Industry veteran Cameron Wetzler found a void in Charleston’s late night food scene, leading him to launch Blackout Burger, a so-called ghost kitchen pop-up serving burgers until 2 a.m. on the weekends.
Wetzler started his career in professional kitchens such as The Ordinary and Oak Steakhouse, later transitioning to a management role at popular local food truck Roti Rolls. While working on the truck, he researched ghost kitchen concepts that were popping up on the west coast.
“A ghost kitchen set up is being on a digital platform of delivering food through Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates, things like that and connecting with people on Instagram via direct message for curbside pick-up,” he said.
Wetzler liked the idea, and with 21 years of food and beverage experience under his belt, he launched Blackout Burger, a concept built on serving crispy smashed burgers with creative topping combinations.
The burgers themselves are mashups of ones he enjoyed growing up in Charlotte and others he discovered on travels to the west coast.
“They’re old school burger joints that have stayed true to one style, they’re not trying to get crazy,” he said. “They offer something that’s consistent and has been consistent over the years. I figured I would put my own spin on a burger like that.”
Local ingredients are the star of the Blackout Burger toppings. Find house-made curry dill pickles or chili smashed inside a Brown’s Court Bakery Hawaiian bun with the burger. But it’s each burger’s preparation that sets them apart.
“The flavor all around is unique, and [so is] the way the burger is smashed,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is doing them as crispy and as thin as we are doing them right now. I knew that would be unique in itself.”
Wetzler’s signature preparation — called “Blackout-style” — features that house-made chili and coleslaw. For sides, his most popular item is Frito pie.
“My dad worked for Frito Lay for a long time, and I kind of adopted a great recipe for Frito pie from them,” Wetzler said. “It was a staple at Panthers games on Sunday mornings. It’s very nostalgic to me, and it’s always been something I wanted to put on a menu.”
Frito pie replaces French fries as a side option, which Wetzler said can get soggy in transit.
“You don’t want to sacrifice quality for the sake of having it.”
It turns out Wetzler’s lean, takeout-only operation, which he runs out of a kitchen at 119 Spring Street, happened to be the right concept for 2020.
“It’s a no-contact service, which is great for the time we’re living in right now.” Low overhead and minimal staff also keep business costs down, Wetzler said.
Blackout Burger stays open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays to serve the late-night crowd, specifically chefs finishing up their shifts.
“We’re all chefs. We don’t get off until 12 a.m. and then you want to go have drinks and what’s open when you get home? There’s not a lot of options for good quality food late night,” Wetzler said.
Lately, Wetzler has left the ghost kitchen to pop-up at local breweries like Munkle, Two Blokes and Ghost Monkey. No matter where he’s at, the mission remains the same.
“I’m really focusing on how to make the best burger possible.”
Blackout Burger is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5-10 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Orders can be placed via Uber Eats or by sending Blackout Burger a direct message on Instagram