Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Maverick


Late November

I have been traveling a bit around Thanksgiving and my SA burger consumption has dwindled.  For that reason, I am honored to post special guest burger review by my trusty burger companion, Geoff.

After my wife and I cooked dinner on Thanksgiving and the day after, the in-laws took us to Maverick for an early Saturday dinner. I had been there twice, but this was my first Maverick Burger experience.

Service and Setting
The layout, furniture and decorations were stylish and comforting. I only questioned the coiled-rope lamp shades. A great pleasure, the dining room acoustics allow you to easily hear everyone at your own table without hearing those at neighboring tables.
The servers were prompt, friendly and helpful. Our waitress even made a Walt Griswold joke, which was appreciated by at least one member of our party.

Menu
One burger, a few pastas, a few fish, several meat options and several small plates. The menu is a combination of dinner plate, a-la-carte and tapas. The burger is $15, and the more sophisticated fare is around $25-35 per person.

Beverage
You will find a few interesting, tasteful cocktails and a few great beers. I am unqualified to comment on the wine list which is a shame because it is probably the best section of the beverage side of the menu.

Sides
The burger came with crispy, thick cut fries. Belgian style frites would have felt appropriate at Maverick, but alas, it was not so.

Patty
I ordered that the burger be cooked medium, and it arrived at the table just shy of well-done. Despite this, the patty was juicy without being too fatty. It had an all-around beef flavor which is missing at other restaurants that go heavy on the grease. I usually find well-done burgers to lack flavor, but the patty was still the star of the show.

Dress and Bun
The lettuce, tomato and onion were fresh and complemented the patty without distracting from it. The bun was a tremendous disappointment. Not fluffy or toasty, likely freezer-burned.

The Verdict
I highly recommend Maverick, but not for the burger. The patty was thick and had great flavor, but it was overcooked. The bun was just plain bad. 3 pickle slices out of 5.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Papa's Burgers

Early November

Papa's has made a couple best burgers lists.  The Bur-gal and I called up our friends Al and Karen who are always willing to make a drive for a good eating experience.  On a chilly November night, we headed to the westside to eat at Papa's.



Service and Setting
The building isn't much to look at from the outside.  In fact, their decorated yellow school buses part of Papa's World Tour catering is more of a distinguishing feature than the building.  I can't pretend that the place doesn't have its idiosyncrasies to say the least.  You walk in to immediately face the ordering counter, but you have to do a 180 so see the menu behind you.  At the counter we were greeted by Papa's proud owner, Robert.  He explained the menu and the house rules.  He was friendly and the pride in his work comes through in the burger experience.  Diners then have to exit out the front door and walk around to the outdoor seating area or through a second door for the attached dining room.  Also, don't forget its cash only.

Menu
In addition to your standard burgers, they have chili, hot dogs, and array of grilled chicken sandwiches.  There are some rare items like the shark tacos along some other tacos.  Burgers are 1/3 pounders and can be dressed in a number of ways including chili, jalapeno, grilled onions, mushrooms and a good selection of cheeses.  Bargain prices with the original hamburger starting at $6.  Dressed up and combining fries and a drink will run $10-12.

Beverage
Canned standard soft drinks along with some bottled Mexican Coke, Root Beers, and ***Jaritos?  BYOB.

Sides
Fries, tots and rings can accompany the burger.  Everyone at the table got fries.  Unfortunately, they were the weakest part of the meal.  Standard crinkle cut that came seasoned with salt and pepper.  They certainly weren't fresh cut, and the seasoning left room for improvement.  Also, they only have ketchup packets which forces one to stop and tear open a new one every third fry to squeeze out another dollop of ketchup.

Patty
One of Papa's house rules is that the first bite is how Papa intended it - seasoned and dressed how he made it in the kitchen.  After that first bite, he condones condiments to be added.  He boasts that 9/10 people will eat the burger without condiments because the flavor is in the seasoning and the meat.  He is absolutely correct.  It was a juicy, delicious, savory, and perfectly seasoned burger.  It left nothing to be desired except another burger.  When I returned to the counter for a second round, he convinced me to order the Machete Chicken sandwich with grilled jalapeƱos.  It too was very good, but I would have rather had another burger.

Dress and Bun
The bun is almost as integral to the success of this burger as the meat.  It is fresh baked and airy with a hint of sweetness like a Hawaiian roll.  It went well with each of the specialty burgers and the extra chicken sandwich ordered at the table.  I had the chili burger with shredded cheese and grilled onions.  I think Robert said that they grill the chili before putting it on the burger for a little extra flavor.  It was lick-your-plate delicious.  The produce on the original burger looks hand picked at HEB that morning, because it was.

The Verdict
Papa's is easily among the best burgers in San Antonio, if not an even wider scope.  They do the basic things right with well-seasoned meat and a good fresh bun, and then put it over the top with unique touches like grilled jalapenos and shark tacos.  This burger is worth driving from out of town to come eat, and I'm sure Papa's is due to father more expansions.  My highest recommendation - 5 Spurs.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Texas Hamburger Company

Texas Hamburger Company
Mid-October

Long-time blog supporter Mike Schwiwirian recommended this spot just north of the med center.
Desperate for a pick-me-up after long morning at work which skipped lunch, I headed to THC to get that burger high.

Service and Setting
I rolled in about 3 on a Saturday, and was surprised to find a pretty busy place.  Standard counter operation with your number called over the PA when the order is ready.  A couple TVs were playing college football games.  It was pretty loud due to the number of people and absence of any decorations that dampen sound. The tables were pretty clean, though condiments were kind of strewn about.

Menu
No surprises.  You can add cheese, chili, bacon, grilled onions, and avocado to the burger.  They do have a few dinner plates with deep fried favorites like chicken fried steak.  For place named THC, they were low on munchies food.

Beverage
They have a soda fountain. No alcohol.  They have shakes, but I didn't see too many on other tables.  The only buzz to catch here comes off the grill.

Sides
The fries looked better than they tasted.  They didn't quite hold their form which left the crisp lacking.  I guess that would make them "dank" in the negative connotation.  Dipping sauces were ketchup and some hot sauces only.

Patty
Patty was pretty thin.  I am surprised the menu does not advertise an add a patty option.  Decent grease factor.  Blends well with the toppings.

Dress and Bun
The bun is white bread that seems like a large version of the regular McDonald's bun. The grilled onions and American cheese together were ooey-gooey goodness.  I was scraping them off the wax paper and eating it with fries.  Real nice thick tomato slices.  Pickles were on par.

The Verdict
THC serves a mediocre griddle burger.  A little low on flavor, and an uninspired bun make this burger a reasonable option if you are in the area.  Despite the acronym, the only thing this place has in common with marijuana is that you won't feel like doing much after consuming it.  I give it a respectable 3 spurs.




Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Fletcher's

Fletcher's
Mid-October

With some out of town guests to entertain, few things beat hanging out at the park of The Pearl with its great food and drink options.  The Bur-gal and I brought Bergman, Seth, and Stacy to the Bottling Plant food court, where 3 burgers, a hotdog, and ramen where consumed.



Service and Setting
Despite being a Wednesday night, The Pearl had its typical high energy.  Kids running through the fountains.  Sound Cream blasting bubble trance.  Southerleigh pop-up bar pouring its best IPAs.  Lots of friendly dogs on walks.  The whole thing is rather idyllic.  Inside the Bottling Plant, one orders and pays at the counter and gets a pager to notify him or her when food is ready.  The tables are clean.  The restrooms are a little inconvenient being outside.

Menu
Bottling Plant is a food court offering not only burgers, but ramen, southern rotisserie, doughnuts, and a healthy concept food counter which I think serves things with kale and quinoa.  Fletcher's does hoity-toity burgers, dogs, fries, and shakes.  Burgers start at just $7.95, with add on cheese and bacon options.  They have specialty and a rotating burgers as well, but we all went with the classic cheese burger.  I added a hot dog since I was hungry.

Beverage
Shakes and cane-sugar sodas are at the counter.   Keep in mind a full bar is immediately opposite Fletchers, as are several other options including Southerleigh's pop-up bar with their microbrews - I think I had a delicious "Lawnchair vampire" IPA with this meal.  Side note: I went to Southerleigh for my birthday last month and asked pretty-please to have the lunch-menu hamburger for dinner; they declined.  I'm not sure if I can review the burger without bias after such a spiteful rejection.  I will continue to enjoy their fine beers however.

Sides
Fries had a pretty good fill of soft potato inside.  Maybe not quite crisp enough for fans of a thinner fry.  It held ketchup well, but I would have appreciated more sauce options.  They have smoked-spicy ketchup, on some of the other burgers.  In retrospect, I should have requested a side to replace the Heinz.

Patty
The burger is a blend of short rib, chuck, and brisket.  They cook it to order appropriately.  It keeps good moisture.  Despite the high pedigree, the table was unanimous that is was a little low on flavor and the texture is off.  I think it comes down to too fine of a grind in the meat, so you end up with kind of a smooth texture instead of a crumbling one.

Dress and Bun
Served on a very nice brioche but what did a good job keeping a reasonably messy burger in line.  I'm not sure I could pick Fletcher's sauce out of a line up - it seemed a bit timid.  I have no qualms with the produce.  The American cheese and pickles were good.

Bonus hotdog review:  I liked the dog significantly more than the burger. An Akaushi Texas 100% beef dog on a brioche bun with crispy onions were delicious.  It even pleases my Chicago-hotdog-trained palate.

The Verdict
The Pearl really is the gemstone of San Antonio's oyster.  The dining, drinking, activities and atmosphere are as high a density as anywhere in the city.  Fletcher's serves a decent burger in an excellent setting.  If you're in the area and in the mood, go for it.  It certainly is a better value than JAZZ TX.  Cured and Southerleigh have good options, but only available on lunch/brunch menus.  Fletcher's classic burger earns a respectable 3 spurs.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Rebelle

Early October

The Bur-gal had a conference downtown over weekend.  Feeling fancy on a Friday night, we went with some of her co-workers to the beautiful St. Anthony's Hotel to eat from the new menu at Rebelle.  Eric, Gina, and Angela joined George the alligator and us for dinner.


Service and Setting
The best I can do to describe the ambience is "Teen-Vampire Homecoming."  One is greeted at the entrance by a full-size, disco-ball-mirrored lion.  The dining area is dimly lit with some neon-blue hues, and several chromed-out table decorations (we had a 2 ft long alligator named George).  I used a thesaurus to find the word 'tawdry' because it sounds like a classier way to say 'tacky.'  Service was knowledgable and hospitable.

Menu
The new menu aspires to be a top seafood restaurant in San Antonio.  Oysters, ceviche, octopus, and beef tartare for shareable starters, backed by hearty potions of different gulf fish and shellfish.  They do serve several chops, which emboldened my choice to order a burger.  I was not going to miss out on the seafood, so we asked for the burger to be divided into quarters and served as an appetizer.  Prices are in line with other high-end restaurants.

Beverage
They have a hefty list of house cocktails with a variety of flavors.  Most of the group was happy with their drinks.  I do not often peruse wine lists, so my best guess is that this one is on par with other hoity-toity restaurants.

Sides
The burger comes with cottage fries. They were under (or perhaps un-) seasoned.  Texture was a bit off.  They were not very good.   The other shareable sides on the menu are not necessarily designed around the burger.  They ranged from salty and mediocre potato dishes to rather interesting and delicious in the case of what can only be described as space-spinach.

Patty
The patty had tasty, good-quality beef cooked appropriately to enjoy the flavor.  I suppose a victim of the upscale, circumstance, juices are kept to a minimum.  Overall, it was probably the strongest feature of the burger.

Dress and Bun
Fontina cheese left a wonderful goo trail from the serving plate to mine.  While it added some savory quality, the fontina flavor did not match well.  The bun was unremarkable.  The produce was bright and fresh.  The pickles were closer to their pre-evolved cucumber state than brined.  The bacon added an additional salty crisp, but would not say it was a cut above.  It was cryptic from the itemized bill, but I think they up-charged us like $7 to add bacon and avocado at the server's suggestion.  That made me finish the meal with a groan.  If that was the case, I would recommend skipping it entirely for what started as an $18 burger.

Gina’s take: "The potato side was too starchy for me."

The Verdict
The new menu gives a good downtown option for seafood among innumerable steak restaurants.  That said, the burger is below average compared to the rest of menu we sampled.  This good-not-great burger earns 3 spurs.



Monday, October 1, 2018

Francis Bogside

Francis Bogside
Late September


I think this bar made one of the "hot lists" in San Antonio for restaurant openings.  Being from Chicago, people often ask me about the differences between it and San Antonio.  In Chicago, the foodie magazines write articles titled "Top 10 restaurant openings this month."  In San Antonio, the foodie magazines write articles titled "Top 10 restaurant openings this year."  So given the rarity of a new find, the Bur-gal and I headed to the newest bar from the Blue Box group, Francis Bogside.



Service and Setting
It is an Irish-style pub that has an irregular shape with plenty of nooks.  Dimly lit with several booths,  it is adorned with classic booze bar signs/advertisements and a proud display of spirits.  They have no TVs, but given it was earlier on a Saturday night, they did play a college football game on a projector.  They had a two band line-up starting at 10.  Service was fast and attentive.

Menu
I would describe it as high-end bar food.  Burgers, wings, pretzels, and pizzas with a couple surprising Thai dishes.  It is limited in number, but they are interesting.

Beverage
They have an excellent draft list with some IPA favorites of mine like Jai Alai and Space Dust.  As expected, they have a good Irish whisky offering.   Cocktail list is half classics and half new attempts.

Sides
The burger comes with house chips and a $2 up-charge for fries or coleslaw.  I was very happy with the fries.  A nice deep cook giving a thick crisp.  Their house ketchup has a little something extra to give it more flavor than Hines fancy ketchup which was enough for the Bur-gal.  I asked for some hot sauce to go with that and they brought out an awesome mango-habenero-like sauce that went great with the ketchup.

Patty
The waitress was unsure about the size of the patty, but it looks like a quarter pounder.  Feeling hungry I went double patty and egg.  Being a thin griddle paddy, there wasn't an option for doneness - it didn't matter.  This burger was so savory I am having flashbacks that are making my mouth water.  That perfect juiciness homogenized all of the other ingredients to coat the pallet and kept me napkin dabbing the corners of my mouth.  Excellent flavor coming from the grill.  One bite and I was in a state of burger nirvana.

Dress and Bun
They do a high-gloss egg wash bun with that small amount of sweetness that makes the burger sing.  It would overwhelm a single patty, but works well with the double.  American cheese, egg, and mayo topping gel everything together.  The produce was sliced a bit thin, but tasted fine.

The Verdict
I don't often write burger poetry, but some meals turn you back into a burger-romantic.  I give it an enthusiastic 5 spurs, and one I'll be recommending it to other aficionados frequently.



Saturday, September 29, 2018

Down on Garyson

Down on Grayson
Mid September

On a rainy Friday night, some friends were looking for a beverage and some food.  Cam, Grant, Moos, Webb and Audrey came joined me to head over to the Pearl to eat at Down on Grayson

Service and Setting
DoG has a beautiful patio and good looking bar.   I acknowledge a group of 6 is difficult to sit, but we had to wait well over an hour.  Service was attentive, though there was some confusion on dish placement when they arrived at the table.

Menu
I was really impressed by the variety and affordability on the menu.  They have mostly American standards with a few Mexican dishes.  They have anticuchos which is a marinated steak dish my wife and I had for the first time in Peru earlier this year.  DoG declares them "San Antonio's favorite," but I am not aware of another restaurant that serves them.

Beverage
A decent draft beer list of mostly Texas craft brews.  Cocktails run $7-10.

Sides
The fries were offensively salty.  Though thinner with a good crisp, no one at the table are more than half of their fries because of the over seasoning.  The chips and coleslaw did not look a whole lot more exciting.

Patty
1/2 lb ground-chuck patty char broiled.  Not much attention paid to the doneness of the burger.   Moist but flavorless.  Ironically, salt would have helped, but I think they ran out seasoning the fries.

Dress and Bun
I like the top toasted bun which retained a nice smoky flavor.  The cheddar cheese ran like water.  Produce was decent, but shredded lettuce is only surpassed by wheat buns as far as burger sins go.

The Verdict
A nice restaurant with entirely mediocre food.  The fries were ruined, and the burger was low on flavor.  Pretty surprised to only pay $12 for a burger and fries at a restaurant this nice, but it seems in the end we got what we paid for.
3 Spurs