Jade Culver speaks to Kate Hughes about American style burgers and home-grown vegetable gardens.
Influenced by their travels to the USA, couple Kate and Gary, have shared their love of burgers with the Liverpool public for the past ten years in their East Coast inspired restaurant where they grow a lot of their own ingredients in their outdoor seating area.
Located in the bustling heart of the Georgian Quarter, Free State Kitchen is renowned for its succulent burgers, buffalo hot wings and classic hot dogs.
“We used to holiday over in America a lot before we had anything tying us down here in Liverpool, and before we ever even thought of opening a business together, we were both in different roles,” says Kate, “I was in sales and Gary was involved in town planning, so neither of us really knew what lay ahead of us when we decided to open up Free State Kitchen, inspired by both Maryland being called the ‘free state’ as well as our premises being on Maryland Street.”
“The idea really stemmed from being able to provide the people of Liverpool with really authentic American style burgers that were becoming a trend in London following on from the States.”
We've really stuck to what we set out to achieve from the beginning, providing transparent hospitality, quality service and great food
Subtly decorated with chalkboard specials and a large drinks cabinet, the interior of Free State Kitchen is a wonderfully cosy place to rip into a succulent burger made fresh with local produce and home grown ingredients. The large bay windows allow for ample lighting during the summer months, with lovely views of the garden space.
Throughout the hotter months, the restaurant expands their eatery into the outdoors, allowing guests to chow down surrounded by the smells of fresh rosemary and to soak in that glorious vitamin D.
Speaking about the catalyst that sparked their interest in the American food scene and everything in between, Kate spills all.
"With neither of us coming from a hospitality background, opening up Free State Kitchen was a huge shot in the dark. We'd reached a point where we both hit 30, and wanted a venture into the unknown, where we could share our love of good food. If it didn't work, the only thing we could have lost would've been a little bit of dignity, it was most definitely a risk we wanted to take on."
And what a risk their venture has been, the restaurant recently celebrated its tenth birthday, a fantastic milestone for any business.
A family business at heart, Free State Kitchen has grown from strength to strength over the years, whilst sticking closely to its East Coast inspired roots.
“We think we’ve gotten this far due to consistency; we’ve never strayed far from our original menu and still serve everything from our classic burger to our American cheeseburger. Our crowd is mainly regulars, or those leaving venues on Hope Street such as the Philharmonic, so during the summer months, we always draw in quite the local crowds.
“As with time, some things do change, so over the years we’ve adapted our menu to cater to everyone from gluten free options, to vegan bites like our vegan market burger. We really provide ourselves as a restaurant that can cater to everyone.
“The garden has really come along over the past few years, my mum really developed it during lockdown, we've always grown a lot of our own ingredients including tomatoes, cucumbers, apples for our apple pies in the autumn, and of course, one of our main ingredients, rosemary for our fresh cut fries.
Whilst the garden may be the perfect addition to the restaurant for punters to sit outside and enjoy a succulent burger and a pint with the weather, it requires quite the maintenance.
"We absolutely love the garden and the fact it can provide more space for our customers; it was also a God send during the pandemic as it meant we could put up a private yurt for parties and people to stay in their bubbles during the stricter rules of the lockdowns. The only downside is the amount of work it takes to make it look as good as it is.
"We relish in the fact that our little patch of land is a vibrant green place to grow food and flowers, as well as allowing our customers to enjoy a true garden experience, especially in the city centre."
Being a family business, Kate and Gary often found themselves in the at Free State Kitchen seven days a week, with little time to tend to personal affairs or relaxation in the meantime. But with the recent lockdowns caused by the pandemic, found a new way in which to cope with the demands of owning a business, whilst also bringing up their young family.
Kate adds, “The pandemic really gave us a new perspective on how we ran the business, and we realised that working seven days a week just really wasn’t a viable option anymore, especially now that we have family to bring up.
“As a small independent business, we also don’t hire lots of staff, and have instead, a close-knit team of a few servers and kitchen staff that we also view as family. During lockdown, we only opened five days a week, which we decided to carry on with since, and now we just open from Wednesday-Sunday which works so well for everyone.
“Despite only being open for five days a week, we’ve really stuck to what we set out to achieve from the beginning, providing transparent hospitality, quality service and great food, and will be forever grateful to our regulars and those only just spreading the word about the business for consistently coming back to us.”
“We like to think that our burgers are quality, and a great take on a fast food classic. We’ve never planned to change our menu much, as we want to keep to what we’re good at, and we think that our customer base agrees with that.
“Although that’s not to say we don’t enjoy messing around with our specials a little bit. We’ve also never really wanted to change up the menu as we built the kitchen specifically with our original menu in mind.”
From toddlers to 90-year-olds who love a classic cheeseburger, Free State Kitchen truly panders to all, I mean, who doesn’t love a good juicy burger?
Get yourself booked in to enjoy some good food in the sun, and to give the latest brisket burger special a go.
Free State Kitchen 1 Maryland St, Liverpool L1 9DE
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