I'll be honest: The first thing I noticed when I walked into The Burger Guys' spiffy new downtown location at 706 Main wasn't the expanded dining room (which seats three times as many guests than its original Westheimer location) nor the artwork and TV screens that hung from the sunflower-yellow walls.
It was the row of five plastic pump-jugs, each of them filled with The Burger Guys' signature dipping sauces. The possibilities in those pump-jugs were endless: I could have all the chipotle aioli or Sriracha-lime dip I could fit inside one of the foam cups I planned to grab from the soda fountain...
But my reverie was quickly interrupted by Brandon Fisch, who's running the new downtown spot with partner (and owner) Jake Mazzu. Fisch was eager to show off the restaurant's other fancy accoutrements, like automatic paper towel dispensers and hand sanitzers. Or the soda fountain that glows like a beacon in the dining room.
"Maine Root built that just for me," Fisch beamed. Every single tap sends out a flood of Maine Root blueberry or black cherry or ginger ale. There is no Coke or Pepsi to be found. "We're the only place in the entire country with one."
But what about the famous Dublin Dr Pepper that The Burger Guys used to stock in its old soda fountain? Now that true Dublin DP is no longer available, a substitute comes from Maine Root now, too, in the form of a remarkably similar beverage called Doppelganger. There's even a diet cola option now -- something Fisch and Mazzu never provided before, as they don't approve of the artificial sweeteners found in most low-calorie sodas.
"It's our most popular drink," Fisch laughed. The restaurant goes through 20 times the amount of diet Maine Root soda than any other flavor. Maybe, I suggested, it's in an effort to off-set the delightfully huge, messy burgers the Guys serve.
Fisch shook his head. The Burger Guys use HeartBrand beef for all of their burgers, he explained -- Texas Akaushi beef that's touted as being "the most palatable, and yet healthy, beef in the world." The beef's main health claim is that it's significantly lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than traditional ground beef, but much higher in monounsaturated fat -- now considered to be one of the healthier fats.
"People always say things like, 'Oh, $10 for a burger?'" said Fisch. "But why 'for a burger'? That's automatically implying that a burger is trash food, that it should always be at the bottom of the totem pole." Fisch and Mazzu believe in elevating everything they cook -- burgers absolutely included -- by using the best ingredients available, and that includes HeartBrand beef.
One would think you wouldn't be able to taste the difference in a ground beef patty once it's cooked and topped with blue cheese crumbles and onion rings, but they'd be wrong. The two most noticeable features of all Burger Guys burgers were still in sharp focus at the downtown location: a crisp char on the outside of the plump, hand-formed patty and a rosy bloom inside that pours over with meat juices once you break through the craggy exterior.
The burger tasted, as always, incredibly rich -- yet it I'm never weighed down by a Burger Guys burger the way I am at other joints. Because it's not greasy and because the burger isn't weighed down by extraneous toppings, it's easy to wolf one down. Maybe too easy. Especially with a Cinnamon Toast Crunch-flavored milkshake looming nearby, and a basket full of duck fat fries still to go.
Luckily, I split both and managed to leave The Burger Guys with my dignity intact. (The automatic paper towel dispenser and hand sanitzer station helped a lot in that area too, leaving me significantly less messy than during a normal visit.) I can't say I'll necessarily feel the same way after my next visit, though: I plan on trying the B.M.F. burger, topped with an indecently large piece of foie gras.
That diet Maine Root soda sounds pretty good all of a sudden.
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The Burger Guys is currently open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, but plans to expand into dinner and weekend hours soon