Writer/ Rebecca Wood
Henri Najem wouldn’t call his new Whitestown restaurant Flamme Burger a “burger joint.” This seasoned restaurateur argues that such a label glosses over the depth of menu offerings and quality of his food. What Najem wants to create is a dining experience where patrons can enjoy fresh fares in a casual, welcoming atmosphere. The Whitestown restaurant, which opened in December, is Flamme Burger’s second location.
Flamme Burger is a “fresh casual” eatery that uses fresh ingredients, homemade recipes, and a wood-burning grill to create a full host of menu items. Najem worked tirelessly for two years to perfect his recipes and dishes.
Flamme burgers are a unique blend of brisket, short ribs, and sirloins. Burgers and other menu items are cooked on a special open flame, wood-burning grill that Najem created. All sandwiches are paired with Harlan Bakeries’ brioches. Najem personally created over 20 homemade sauces to complement menu items. Craft beers and wines are also available.
Flamme burgers are guest favorites, but the non-burger options have a following, too. Flamme’s Thai chicken salad is a popular choice while chicken and seafood options appeal to others.
For the last 25 years, Najem has worked in the restaurant industry. Najem and his wife, Shelley, owned the iconic Geist restaurant Bella Vita for 17 years. In 2015, the couple opened the first Flamme Burger in Fishers.
Restaurant ownership runs in Najem’s blood. His parents owned bars and restaurants in downtown Indianapolis. His first restaurant experience began at age12 while working in his uncle’s west side Indianapolis restaurant.
Najem’s frequent trips to Zionsville soccer fields with his daughter’s team alerted him to the growth in Boone County. “I noticed the growth and development in the area,” says Najem. “I saw a lot of opportunity here.”
Tanya Sumner, Whitestown’s director of public relations, was instrumental in Najem’s feeling welcomed into the Boone County community. “We were excited about a locally owned place coming into Whitestown,” Sumner asserts. “His product was different and exciting.”
Najem feels a strong commitment to giving back to the community and contributing to local charities. Before Flamme Burger opened in Whitestown, Sumner says Najem contacted her about partnering with a local charity. Sumner connected Najem to the Caring Center of Lebanon, an organization that provides clothes and food for needy Boone County residents.
The Caring Center meets the needs of many single mothers and their children within Boone County. This was important for Najem whose own single mother raised him and his five siblings after his father died in a car accident when he was eight years old. Flamme Burger donated a $1,000 check to the Caring Center at its ribbon cutting ceremony. Once a month, Najem will donate 10 percent of the restaurant’s profits to the Caring Center.
Theresa Hanners, executive director of the Caring Center, is thrilled with the partnership. “The fact that Henri is very passionate about meeting the needs of single moms and children means a lot,” Hanners says. “Donations to the Caring Center can be feast or famine. We are grateful to have something consistent.” Hanners said the restaurant’s donations will be used to purchase food during those “famine” times.
The new Whitestown Flamme Burger is open at 6850 Whitestown Parkway.