Kramer, 50, has been a Dunwoody resident for years. And while his burger has won praise and accolades from across the city and beyond, it wasn’t a background in restaurants or food service that got him to the point of opening NFA Burger in late 2019. It was a passion for eating hamburgers and a seemingly boundless drive to share that passion with others.
Kramer credits the simplicity of the burger as its main appeal. His version is the smash burger: thin beef patties pressed against a searing-hot griddle, creating a crisp exterior with lacey edges, while retaining a moist, beefy middle. It’s the epitome of the flattop burger, served with American cheese, toppings of choice and the restaurant’s “sassy sauce” — a slightly spicier, sweeter version of the special sauce on so many burgers. NFA’s menu includes French fries, tater tot, a substantial beef hot dog, as well as a kid’s menu.
“I know my limitations,” he said, “If I tried to run a full-service restaurant, I’d fail. If I tried to add 20 things to the menu, I’d fail. I keep it simple, and we just do a few things, and we do them well.”
Featuring items priced under $10, Kramer said his goal is to keep his burgers accessible and not for special occasions.
“When my wife and I were first married, our goal was to go out for $20,” he said. “To this day I keep that goal in mind. So I’m happy to be able to sell people an affordable burger with fries or tots. Is it as cheap as a fast food burger? No way! But it’s also no more expensive than it needs to be, and there are plenty of overpriced burgers here in town.”
Instagram paves the way
Kramer’s career background primarily is in media and sales. Two decades ago he was working a sales job at the radio station 96 Rock. His entrepreneurial spirit led to him launch the magazines Georgia Sports Monthly and Dawg Nation. When those shuttered, he worked for a company that created sales-focused technology.
He wasn’t happy, he said, but he was traveling a lot for work. And when he’d go to a new city, he’d often check out the best burgers. At a 2014 convention in New York City, he marveled at people lined up to hear a social media star speak.
“So I just decided then, if this guy can do social media and get tons of followers, why can’t I?” he said. He whipped out a smartphone and launched a new Instagram account then and there, creating the handle @billysburgers. It was a turning point that would lead to the creation of NFA Burger five years later.
As far as food-focused Instagram accounts go, his is relatively small — followers are in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands. But it’s influential. Many Atlanta food-world folks in the know took note of @billysburgers. Todd Ginsberg (The General Muir, Fred’s Meat & Bread) and Linton Hopkins (Holeman & Finch, Hop’s, Restaurant Eugene) — both originators of their own much-lauded burgers — are among his more notable followers.
Most food Instagram accounts stick to the visuals. While Kramer’s pictures of burgers were indisputably drool-worthy, it was the attention to detail, the curiosity and the sense of personality that really made @billysburgers special. His captions dug into specific ingredients, shared insights from the cooks, created a narrative experience and, more than anything, conveyed Kramer’s enthusiasm for all things burger.
“When I traveled for my career, and I was going on my burger adventures,” said Kramer, “I’d talk to anyone. If you’re the owner of a restaurant and you’re willing to talk to me? It’s game over, I will ask everything. ‘Can I tour the kitchen?’ ‘Can I see your fridge?’ ‘Why’d you use a pretzel bun?’ I’m just fascinated by how things work. And then I wanted to share that on Instagram.”
Taking the leap
In addition to documenting some of the nation’s best burgers, Kramer also chronicled his attempts at home to engineer the best meat blends, the best sauces and the best overall construction for a burger.
While @billysburgers was picking up steam, Kramer lost his corporate job. After a few days of soul-searching, he began to consider whether burgers could define the next phase of his career.
He entered the fray with a few pop-ups around town, both to challenge himself and to test out recipes with the idea of a restaurant of his own in the back of his mind.
He sold burgers at Inman Park’s Hampton & Hudson, Battle & Brew in Sandy Springs and Galla’s in Chamblee. Then he started the hunt for his own spot and finally settled on the Chevron, which already had a small kitchen and cafe counter.
NFA Burger opened in December 2019. Three months later, the world shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic. The timing couldn’t have been better for a take-out restaurant.
“We opened quietly,” says Kramer, who promoted NFA via social media and word of mouth. “I didn’t make any big announcement about it and thought maybe we’d sell a handful of burgers just to get the practice. By the next week, we had lines.”
These days the line at NFA reflects a charming mix of Atlanta. There are regulars who visit several times a week. There are burger newcomers. There are foodies eager to get a pic of the city’s top burger for the ‘gram. And — not unlike Slutty Vegan, Atlanta’s other viral burger sensation with a line down the block — there’s occasionally a celebrity or sports star, too.
“I mean, that’s pretty cool, right?” said Kramer, who clearly gets a kick out of the prominence NFA has gained in the Atlanta burger scene. He gets especially excited about Braves baseball players, past and present, who’ve eaten at NFA. “It’s cool to be able to feed people like that — but they’ve got to wait in line, too, just like anybody.”
About that line, Kramer, is sensitive to how it impacts the gas station in which he operates.
“I run a business that’s inside another business, which itself is really two businesses,” he said. “It’s a convenience store, and it’s a gas station. And I’m over here in the corner making burgers, my customers are in line, their customers are trying to get to the coolers to get a drink — it makes for an interesting situation. I care about all the businesses in this building, and the team from the gas station are great partners.”
Milkshakes coming soon
As for future plans, Kramer has his eyes on growth but doesn’t want to rush things. For now, he’d rather tinker with spice blends or try out new fryers, constantly iterating processes at NFA to test, refine and improve.
“I could open a second location, sure,” he said, though he’s unsure how he’ll recreate that suburban roadside burger stand vibe that’s so appealing. “People have asked me about franchising, but I want to make sure things are done right. And the minute you open that second location, you have to be in two places at once, which is impossible.”
So while plans for the brand expansion are always at the back of his mind, at the front of his mind is a more literal expansion. NFA Burger should see construction underway soon for an expansion of its current kitchen space. With an external addition to the building planned, Kramer and team will double the size of its cooking space. He may add more fryers, with the goal of perhaps adding a fried chicken sandwich to the menu, Kramer said. And milkshakes are definitely on their way to NFA.
“Who doesn’t love a milkshake with a burger?” asks Kramer. “You’ve got fries, burgers, of course you want a milkshake. It’s classic! There’s nothing complicated about it.”
NFA Burger. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Inside the Chevron gas station, 5465 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. 404-666-2874, nfaburger.com.
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