Digital restaurant and homemade burger joint win hot concept awards

A burger joint that makes its own condiments and offers ostrich and antelope patties and a digital-based dining experience that's hostess- and waiter-free have been singled out for their innovative dining concepts.

Industry publication Nation's Restaurant News (NRN) recognized five emerging companies in the US including Twisted Root Burger Company in Texas and FöD or Food on Demand in Maryland in its 2011 Hot Concepts! awards for the restaurants' "bold tactics," creativity and strong performances in a sluggish economy.

In addition to its fun, thematic décor - one Twisted Root Burger location is styled after a vintage garage and another a movie theater - founder Jason Boso's growing chain focuses on building burgers from scratch: patties are half a pound of chuck and brisket meats served with homemade condiments, pickles, fresh-cut sweet potatoes and homemade ice cream.

The restaurant is manned by three professionally trained chefs including Boso who bring their culinary knowledge and know-how to the humble burger, reinventing it in venison, elk, ostrich, emu, boar, lamb and antelope form. Condiments, pickles and ice cream are also homemade.

It's not the first time Twisted Root Burger has been given a food nod. Celebrity chef and TV personality Guy Fieri also featured the restaurant on his show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, spotlighting the Western, topped with pepper jack cheese, bacon, jalapeno peppers and fried onion strings.

FöD, or Food on Demand, was also recognized for its technology-focused dining experience on university campuses. Guests order their food digitally from a touch-screen and are buzzed via pager or smartphone when the meal is ready. The concept currently operates on six university campuses across the US, with more projects in the works.

Other winners include Crave, based out of Minnesota, which serves seasonal American cuisine like New York strip steak and pizza pasta. They also focus on sushi to appeal to the female demographic.

San Francisco-based eco-centric restaurant Mixt Greens was also recognized for its local, sustainable and ethical menu, while True Food Kitchen out of Arizona is an upscale restaurant chain that serves local and global cuisines out of Asia and the Mediterranean.