A local virtual restaurant is downloading to a brick-and-mortar location.
In December, Lily and Liam Bistro owners James and Megan Garrigan opened a virtual restaurant, Upscale Burgers and Shakes.

Courtesy image.

This concept allowed the couple to use the kitchen at the bistro for a restaurant branded toward a dinner crowd and

James & Megan Garrigan

supplement Lily and Liam’s loss of revenue due to COVID, the Garrigans said.
With the state opening up, people are looking to dine in more and the couple has been receiving messages from customers who want to eat at Upscale Burgers and Shakes, Megan said.
“We are excited for Upscale to have this push and kind of grow as this independent business because being inside another restaurant with limited hours and limited times of the week, you miss people and customers miss the opportunity to come and try it out,” she said.
Upscale has grown enough for the couple to open a location in Cottonwood Mall, where Johnny Rockets once was.
The new location will also serve beer and wine. Lily and Liam doesn’t have a full kitchen, so making the burgers takes preparation, James said.
“Doing it here (at Lily and Liam), we have been limited since we are not a full-on kitchen. So we’ve had to really focus on the quality of the burgers, the ingredients we put into it, making the buns consistently, and I think the burger itself is really well-planned and liked in how it came out,” James said.
By moving into Cottonwood Mall, the two have more space to make high-quality food, Megan said.
“We are located in this cool little spot right below the escalators, where you see Santa and the Easter bunny and there are different events that go on at the mall,” she said.
James once worked at Johnny Rockets and Cinnabon Bakery at the mall. Securing the new location was a full-circle moment for them, Megan said.
“It’s cool thinking how you were a part of the mall when it was first established here and starting up in the community, and now to be able to step back in as a business owner — and especially in a space you were in before but with our own touch — with an upscale vision of local fresh homemade food, burgers and shakes seems like a natural fit for that location. And just the history of it is pretty cool, so we can continue to be a part of building that mall community by being within it,” she said.
The opportunity was too good to pass up, the Garrigans said.
“It’s a new era for restaurants, and we can be creative and innovative, and this will give us a springboard to things we don’t even know yet,” Megan said.
A selling point was the leasing agents at the mall trying to lease vacant spaces to local businesses. Megan said Cottonwood Mall’s vision is community-focused with a lot of events and opportunities for classes or other community-drive support of the mall.
The Garrigans are looking forward to collaborating more in this type of environment.
“Businesses collaborated together, organizing events and things to bring the community in, working with different schools. That’s really appealing to us in our philosophy and mentality in our bistro, so that’s a natural extension to move into a bigger place where we have more opportunity for bigger events and bigger connections and to make that bigger impact with our community,” she said.
The couple hopes to have the restaurant opened by August.
For more information, call Upscale Burgers and Shakes at 340-3309, search for the restaurant’s name on Facebook or visit upscaleburgers.com.
Lily and Liam is still operational, too.

Assistant Editor at Rio Rancho Observer