From the moment you walk into the new Eureka! Burger, the California chain's first restaurant in Dallas, a suspicious feeling works over you. On a chilly weekday night in the West Village, the place is dim enough to render everyone in shadows. A row of patrons seated at the bar is silhouetted by glowing backlight. Edison bulbs cast contorted shapes that look like antlers onto the wall above the big booths. The menu lures you in with dressed-up bar food items like corn-dog lollipops, wings with "firecracker" aioli and burgers.
I ordered the trademarked Original Eureka! Burger. It comes with pickles, red onion, tomato, "special sauce" and fries. That's when I identified the origin of that suspicious feeling: I'd wandered into the enemy's lair. It was like when Rowdy Roddy Piper slipped on the sunglasses in They Live, allowing him to see that weird, faceless aliens had taken over. Eureka! Burger is trying to imperceptibly mimic A Really Cool Bar! Everything feels like it's awesome, but it's not. It's excellent, sci-fi-like body snatching.
The waiter advised me that I could substitute bison for any burger on the menu. Eureka! is driving home the whole American-sourced thing, and it seems like over-compensation. A two-story chalkboard with an American flag emblazoned on it even hangs over the bar. Also, can I substitute bison on the Bison Burger?
My burger arrived confidently open-faced, displaying their burnt orange special sauce, and it shimmered with oil. It was big, like a fat hockey puck, and rested over pickles and LTO. I cut into it to check the medium-rare cook, and the interior was a pleasant pink.
The burger itself tasted unseasoned. It needed a kick of something. A mustard or a better pickle would help. The meat had an acrid canola oil spray flavor, and there was no crunch on the outer layer of the burger, which hits an 11 on the burger sads scale.
The fries were so Mojave-dry they could have been used as drinking straws. Even ketchup couldn't save them. Melancholy, whispery folk music played throughout the restaurant; it made me want stand, shout "Soylent Green is made of people!!" and run into the kitchen to jail-break any bison being held captive. The Lady Friend received a mistaken order of onion rings, and they looked like hardened igloos. They were thick, dense and dry enough to break a window when thrown.
The original burger comes without cheese, and cheese would have helped. Without add-ons (bacon, sauteed mushrooms, grilled onions etc.), price clocks in at $9.50. The Eureka! chain is new in Dallas, so maybe they have some kinks to work out. Their allure is their slogan, "Discover American Craft," but all I felt like doing afterward was discovering a double-double at a different California chain: In-N-Out.