Alison Cook’s Burger Friday: The idea was better than reality at Buns & Drafts

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The Alpine Burger with cheese fondue and bacon at Buns & Drafts on the Esplanade of Boulevard de la Navigation

Photo: Alison Cook / Staff

The idea was irresistible: a burger stand in a remodeled shipping container, smack in the middle of the shipping plaza as the boulevard heads towards Second Ward.

So I went to the new one Rolls and drafts, which occupies a narrow, shaded niche just at the head of the landscaped median which hosts community events and a weekend farmers market.

Buns’ online imprint promised “homemade burgers” that were “grilled on the spot,” a quaint turn of phrase. The menu had a variety of clever topping combinations for burgers and hot dogs – sauerkraut and Japanese curry, anyone? – and the “drafts” tag made me dream of tasting the latest idea from one of our local breweries.

Here is how the adventure unfolded.

THE PRICE: $ 11.95 for the Alpine Burger with bacon and cheese fondue; $ 3.50 for a basket of fries, for a note of $ 15.45 before taxes and tip.

ORDERED : Go up to the register inside, order and pay. Then, sit inside or outside, on one of the two terraces. A member of staff will call your order or bring it to you when it is ready.

ARCHITECTURE: No salad on mine. (That’s on top of the classic cheeseburger.) On a golden yellow sesame seed bun that has been toasted, a substantial beef patty (my guess is maybe 7 ounces), followed by a generous amount. crispy bacon chips and a big splodge of pale yellow cheese fondue. There is a little stage mustard applied to the upper bun.

QUALITY: I liked the idea of ​​this burger more than the reality.

The cheese fondue that had given me visions of a Swiss autumn valley was on the bland side, and it quickly seized up, so the glorious mess I had imagined did not materialize.

The patty itself was so decidedly well cooked, its texture so tight and aggressively ground, that it didn’t provide the juicy outside / inside thrills essential to my burger enjoyment. My first impression was of salt. I ended up wishing I had ordered the basic cheddar cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato instead.

FOLLOW-UP ASSESSMENT: Nothing.

CLASSIFICATION BY LETTER: C. A little less time on the hotplate and a little loosening of the grinds could increase the score.

VALUE: At almost $ 12 a la carte, this burger seemed expensive.

BONUS POINTS: Really friendly staff made the transaction, service and stay enjoyable.

More credit is due to the generous outdoor seating options: from the covered side porch to puffy stools to the front windows, to a large side patio under the boulevard oak trees, one of which is wrapped in tiny white lights.

We must also mention the fries. Although they were not fresh cut, they were well executed, although they were too salty; and there’s homemade chipotle mayonnaise to go with them, if you like.

MINUS POINTS: Despite the promise of “drafts” in the name, they only carry a handful of canned beers from top producers. At this point in the nascent booth’s life, anyway. That could change, and I hope it will.

THINGS FOR LATER: A perfectly enjoyable chili-cheese dog with a little weight, a lot of salt, and just enough red spiciness to give it some bounce. Yes, it went well. Don’t @ me.

LOCAL COLOR : I loved everything to sit on the small covered side patio on a rainy afternoon. The vivid swirl of colors on the mural overlooking my table. The crackle of raindrops in the canopy of trees; the noise and noise of traffic passing in front of me; the peach-colored expanse of the venerable Merida Restaurant, with its elongated Chacmool twin statues, and its parade of late lunches (including a crowd of police officers) coming and going.

At one point the school must have given up because I saw a young man being driven across the street, satchel in hand, by his mother or aunt, who escorted him to ‘to Buns & Drafts for a snack.

Everything was alive and yet somehow peaceful, with the shady old cemetery next to the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe – heart and soul of the second parish – dozing to my left, to the west.

The mix of public space and private enterprise seemed forward-looking, as did the pedestrian-friendly layout. Yes, I had to resist the temptation to park on Mérida lot, or on the funeral home lot across the street; but for bikers and strollers the Esplanade seems made for, the easy going layout is soft.

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  • Alison cook

    Alison Cook – two-time James Beard Award winner for Restaurant Criticism and MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award recipient – has been reviewing restaurants and studying the food scene for the Houston Chronicle since 2002.


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