Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Stackhouse Burgers near Baylor goes straight down the middle
Not bad, not great.
DALLAS Stackhouse Burgers was opened last week by friends Randall Kienast and motorcycle racer Ben Spies and their wives. Only some of those people can be found at the restaurant, and only at certain times. Holding down the fort on a more regular basis is James Rose, who briefly owned Rose Tattoo in Richardson and was briefly GM at Brownstone, among other places. He seems to function here as a combination manager/cook.
The format is fast-casual. You place your order at the counter beneath a chalkboard menu, then get a number. A runner delivers your food when it's ready. Staffers are mostly young females whose service experience seems limited.
There are only three burger options: single patty ($5.95), double patty ($8.95), or a veggie burger ($6.95). I can't imagine who would order a double, since the burgers are six ounces and seem thick for stacking.
They ask you if you want "vegetables," by which they mean iceberg, sliced tomato, and paper-thin slices of cucumber. There are also additional toppings for which you pay dearly. Six slices of pickled jalapeno in a plastic ramekin, for example, cost 75 cents. Ouch.
There are seven other sandwiches such as a chicken club and grilled cheese, priced from $6 to $10. Salads consist of five run-of-the-mill choices like spinach and Caesar.
Much is made of the meat, touted as a special grind made just for them. The patties are cooked on a flat-top and have an irregular hand-formed shape; but ours had an off taste, metallic and almost bitter. They seemed homemade, like mom made them in her teflon pan, but not in a good way -- more in the way of, "I could achieve this at home, why would I come here?" But they do ask you how you want them done, and you do have the potential to get it pink in the middle.
Much is also made of the bun, described as a custom product from an independent baker. Early comments on the restaurant's Facebook page complained about the buns' tendency to disintegrate (comments that have since disappeared; any feedback that is not a gushing rave has been scrubbed from their Facebook page entirely -- for shame). The buns we had were flimsy but didn't present a serious problem.
The veggie burger is of the black bean variety, with only a tenuous firmness; it took little encouragement to collapse into a flattened, smeary mass -- disappointing. Onion rings were thin with a crumbly batter and lots of salt. When they were brought to the table, they weren't hot. French fries were skin on, dark brown, and extra salty; they were probably the best-liked item on our visit.
Beer on tap, TVs in every corner, and a serious outdoor patio made the place feel like a college hang-out. But this isn't a craft-beer place; aside from the Rahr and a Firemen's No. 4, it was mostly of the Coors and Bud variety. The wine list was better, with Malbecs, pinot noirs, and more. Milkshakes were van-choc-straw and made with Haagen Dazs ice cream; topped with lots of whipped cream and a cherry, the vanilla was not too sweet and had a good, creamy consistency. Too bad they came in styrofoam cups with throw-away plastic spoons, which felt cheap, and seemed hard to justify since this was a sit-down restaurant with a nice enough dining room.
Like all of these new-wave-fake-gourmet-burger places, the price point is around $15 per person; our bill was $31.62 and they had a slot for a tip, even though they didn't really do anything other than take our order. Feeling guilty, we left $2.38, although in retrospect, it seemed generous, given the fact that we had to go ask for our drinks. ("Oh sorry," she said distractedly.)
There aren't many restaurants in this particular area, and with Baylor nearby, Stackhouse has already become a popular spot at lunch. There's nothing really bad about the place, other than its strict adherence to staying right down the middle.
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