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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Looking a gift horse in the mouth

As the rain lashed the city, I was invited by the owners of The Burger Guys, a soon to open gourmet burger restaurant out by the West side of Houston, to a soft opening preview of the restaurant. Details about the preview have already been photographed and written about over at I was impressed with the progress of the project, having gone from concept to opening in about two months. They are hoping to leverage many modern innovations in restaurant technology, from iPad based point of sales software to social media advertising to bring success to their business.

But for the purpose of the occasion, the chef/owners were generous and gregarious hosts of a party, showering their guests with abbodanza. What kind of ungracious guest would even be critical of the food served?

Apparently a food blogger. This is not a restaurant review, I hope to return in the future as a paying customer, but I did want to write about my impressions of the previewed food. The menu offers a range of adorned akaushi beef hamburgers, most of them named after locations in the world (I wonder how the average customer will be pronouncing the Phuket burger), as well as enormous Kobe hotdogs. Sides consist of duck fat fried french fries, and battered onion strings, and a whimsical range of homemade breakfast cereal flavored ice creams and milkshakes (applejack milkshake can be interpreted as adult or kid friendly ;). And you can put a fried egg (chicken or duck) on any sandwich, but I'll come back to that later.

I managed to sample three different sandwiches. The Havana takes its inspiration from the Cuban sandwich, layering pickles, mustard and Swiss cheese on the burger. The Saigon smears on pate, pickled daikon, and cilantro to pay homage to the banh mi. While I give good points for intense flavor (the horseradish tang of the Havana cuts through the richness of the meat and cheese), the egg buns of both these sandwiches don't hold up to the flavors. As the toasted soft sweet roll evolved to match the juiciness of a nicely grilled burger, the flavors of a banh mi cry out for the robust crustiness of a french roll, just as the Havana misses the caramelized oomph from panini grilled Cuban bread. But the chefs are obviously masters of making beautifully medium rare crusty hamburger patties, just a tad aggressively salted, which form the canvas for their inspirations.

Oddly enough, perhaps the best sandwich I tasted was the veggie burger, here taking it's base not from beans, but eggplant. The crisp exterior gives way to a creamy patty that plays very well with the grilled potato bun, and the herby mix of flavors allow it to stand up well to the beefy atmosphere. The only accoutrement I would have requested is a splash of tahini.

Speaking of sauces, our hosts were justifiably proud of their house made sauces, from ketchup to a range of flavored aoili meant to complement their well made fries. Perhaps they'll go in the direction of Belgian or Dutch patat purveyors, who offer fries with a mind boggling range of sauces. No matter, I thank them for a very nice party, and wish them much success in the future, and look forward to trying the other creative items on their menu

The Burger Guys formally open on Sept 9, 2010, at 12225 Westheimer Suite G.

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