Feb 26, 2012

New Favorite Burger

Restaurant: The Burger Stand
Location: 803 Mass St., Lawrence, KS
Food: Burgers and fries
Service: Order at counter, pick up when called
Atmosphere: College town burger joint w/ distinct Lawrence feel
Price: Burgers $7-$10, Dogs $3-$5, Sides $3-$7
Rating: three napkins

Over time, I’ve become increasingly agitated at Blanc’s new location… teeny-bopper staff, scuffed painted concrete floors, inconsistent music and the general feeling that I’m eating in someone’s refinished basement are all kind of adding up. But these were all forgivable sins for what was, to me, the best burger-eating experience in town. But now Josh Eans is gone. Quality is going downhill. Service, too. And the menu is even changing. All signs of a place that feels like it’s finally well enough established to make some cutbacks on quality and increase profit margins.

...Upon entering
I don’t like it. The Inside Out burger and its delicious gooey blue cheese and bacon are still fantastic, so I keep going. But I’m willing to accept other burger choices more readily these days.

That led me to The Burger Stand in Lawrence some time back. We were there for a concert last summer and based on its wildly favorable reputation from the few actual KU students I still knew, we gave it a try.

Upstairs bar
One of the biggest differences between The Burger Stand and Blanc is, indeed, the college scene. On a Friday night in Lawrence, TBS feels like a college place. It’s not exclusively filled with students by any means, but you’re guaranteed to see plenty of KU apparel… and sweats--kids who are used to treating Lawrence with the mentality of “this is our town and we’re college students and college students wear sweats.” I would also point out that for every bit of clubby sleekness you’ll find in Blanc, TBS has the same amount of laid back Lawrence charm. Blanc’s hard surfaces and all white everything (splashed with orange accents) contrast with TBS’s exposed limestone walls (priceless), wood floors and bar structures. Ultimately, preference between the two is a matter of personal taste but one certainly has a more welcoming vibe than the other.

Downstairs bar and seating
But with all the cosmetic issues aside, what really matters to me is how the food stacks up. And in the end, while I still have to give Blanc the edge in terms of gourmet, envelope-pushing menu items, the food at TBS is nearly as good (and a tiny bit less expensive).

On our first trip, a busy Friday night, there was some kind of snafu and I ordered the Lentil burger. Mildly disappointed, we decided to consider it a potential twist of fate and tried it rather than revising our order. I’ve had the lentil burger at Blanc, too, and the two were similar but the one at TBS was the tastier of the two, hands down. I’d suspect a lot of people would have considered this lentil patty over-seasoned. It was, indeed, quite salty. But lentils have an otherwise dull taste, so I was appreciative of the added flavor. Also adding unique flavor to the lentil burger were green beans that seemed to be pickled and a roasted red pepper sauce. At blanc, the lentil burger seemed like a consolation – not something they were as proud of. And I remember its wheat bun being very wheaty and dry in the mouth. Advantage TBS.

Fire burger & Free State Imperial Stout. Magnificent.
More recently, I had the Fire Burger at TBS. This one had me spewing Guy Fieri-esque colloquialisms like “killer,” “dynamite” and “off the chain.” Were I not so completely in love with it I may have been embarrassed. This was a beef patty, thick and juicy, topped with avocado which was drastically upstaged by habanero cactus jam. The jam was both sweet and zippy without being too much of either. I think habanero is a great ingredient with its peppery kick that wells up from the stomach after eaten, as long as it’s incorporated subtly so as not to obliterate one’s palette... and this was just right.

Downstairs bar
On both trips we enjoyed fries. The first time we had truffle fries which I found to be crunchier and overall less greasy than Blanc’s with every bit as much of the funky, rich truffle aroma. On the recent trip I tried the Cajun fries which were the same in texture but lightly dusted with a seasoning that was great but, admittedly, I couldn’t really taste due to the strength of the burger’s accoutrements.

The menu at The Burger Stand also offers many other neat sides like duck fat fries, beer battered rings and fried pickles. And whereas Blanc hands out miserly portions of homemade ketchup and chipotle aioli, The Burger Shack lets diners fill up their own little containers with several different sauce choices including guajillo chili, rojo ranch, Guinness whole grain mustard and chipotle cocoa ketchup, (not unlike the vanilla ketchup I enjoyed at Gram & Dun recently), all of which I enjoyed sampling.

Also on the menu at The Burger Shack are other vegetarian burger options, hot dogs/brats and chili which I may never have just because I'm so in-love with the burgers. The beer list at TBS isn't quite what you'll find at Blanc but there are plenty of great choices with the Boulevard and Free State selections alone. ...Not to mention the fact that the last time I was in Blanc, our server told us they were cutting back on some of their beer selections, so it's entirely possible that on my next trip I'll find less than what I've enjoyed there recently.

The Burger Shack and Blanc both serve great burgers from geographic locations I enjoy mightily. But lately, the trends I’m finding in Blanc are leading me to want to hit K10 for a jog down memory lane to my college days and the satisfying burgers available at the heart of Mass St. The Burger Stand is, without question, worth the drive for those of us still not over the burger craze in America.

Rating: three napkins

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good to know. I'm with you in Blanc, Burgers, & Beer. The old location, ably filled by Westport Cafe & Bar, was so much better

Ali said...

Because of this post, I thought you might be interested in an event Chef Krause is catering this weekend.

On Saturday,April 28, Chef Robert Krause will create an exquisite four-course dinner for attendees of "Fill Up. Pour Out.", a barn-turned-banquet hall fundraising event that will benefit Heartland Community Health Center and health care for the underserved. There are only 20 tickets left, and they can be purchased at www.heartlandhealth.org/fill-up-pour-out.

Jake Carson said...

It just doesn’t get any
better than seeing the gorgeous “Mrs. Anita Pelaez” over at her and her
husband “Captain Kutchie’s” place..Some Folks Also Call Him..”The
KutchMan others call him The Kutchmon!”…Most Just Call Him “The Most
Interesting Man In The World”….(Anita and Kutchie Pelaez’s Key West, Key
Lime Pie Factory and Grill)…Just watching the lovely couple baking together all those Yummy
Key Lime Pies at their Key Lime Pie Factory and Grill in Asheville.
…It’s always worth the trip to visit them in they’re Historic Key Lime
Pie Factory and Grill…It should be on everyone’s bucket list for
sure..And The World’s Best Key Lime Pies!..YUM-YUM-YUM….­­.”Talk About
World Class” What An Understatement!…….AA­­HHHHH!….The Magic Of The
Lovely..”Mrs. Anita Pelaez” And Her Delicious Key Lime Pies Baked With
Pure Love…Always……40 Years And They’re Still Going Strong….

….May GOD Continue Blessing “Anita And Kutchie Pelaez” and They’re World
Famous Key Lime Pie Factory And Grill Where The Personalities, Ovens And
Smiles Are Always Warm And Inviting. “Kutcharitaville” You’re The Best We Love You!….

…Now You Know Who Is The Hottest!…And Baby Let Me Tell You, Mrs. Anita Is No Act…She’s The Real Thing Baby!…

….Located Near The Biltmore House And Estate…..
….Who Could Ask For Anything More?…Anita’s Key Lime Pie…(Hell Yes!)

….Just Think, Kutchie’s Goody Goody Cheese Burgers, The Original Cheese Burgers In Paradise!
….That Alone Is Quite A Pretty Big Deal If You Ask Me. ….”Hell”,..It’s A Pretty Big Deal Even If You Don’t Ask Me.

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