—that’s my family’s recipe. It’s a tea base with fruit juices added to it,” says Monique. But the marinade, their magical concoction of local spices, is now available at Harris Teeter and Whole Foods. “We moved to Charleston to have a better life for our family, and now we have a thriving business; it’s surreal,” says Chevalo. Deliciously surreal.