The interior of Kraze Burgers in Bethesda.

Add Kraze Burgers—the new American burger joint by way of Korea—to the list of eco-chic fast food in Bethesda (think sweetgreen, Cava Mezze Grill, Panas Gourmet Empanadas, Taylor Gourmet).

The burger place, which opened last Tuesday at 4733 Elm St., incorporates reclaimed wood, energy-efficient appliances, a garden wall of cactuses in magnetized pots—and décor accents in that Kermit-the-frog color that’s popular.   

The restaurant is the first U.S. location for Kraze Burger Inc., a Fairfax, Va.-based firm that bought the American rights to the Korean-based chain. Byung Min started it there after a trip to the U.S.; there are now more than 100 Kraze Burgers in Korea, Japan, Macao and Hong Kong.

And in an ironic twist, Min’s American burgers have now made their way back (made with U.S. beef, not Australian meat, as is the case in the Asian restaurants.)

And how are those burgers? Good—I’d say somewhere between Five Guys and BGR The Burger Joint in terms of price and quality.

Despite the extensive menu and add-on possibilities, I just had a basic Kraze Burgers patty ($5.95) so I could really taste the beef. For comparison’s sake, I ate it alongside a Five Guys basic hamburger ($5.39), purchased from the Bethesda Row shop around the corner.

Unlike the Five Guys burger, which was squished to a pancake on the grill (picking up an off-flavor along the way), the Kraze Burger was a lightly packed round of ground chuck, with a decent beefy flavor and reasonable size.

(At about 5 ounces, it’s smaller than both a Five Guys regular burger, which consists of two thin patties and weighs in at 6.6 ounces, and BGR burgers, which are 7 ounces. When it comes to hamburgers, less is more, at least to me.)

Kraze Burgers is a lot more than a beef palace, however. The menu features turkey, grilled tofu and veggie burgers, salads such as tomato and mozzarella, and sides such as grilled asparagus and herb-flavored fries.

There are burger combinations already designed (e.g. the French burger, with Swiss cheese, braised mushroom sauce and fried leeks) or you can devise your own, choosing your protein, bread, cheese and toppings (which include a fried egg or turkey bacon).

Grace Lee, vice president of business development for Kraze Burger Inc., said there are plans to open a bunch more locations in the area by mid-summer 2012, including one in North Bethesda.

And by early 2012, the adjacent former Haagen-Dazs space will be converted to a Kraze Burgers dessert bar, with cookies, frozen yogurt and frozen yogurt shakes.

Lee said beer and wine will be available, as well as boozy smoothies, such as blueberry pomegranate, made with pomegranate liqueur.

www.kraze.us