Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Carl’s Jr opens in Carrollton, another burger chain with hat in hand
Dallas has jilted many a burger chain before.
CARROLLTON Although the big burger news of the week is the identification of the location of the first branch of California chain In-N-Out Burger in Dallas, there is other California burger action around town: The opening of the first true-blue branch of Carl's Jr on Midway in Carrollton, in a space that was previously Krystal's.
Dallas-Fort Worth has a couple of watered-down Carl's Jr outposts located in truckstops and on the outer fringe, but this branch marks the first arrival in a new round of openings, with two franchisers on board plotting at least 100 outlets in the area.
Carl's, which along with Hardee's is part of California-based CKE Restaurants, is most recently known for its ads featuring Paris Hilton eating a burger while washing a Bentley. Also for burgers that are said to be "char-broiled," and for a menu with flavors you don't see in other chains such as teriyaki sauce and jalapenos.
The menu also includes chicken sandwiches, JITB-esque dinner salads, and unique sides such as Crisscut (waffle) fries and fried zucchini. Thanks to its sibling relationship with Hardee's, Carl's has Hardee's biscuits for breakfast, plus burritos. (Carl's is also developing a Mexican-food concept called Green Burrito.)
Carl's doesn't have the cult buzz of In-N-Out, but it does have the same California roots, which help to elevate the quality of the food beyond the usual fast-food realm. Its burgers come on decent sesame-seed-flecked buns, with fresh lettuce and tomato. The basic burger is the Famous Star; the high-end line is the Six Dollar Burger, with larger patties made from Angus beef.
The regular patty had the same nondescript quality and slightly rubbery texture found at most fast-food places. The Angus burger had a little more personality, with a dark brown crust. Toppings include mushrooms, bacon, guacamole, and jalapeno peppers; there's also a no-bread "low-carb" version.
Fries came in regular or waffle-cut. The regular were rectangular medium-size fries, slightly soft with a mild crisp edge, very potato-y, some still with skin on. The waffle-cut fries were extra crisp, with the same orangey seasoning you see on most "seasoned fries." Unlike most fries, these were better without ketchup.
Shakes consist of the usual van-choc-straw, but they had a special flavor, banana chocolate. It sounded intriguing but had a pronounced artificial banana flavor and weird shredded chocolate chips that sank to the bottom of the cup. The chocolate shake had a pallid color that one optimistically hoped represented "natural"-ness and lack of phony food coloring.
Service was fast-casual format: You place your order at the counter, and they deliver it to your table. It's obvious the staff had been schooled in cheerfulness, as they extended a welcome and patrolled the dining room practically begging for some kind of task.
All that said, it was odd that management didn't have a problem with employees taking up booths in a dining room that held maybe 15 tables, max. We didn't sit in a booth because all were taken, including two booths occupied by two individual employees on break. They're people too and deserve the right to sit and eat dinner, but ... maybe sit together and just take up one booth.
The irony is not lost that this Carl's takes over a space vacated by a vanquished Krystal's, and that In-N-Out will go into a space vacated by the nearly-beaten Steak-N-Shake. Does anyone remember when Steak-N-Shake arrived in Dallas, what a massive fuss was made? On one level, you gotta feel sympathy for these burger chains that come into Dallas-Fort Worth, where they're met with fervent adoration and great fanfare -- then summarily dropped like a hot potato. Neither loyal nor enduring, we only really crave something when we can't have it.
But then you remember that these are burger chains and, despite our collective obsession with burgers, it's not really good food or an admirable model of dining that they're offering. So, OK, who's next.
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