Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Restaurant Review: Twisted Root Burger Company
Chef-driven is apparently chef-speak for a place where guys in white smocks take your ordinary, everyday burger, fries and a shake and turn it into a half-pound black angus cheeseburger with twisted sweet potato fries and a coconut cream pie milkshake.
Somehow we’ve gotten almost two years into this restaurant reviewing gig (and we use the term ‘gig’ loosely, as in, “Are we ever gonna get paid for this gig?!”), and it only recently came to our attention that we have yet to throw down our reviewing skillz on an establishment in what has historically (that is to say, in the goateed early ‘90’s) been the coolest of all hangouts, Deep Ellum. However, Deep Ellum has fallen on some hard times of late since several of its clubs and restaurants closed after the great tattoo parlor war of 1999. Frankly, we don’t understand how a commercial district that included a furniture store that sold wares made of antlers and hooves next door to a rave club didn’t make it. We figured now is a good time to check up on the new places on the scene and spread the word to the one group of people who can single-handedly turn around an entire neighborhood with their economic might – tattooed people who buy bedroom sets made from antlers and hooves…. And the young lawyers of Dallas.
The Law Reviewers
Two local attorneys applying their trained legal minds to the world of culinary arts (or at least it's sorta like that).
Anthony Lowenberg with Hermes Sargent Bates.
Michael Anderson with Bracewell & Giuliani
Twisted Root Burger Co. (2615 Commerce Street), right at the Commerce Street entrance to Deep Ellum, bills itself as the only chef-driven burger joint in town, which sounds much better than being chef-tractor-pulled or chef-run-over. Actually, chef-driven is apparently chef-speak for a place where guys in white smocks take your ordinary, everyday burger, fries and a shake and turn it into a half-pound black angus cheeseburger with twisted sweet potato fries and a coconut cream pie milkshake. The prices reflect the gourmet ambitions of the menu: a real buffalo burger plus sweet potato fries and a drink will set you back $10-12, but, since the street value of buffalo can be $750/kilo, maybe that’s not such a bad deal after all. They also serve ostrich burgers. We tried the ostrich, but we won’t give up on our dreams of llama burgers and Komodo dragon sandwiches.
The place’s layout is anything but fancy, though. The décor is all wood with lots of bar stools and tables. The atmosphere is squarely aiming to appeal to us pop culturally literate Gen X’ers. Service is walk up, and after you order, you are assigned not a number, but a name from pop culture. Apparently, the chefs here watch a lot of VH1. We’ve gotten Bullwinkle T. Moose, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Spaz so far. Part of the fun is listening for the next name to be announced and waiting for “Mr. T” to finally pick up his order (“I ain’t eatin’ no ostrich burger, Hannibal!”). We even saw a DPD officer pick up his order after “Det. Sgt. Rick Hunter” was called out. The nostalgia is also on display in the vintage bottle cap studded bar tables and the classic 80’s mix that plays continuously over the sound system. However, the music isn’t always a good choice when the TV is tuned to the Fox News Channel – we watched coverage of the ongoing conflict in Lebanon with “Karma Chameleon” as the soundtrack during our meal (true story). Bombings, Beirut and Boy George, now that's not your father's television!
As for the food, it is good, but not necessarily head and shoulders above the other non-chef-driven burger joints in town. The twisted sweet potato fries (they’re really chips), which came out fresh from the fryer with a light sprinkling of brown sugar and cinnamon, were magically addictive. The curly fries, on the other hand, were pretty standard and fairly bland. For drinks, they have all of your soda fountain favorites, plus flavored ice teas and a homemade “twisted” root beer that had a quirky, spicy taste to it that was interesting but not quite on the level of the homemade root beer from The Alligator Café. The burgers, while seasoned nicely, came out more medium then we’d like. We weren’t given the option to choose medium-rare. This meant that when we splurged on the ostrich burger, we couldn’t really tell the difference between it and regular beef, unfortunately. The chipotle-infused ketchup and the Dijon-based mustard were a definite cut above your normal condiments though. Finally, the milkshakes were amazing and decadently rich. A word of advice: don’t try to drink a peanut butter and brownie shake through a straw. Like T.O.’s hamstring, some things just defy the laws of physics!
So, in our humbly awesome opinion, atmosphere is the bigger draw to Twisted Root than the food, although it can be quite good with just a few tweaks. The guys who run this place are a little irreverent, yet they apparently take what they do very seriously, which we can say from experience may not be a great recipe for restaurant reviews, but maybe it’ll fly in the burger biz. On our “I Love The 80’s” five-gavel scaleTM, where a one is Small Wonder and a five is Alf, we give Twisted Root three and a half gavels (or, a Dukes of Hazzard episode where Coy and Vance are filling in for Bo and Luke) for playing to our pop cultural sweet spot and trying to make burgers more than just beef on a bun.
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