The Green Room

The Green Room  is located in Westport, fittingly next to a theatre (green room, get it?). It also tries to be green in terms of our environment, thus the double-entendre….

Recently opened, it aims to provide a comfortable place to have a good burger at an affordable price, while also perhaps washing it down with a brew from the very extensive beer list. Though I think it achieves that, it’s probably not a place where you’d hang all night, throwing them back. It’s a bit too sterile to get comfortable,  though I found sitting at the bar to be more appealing than in the dining area.

I had a good veggie burger on a great wheat bun from Roma Bakery. The habanero aioli that I had ordered for my fries gave the burger a bit of pep. The French fries were hand-cut, with skins on just the way I like them, but my batch needed a bit more cooking  and much less pepper.

Everyone is very friendly and eager to please, and two servers asked how I enjoyed my meal. Since they inquired, I told them both that the fries were way too peppery (which was obvious from looking at them), and though they apologized, neither did anything to rectify the situation. Since it’s not meant to be a fine dining experience and the fries were cheap, I couldn’t get  upset that they didn’t offer to make me another batch.

Next time up I had the Brownfield burger, a classic with the traditional toppings. Though I regretfully neglected to take a picture, you can imagine it in your mind….diner style, fresh bun, pickles, ketchup and mustard. The meat comes from Bichelmeyer, and I could tell it was a quality product.

In both cases, the price was right at $5 for a burger and $3 for fries.

The Green Room Burgers & Beer on Urbanspoon

Burger Stand at the Casbah

The Burger Stand first operated in Dempsey’s Pub. About 18 months ago culinary couples Molly and Robert Krause and  Simon and Codi Bates moved it to the old Casbah grocery space. Now called the Burger Stand at the Casbah, it sits next door to the other restaurant the foursome own, Esquina. Esquina recently revamped its menu and switched up its cuisine from Mexican to what they are calling  ”Mediterranean Food with a Spanish Flair”.

This is an order-at-a-counter operation, though if you grab a seat at the bar a bartender will wait on you. There’s also a separate line for ordering downstairs that is open on busy nights, which it was the night we visited. I suspect it’s always packed on game nights, but they do a good job of getting the orders out and turning the tables. We stood in line for about 25 minutes, ordered our burgers and a pitcher of beer, and were lucky enough to snag a booth where we waited for our name to be called. The pick up area is in the back, down a few steps, where diners can also  pump their own ketchups into little paper cups for dipping fries.

The Burger Stand offers several vegetarian options, but we opted for the black bean burger (as opposed to lentil or tofu) and it now has a prominent spot on my list of favorite veggie burgers. The poblano salsa and pepper jack cheese gave it some spice and my addition of cactus-habanero jam (which comes with the Fire Burger) kicked it up a notch.

I rarely eat a real beef burger, so when I do I want it to be really something special. The Black and Blue obliged on all fronts. It was incredibly flavorful and juicy, a perfect medium rare as ordered, the big chunk of bleu cheese impacted every bite and the apple chutney added a bit of cool. I realized when I was nearing my last bite that I hadn’t added ketchup or mustard, which is as natural a motion to me as people who salt something before tasting it. The burger was perfectly composed as it was.

The Burger Stand offers a ton of  homemade sauces for dunking the burger or fries…. cherry-pepper ketchup, guajillo-chili dip and parmesan-roasted garlic aioli, and  a variety of mustards.

The french fries were my least favorite part of the meal. I thought the sweet potato fries were better than the duck fat fries or the truffle fries. I’m a skin-on lady, so these didn’t do much for me, but my dining companions were less picky and enjoyed them. I’d have to give Blanc Burger the nod on the fries, but I’d drive back to Lawrence for those burgers.

The Burger Stand recently opened a second location in Topeka. I know there are plenty of burger joints in Kansas City, but I’d love to see the next expansion eastward so I don’t have to drive so far for one of those black bean burgers…..

 The Burger Stand at the Casbah  on Urbanspoon

Gott’s Roadside Stand–Napa Valley

Ever heard of Taylor’s Automatic Refresher? It was the model for Rob Dalzell’s now shuttered Chef Burger, but it has drawn crowds in St. Helena and Napa for years. It recently changed hands and is now called Gott’s Roadside, but nothing else has changed.

This is no ordinary burger drive-in, though that’s exactly what it looks like. There is a long list of hamburgers, ranging from the Wisconsin Bacon Blue to the Texas burger. The ones we sampled were good, not great. But you can also order a cobb or Chinese chicken salad, chicken sandwiches in the style of the burgers, and even fish tacos. I had the ahi tuna burger, a thick tuna steak cooked rare and topped with Asian slaw and ginger wasabi mayo and served on the same egg bun as the other sandwiches. Sauces dripped down my arm as I sunk my teeth into this hefty two-hander–it was fabulous.

We sampled regular French fries, garlic fries, sweet potato fries and onion rings, none of which compared to Blanc Burger in Kansas City, but we managed to devour them anyway. The milkshakes, on the other hand, were winners. It’s probably best to judge a restaurant by how well they do a vanilla or chocolate shake, but we went for the mint chip and espresso bean shakes and they were outrageously delicious…and the perfect thickness. Not so thin that it’s like milk and not so thick that a straw is useless.

A good selection of beer and wine round out the menu, which is something you don’t often see at a roadside stand.

This is not a drive-in in terms of ordering. You walk up to a window, place your order and wait for your name to be called before hauling your tray to whatever free table you can find. There’s no indoor seating, though  covered outdoor seating is an option in inclement weather. On a typical California day, the ideal place to sit is at one of the backyard picnic tables.

I have heard that the food is not as good at Gott’s as it was at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. Though I never had an opportunity to try the original roadside stand, based on our experience  I would buy that assessment. However it’s a very fun place to go on a pretty afternoon. I would definitely go back for the atmosphere and the ahi tuna sandwich. Probably a salad, too, if my snooping around the tables is any indication.

Gott's Roadside on Urbanspoon

Blanc Burger and Bottles

I’m certainly not the first to weigh in on the newest location of Blanc Burger and Bottles, but it’s still worth a mention. The Plaza venue is a big improvement over the original in Westport, which was way too small, and the Mission Farms location, which is way too loud. While this one may not be just right, it is arranged in such a way that some of the sound is buffered and, beyond that, it’s an attractive space with unique dividers and a room-long bar for eating and/or sipping beer.

The menu is basically the same, though there are a few additional items, including fried peppadew peppers, beer battered Shatto cheese curds, and a $100 short-rib stuffed burger with foie gras butter for a mere $15.

On our visit, we stuck to old favorites, all of which were every bit as good as what we had enjoyed previously at the other locations. The Bison burger was juicy, and I like the combination of pepperjack cheese and peppadew jam which tops it off. My other favorite is the Spiced Lentil burger, topped with spiced yogurt and cucumber salad. We shared truffle fries, which were a bit too oily for my taste, and the regular fries. I prefer Blanc’s sweet potato fries, but had no trouble polishing these off.

We didn’t have room for a milkshake, but one of these days I’m going to have to try one of  the liquor based “grown-up” milkshakes. Beer drinkers have more than 100 to choose from, soda drinkers have some interesting options, and even the wine list is far from ordinary.

I suspect Blanc has a gold mine on its hands, situated as it is in the heart of the Plaza. It’s also refreshing that there’s another independent operator on the Plaza–for too long it has been overrun with chains. I hope this starts the reversal of that mentality, back to the way it used to be when the area was known for its unique specialty shops and restaurants.

Blanc Burgers + Bottles (Country Club Plaza) on Urbanspoon