The Burgers at Spork Need to Phone Home

There are a lot of things to love about Spork. There's the mystifying theme of alien abduction: The bathroom doors show "men" and "women" icons beaming up to an alien saucer. A tiny Spork logo on the menu reads "A Message from Space" in Forbidden Planet font. The beer list has great and brisk, hoppy beers. The fries come smoking hot and salty. There are actual tiki cocktails. A Blue Hawaiian is one of them. The hot dogs are beefy and lovable as hell.

The burgers are not. I'll confess that I really wanted to love them. I studied the menu in advance, probably way too excited about the cheese options. Humboldt Fog is there! Kimchi! Lamb lips! Kidding about the last one, but you get the idea! For one thing, as Food Critic Guy reported, the sirloin and brisket patties are house-ground. Spork is also a restaurant which is growing in the carcass of a Sonic America's Drive-In, which is awesome by itself. I mean, with a team that brought us Smoke and Bolsa -- how could it possibly suck?

The burgers are build-your-own, and you start with the brisket and sirloin patty (nine bucks). Then you pick a sauce, like Japanese Red Chile Mayo or Guiness Grain Mustard, a cheese, and extras like bacon, kimchi, Korean pickles, and "Dr. Pepper Spicy Onions." On two different occasions, between three different build-your-owns, the burgers suffered from problems.

On the first trip, zombie-hungry from long day that featured a kale salad, I had American cheese, bacon, and the Louie sauce (their own thousand island). I went for medium rare, and it came with iceberg lettuce, threads of red onion, and two big slices of tomato. The iceberg lettuce was immediately impossible and huge enough to gather rain water. The burger had the tell-tale house ground look, with a big seared crust. The first bite revealed an eye-opener of a problem: Salt. Combined with the big slices of bacon, the burger was salty enough to wake up a coma patient. It was cooked medium, with very little pink. It was still juicy enough to mow through napkins, though.

A second visit with Lady Friend brought more issues: My beef burger with a punchy lemon dill and tarragon mayo, "Dr. Pepper spicy onions," and American cheese was cooked nearly well-done after asking for medium rare. The lettuce was awkward again, big cups that caused the bun to slide off like it was on a cartoon banana peel. Those two huge tomato slices were on repeat, perfectly ripe but needing some dressing to make them pop.

The Lady Friend likes her burgers simple, with cheddar and mustard. Hers came with an absolute ocean of yellow mustard. There is actually no more mustard now because it was all on her burger. It shocked the flavor right out of it. She called it "The Great Mustard Disaster of 2015."

With a house-grind and a superhero team, I really wanted Spork's burgers to sing. There are so many things to love about the place -- Tiki-inspired cocktails on the menu is almost enough -- but the beef could stand to be beamed back up for research.

Spork is in far North America, I think Canada, at 6110 Frankford Road, 214-643-6871.

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