heyday

Reconstructing The Hamburger

There’s no foie gras, pork belly, Wagyu patties, brioche buns, or fancy frisse. The Heyday burger is simple and a finger-licking backyard smash at Palm Springs VillageFest.

Kay Kudukis Current Digital, Restaurants

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The Heyday Burger is a fixture at VillageFest on Thursday nights in Palm Springs, and will be branching out to other community events as well.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY THE HEYDAY

It was a hot Thursday night in August in Palm Springs. While that might seem redundant, it was dusk, and still in the triple-teen digits; that kind of hot. Even so, Village Fest had a respectable crowd of locals and heat-seeking vacationers strolling down Palm Canyon Drive.

It’s 7:15 p.m. and there’s already a line at the burger joint social media has been buzzing about recently. It’s called The Heyday, a popular pop-up burger stand created by newlyweds, Brad and Crystal Reihl. Both used to have pretty big jobs: Crystal as a visual merchandiser in menswear, and Brad had his own business in manufacturing and production. These days, Crystal’s behind the order booth, and Brad’s the guy behind the grill slinging your burgers.

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One popular item on Heyday’s menu is the smash burger. The Reihls say it’s good quality ingredients, like Harris Farms beef. “It’s completely humane, grass fed,” Brad explains. “All of our produce, for the most part, comes from the certified organic farmer’s market in this area. We want to be as local and farm-friendly as possible. The buns, we do fly in from Pennsylvania, because Martin’s potato rolls, you just can’t beat them.” The meat is then charred, just a little, to sear in the fat, and keep the burgers juicy.

On the board are two basic options, a double or a single burger, but there’s a cheese-or-no-cheese decision, and a grilled-onions-or-no-grilled-onions choice to make (for the love of your tastebuds, say “yes”), and they respect how you want it cooked. It’s not fancy by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s the point. The burger is the star of the show, and that’s how the Reihls want it.

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It’s not fancy by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s the point. The burger is the star of the show, and that’s how the Reihls want it.

When they met through friends seven years ago, they had no idea they would quit their successful careers to travel a new path together. But after they got engaged in 2016, they quit the rat race, Brad sold his shares in his business, and they moved to their favorite place, Palm Springs. They settled in, looked at each other and said, “What’s next?”

On a visit home, Crystal’s father was showing them his new flat-top grill when Brad recalled a cooking technique he’d always wanted to try from his culinary-school past. “When he made [the burgers],” Crystal says, “everyone was like, ‘Oh my God, this is so good!’” They looked at each other and had an “aha” moment.

“We started cooking for friends and family, honing recipes and things like that. And we signed a lease for a brick and mortar, here in town.” Brad relates. And then, as sometimes happens, a wrench was thrown into the plan. “The building got sold out from under us. We didn’t know what to do next. We had this idea; we were eager to get going, and we just felt like we were getting blocked.”

Crystal picks up the story from there, “We lived off Alejo and Indian Canyon, so we would walk over to Village Fest all the time, constantly trying to figure it out, and there it was right there, in front of us.”

“It feels like a blessing in disguise, now,” continues Brad. “It forced Crystal and me, in a new town, to get out and meet people. We had no choice but to engage with the community, and it kind of feels good.”

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VillageFest gave Heyday owners Brad and Crystal Reihl a way to engage with the community as new members.

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Owner Brad Reihl cooks up a Heyday burger during a recent VillageFest.

It’s been about a year since they started up and they’ve expanded their territory. This past summer they were at La Quinta Brewery on Wednesdays, and Fridays and Saturdays they have kitchen residency at Alibi. Come fall, you’ll find them serving burgers and making breakfast sandwiches at the Vintage Market, and Farmer’s Market over at the Camelot Theatres. And then there are the private events.

“We’re working with the Desert Aids Project in October. We’ll be serving up burgers during their walk Oct. 19 at Ruth Hardy Park,” Brad says, “And starting in October, we’re actually going to have an additional booth at Village Fest.” That’s where they’ll debut the Cuban pork shoulder sandwich which is served American barbecue-style, but with all the flavors of a Cuban.

Their booth is right in front of the Hyatt on Thursdays, and there are some tables and chairs where you can sit down and enjoy your burger. You may contemplate going back for seconds.

For more information, visit theheyday.com.

Keep up on the desert’s foodie scene. Visit our Food & Drink page.