Not upscale, not pretentious, no cute food. Rodeo Goat's tagline fits it quite well, even if it does nothing to describe what the restaurant actually is. The Fort Worth burger joint opened at the end of November at the hand of Sam Wynne, the man behind the Meddlesome Moth and the Flying Saucer chain that's slowly taking over Texas, Arkansas and a chunk of the Southeast.
The dining room at the Goat, if you haven't guessed already, is rodeo themed, complete with metal barricades for herding customers and pictures of cowboys wrestling calves to the ground with their bare hands. Over the bar is Billy Goat Shaver, the restaurant's mascot who looks like he's just thrown a leprechaun-sized cowboy from his saddle with a playful, billy goat buck. And in the back, there's a sizable beer garden which continues the theme with a 4-H emblem and a grain bin that's been turned into a massive fountain.
The staff is unpretentious as promised: a young, fun crew of burger enthusiasts who bathe in the smell of burger grease, shift after shift. And while the food is far from adorable, it could benefit from a just a touch more refinement.
Burgers needn't be cute -- that's what sliders are for -- but they shouldn't be coma inducing, either. While sitting at the bar I watched a young guy cooking the massive patties, formed from house-ground meat. He started them at the back of the flat-top grill and worked them towards the front in neat rows, with a flip each time. Unfortunately each turn came with a sturdy compression with the back of the spatula, which squeezed a large portion of the juice from each burger. I worked my way through four of them, with the help of four friends, and a prayer.
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It's hard not to love a burger heaped with avocado, salsa, queso, Tabasco mayo and a fried egg, but it's harder to love yourself after finishing one. I'll classify the Ravi Shankar, topped with coriander chutney and peanut butter, as interesting, but the Terlingua heaped with chili, and the Hot Bastard, which will draw capsaicin enthusiasts, all boasted great flavor. Each of these burgers is heavy, though, with more grease dripping from the patties than juice because of all that squishing. All of our burgers were overcooked as well.
The fry station wasn't doing much better. The onion rings that were served up as a special were almost perfect. The onions were soft and easy to bite through, preventing the onion pull that leaves you with an arc of empty breading, but the coating was heavy and oily. The fries were greasy too, so I think this is just a matter of the deep friers being overloaded.
All of these are easy fixes, and it's easy to see that beyond these flaws something special is happening at the Goat. I'd be excited to give the place another try -- right after I go for a run.
Rodeo Goat, 2836 Bledsoe St., Fort Worth, 817-877-4628