Hamburger Heaven at Hefley's

I confess to not having very high expectations when Hefley's (138 West Gray), opened recently in the old Luling BBQ location in Midtown. Perhaps it was due to the former tenant's proclivity for really poor Texas food, perhaps it was due to the area -- which really isn't known for its dining as much as its nightlife -- or perhaps it was a combination of the two.

After reading Paul Knight's description of the sad-looking wings the restaurant serves during happy hour, I was even less inclined to go. But Craig Hlavaty had other thoughts. Because it's well known that Hlavaty's favorite place to take a date is Popeye's Chicken, I still had doubts. But over the course of a few days, he managed to convince me that I needed to give Hefley's a shot based on the merits of the Shiner burger, with which he had fallen in love the week prior.

"I promise, it's good!" he pled over and over again at random intervals throughout the past week. (Sharing a cubicle with him, this got old pretty quickly.) So I gave in last Friday evening and headed to Hefley's for a burger and a beer.

The Shiner burger here gets its name from the fact that the thin strings of onions are marinated in Shiner Bock beer overnight, then sauteed before being heaped on the patty along with a thick slice of Provolone cheese, crispy strips of bacon and a generous amount of hickory-flavored barbecue sauce. For this Texan, it was a nearly perfect burger interpretation of the Lone Star State.

I couldn't tell if the meat was hand-formed or had come pre-shaped into patty form, but it certainly didn't taste frozen. And although I didn't specify medium-rare when I ordered, the meat came out very close to that ideal temperature. The ooze factor was on the low side, but was made up for by the gooey cheese and tangle of sweet, slippery onions. Topping it all off was a fluffy bun that tasted just as sweet, with a tempering touch of yeast.

With a cold Fat Tire and a stack of sweet potato fries that were every bit as good as my other local favorites at the Lake House, the meal -- and the happy hour price on the beer -- was a winner all around. Score one for Craig Hlavaty.

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