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The Barbecue May Impress at Smoky Rose, But the Burger Needs a Fixer Upper

The burger at Smoky Rose.EXPAND
The burger at Smoky Rose.
Nick Rallo

Inside Smoky Rose, walking past the woody patio, it becomes clear in a hurry: Smoky Rose knows how to put a spell on you.

They’ve found a way to be instantly enchanting with the halo of Edison bulbs, neat and polished bar and clean white brick. It’s a “chic farmhouse,” apparently. After planting myself at the bar, I expected HGTV’s Chip Gaines to burst through the wall like the Kool-Aid man. Smoky Rose’s appeal is making you feel like you’ve accidentally walked onto a Fixer Upper set: There’s a lot of rustic class, a lot of appeal and the food is there to do the same. Deviled eggs are beet-brined until they look like a color you’d see mixed into a Grand Canyon sunset. Sausage is plump, practically a still-life.

The burger exhibited the same thing. The brioche bun had a sheen like a birthday balloon. Cheddar stretched from bun to patty. Pickles looked like they were plucked from a dewy forest. And yet the taste just wasn’t there.

I don’t know what it is about barbecue joint burgers. I can count the number of awesome burgers I’ve had at barbecue-focused restaurants on one finger. The Lakewood Smokehouse burger, a beef patty that’s smoked then grill-sizzled, is one of the juiciest, most memorable burgers I had last year. It also blows the smoked Yellow Pages-tasting burgers I’ve had at other barbecue spots over the years out of the water. It blows the Smoky Rose burger right off the griddle.

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At the bar, with my Smoky Rose coaster and a pile of good, crispy chips, Smoky Rose’s sandwich looks beautiful and has memorable elements. Everything about it, like the restaurant, plays to the expected trends. There’s even the add-a-fried-egg-for-a-buck-fifty option. The smoky-sweet wisp from the bacon jam is great, and the few onions I got are pickled until they’ve got gusto. The sticky cheddar will make you want to surround the burger like a hungry anaconda. Yet all the trappings in the world can’t save a burger that’s overcooked and gasping for salt and pepper. My burger is eat-with-your eyes ready, but not eat-with-your-mouth ready.

The beef patty appears to have a good flat-top sear under the cheddar, but inside is a medium-well, juiceless cook (I wasn’t asked how I wanted it). I load up my burger with all the pickles I can muster and regret not adding the fried egg. Would that have made it more Instagrammable? The chips it came with, however, are brittle and stupendous.

For $12, it’s hard not to feel waves of disappointment from an under-flavored yet overcooked beef patty. Smoky Rose may have impressive barbecue, and decor to make your heart leap out of your chest, but chef David Gauthier’s burger needs renovating.

Smoky Rose, 8602 Garland Road

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