Remember the last time you were in central Arlington and you wanted a good burger? No, really, serious starts now: Suppose you are in central Arlington and you find yourself in need of a great burger. Well, you're in luck. You actually now have a reason to drive to there in case a thousand other excuses fail to present themselves. And you should bring your crayons and paper too. (Wait. You'll see.)
Chef Kenny Mills, who previously kept the irons hot at highbrow places like The Capitol Grille, Sullivan's and Dallas Chop House, decided one day that he wanted his own burger joint. So, he opened Chop House Burgers in a completely inconspicuous spot in an even more inconspicuous shopping strip just southwest of the UT-Arlington baseball fields on Park Row. Mills keeps his restaurant so low-key that it's usually smelled before it's seen. I discovered it by accident. One day I was in a hardware store across the street when a gust of air blew in the aroma of charcoal and beef through the front doors. Everyone simultaneously looked up from their socket screws and plumbing tools and wondered who was cooking what.
Once inside Chop House Burgers you still might think it's just another burger place. The ambiance is quaint and simple with a country western theme. The space is small, but you realize after you order the food trumps the decor.
Rookies often take a little time to absorb the menu, which is hung high on the wall behind the counter. The offerings include 10 different sandwiches, two salads, gumbo and chili. Homemade jalapeño chips, sweet potato fries, garlic cole slaw, thick-cut onion rings, pinto beans and french fries are sides. There is also a weekly special written on a dry erase board which include things like kimchi burgers and fried fajita balls.
While the menu is somewhat limited, it's a matter of quality over quantity. For instance, the "Cheeseburger" is two grilled cheese sandwiches with a 6-ounce slab of beef between them. With four slices of bread and two slice of cheese this one burger is equivalent to three meals. The namesake "Chop House Burger" has a char-grilled patty made with ground beef and slow-roasted brisket, topped with a house-made steak sauce, thick slices of bacon and smoked cheddar cheese all on a toasted bun.
Did you notice the "house-made" steak sauce and "smoked" cheddar cheese? This isn't just a tired burger spot -- this is a chef making gourmet food. I added fried jalapeños to my burger for the trifecta -- bacon, cheese and peppers. Again, did you notice the "fried" jalapeños? They're not just pulled out of a jar; they're dipped in batter and fried. The beauty is in the details. High five for details!
The best part about these highfalutin burgers is their low-profile prices. The most expensive item on the menu is $6.75. And all the sides are either $2 or $3.
There's also pie: cinnamon custard, sawdust and chocolate pecan. While Chef Mills is a steak man by trade, there's obviously a baker inside of him screaming to get out. I find the cinnamon custard pie to be amazing. It looks completely innocent, just a simple slice in a cellophane container, but the fluffy, creamy, rich custard on top of the buttery crust is succulent and currently stands as my favorite dessert (although I haven't tried the new Fruity Pebbles Treat squares yet).
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Be warned though, if you decide to indulge in a slice of pie, you get it when you order your food. So, that means you have to sit at your table and stare at it while waiting, which takes some time since everything is made to order. Well, I embrace the fact that I don't have the discipline to just look at pie ... so I ate mine. Figured if I loaded up on pie, I wouldn't eat so much of my dinner. Yeah, that theory backfired, but I'm at peace with it because one time my mom's BFF from high school, Sharon, told me that on occasion, you should eat pie first. High five for Sharon!
Remember the crayons I mentioned? See, Mills needs a logo for his new burger joint and instead of hiring a cranky designer to whip out a few samples, he's bartering. Through April 30 Chop House Burgers is having a logo design contest. Anyone can enter, and customers vote on the winner. What's in it for you? How about a free burger, fries and drink every week for a year if your design is chosen. Visit the Chop House Burgers website for the specifics.
So, ball games, amusement parks and used car lots aside, now we all have yet another fabulous reason to load up the wagon and cruise out to Arlington. Take note, they are closed on Sundays. Consider calling ahead if you're in a hurry (817-459-3700). And don't forget to try the cinnamon custard pie.