Off-Site executes a heavy sear of the Angus chuck and shoulder patty, cloaks it in American cheese and nests it under a pile of microshredded lettuce for the astonishingly inexpensive price of $5.25. It has the sensory experience of a backyard-grilled burger, rendered in a restaurant. On a good day, the cheeseburger tastes like the scene in Field of Dreams when the players emerge from the corn to compete in a low-stakes intrasquad game. A chef’s time is sweat and chaos, which means the food one fires in the restaurant is typically light years from what he or she cooks at home.
Here’s where Sky Rocket emerges. Beware, Off-Site Kitchen: The competition sits quietly in a strip mall off the George Bush Turnpike, behind a gas station and next to a spot where you can get e-cig juice refills. It’s a $5.19 (with cheese) home run. It’s an arrow splitting the bulls-eye; it’s true-blue cheeseburger simplicity in our golden age of beef patties. It’s grilled beef, melted cheese, a few crisp toppings and french fries.
The only art on the wall of the 4-month-old restaurant is low-res cheeseburger photography: Five copy-paper-sized portraits of its cheeseburgers hang below the TV-screen menu like family photos you took on vacation in 1992. The menu on the TV screen is not interested in upscale anything. It’s mostly text that announces three cheeseburgers (a single, double and triple) and a grilled cheese. The seasonings up front (you will not need them) are the plastic Morton salt and pepper shakers you buy when you go camping. There are paper towels on the tables and a ketchup dispenser up front.
The romance of the minimalism focuses into a single cheeseburger: It’s frill-free joy. It’s a precision cheeseburger experience in a city where sandwiches become more complex by the day. It is one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in months. Tia Wagner, who runs the joint with her husband, rings orders out at the front in between running piping-hot food from the kitchen to her guests. Husband and co-owner Scott Wagner emerges from the kitchen, grinding and firing burgers, asking if everything tastes good.
The cheeseburger arrives, like the best ones do, in a basket. The all-Angus beef patty glistens from heat and buttery fat. It’s griddled, cloaked in American cheese and seasoned smartly. Minuscule rivers of juices settle into the bottom of the sesame-seeded bun. Chopped lettuce, tomato, and the all-important pickle discs hang in there. Yellow mustard (my condiment of choice) crops the richness.
It’s thoughtful and precise as a NASA mission. The backyard-burger flavor profile is as iconically summer as the end of Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner plays catch with his dad. It also costs $4.95. A solo cheeseburger with fries — tall, hand cut and crispy (the charred skin was on so many of them) — costs less than nine bucks because sometimes Earth is grand.
This perfect cheeseburger should immediately climb into the radar of anyone who’s favorite cheeseburger is at Off-Site Kitchen.
Sky Rocket Burger, 7877 Frankford Road, No. 101B.