Rocking the Grill
The most recent restaurant/bar to open along Keller’s Main Street, Bronson Rock Burgers and Beer fits right in among the drag’s string of locally owned burger, barbecue, and beer joints. The two-month-old standalone sits within sniffing distance of other favorites like Bottlecap Alley Icehouse Grill and Up-N-Smoke BBQ House. Bronson Rock, however, has a charm all its own.
Situated by a dirt lot just yards off the strip’s traffic snarl, Bronson Rock has an atmosphere that is exactly what you might expect in a biker-joint-by-design that has been transplanted into a suburb awash in money.
The place was raucous during one recent Friday dinner rush. Live music pulsed from a backyard stage before a rowdy crowd, but it’s not like anybody was throwing empty bottles. You won’t find tablecloths and candles, but the dining area was spotless and the food delivered by smiling servers. Harleys and custom bikes filled the parking area by the front patio, but Volvos and minivans lined the dirt parking lot to the building’s south side. In other words, this is the sort of establishment where bearded bikers order a beer (or four) only a table away from young families sharing a basket of wings. (Of course, these days, half the bikers probably drive to work in Volvos with booster seats in the back.)
Bronson Rock’s food, most of it burger-joint staples cleverly renamed –– “Pig Sleeping on a Rock” is a bacon cheeseburger –– does not, however, draw any parallels to some mythical motorcycle outpost on the open road. Bronson Rock’s wood-fired beauties instead taste as though they came from the kitchen of a dedicated burger aficionado. In this case, that’s owner Jim Bronson, a biker who hit the road in Northern California during the early 1970s after a close friend died. One evening while searching for answers in the American West, according to the legend on the back of the menu, Bronson crashed his bike. He escaped serious injury but severely bent a fender. The sun was setting. He had no food or water, so he didn’t want to hunker down there for the night. But he also had no tools, so he used a rock to beat his fender back into shape. Bronson then placed the token rock — the restaurant’s namesake — in his saddlebag and rode off into the sunset, apparently with an epiphany about “the free American” that he vowed to share with others.
The tale doesn’t explain what, exactly, went down during the 40 years since, but it insinuates that whatever it was led him to open this gem in Keller.
The place, according to my waiter that Friday night, has been packed since the moment the doors opened. I could see why soon after the headlining Bronson Burger arrived at my table. Bronson Rock’s kitchen staffers have mastered the art of charring a burger without turning it into a crispy critter on a bun. Grease? Nope. Astonishingly for a joint like this, not a single drop rolled down my wrist when I tore into the patty, which was fat and cooked expertly, with only a smidgen of pink inside. All this was loaded with fresh lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and wide slices of onion. Double-yum.
A grilled chicken sandwich, the “Yard Bird,” reaffirmed that the evening’s grill jockey knew the fine art of open-grilling without scorching. The breast, like its beefy menu mate, arrived with edges charred lightly and its insides cooked just to the preferable shade of white. A slice of Swiss held together the fixings, again the usual LTPO suspects. The menu mentioned a secret sauce, but I didn’t notice any special standout notes, leaving me a little skeptical about this mystery condiment. No matter. The plate lacked for nothing.
I opted out of the only two appetizers (or “Bar Food”) on the menu — onion rings and wings — and instead chose to pair my entrées with a basket of specialty “Old Mexico Fries”: once-frozen shoestrings generously topped with guacamole, sour cream, mild jalapeño slices, and cheese. While sinful, the fries neither stood out nor failed to deliver. They were just, y’know, OK, and, at more than $7, perhaps a bit overpriced. Maybe next time I’ll try the rings or wings.
A slice of buttermilk pie rounded out the meal with a blast of sweetness. Unless you like your pies richer than Mark Cuban — that is, too rich for their own good — beware this sugar bomb. Be sure to ask, though, because the menu contains zero mention of dessert.
Bronson Rock Burgers and Beer
250 S Main St, Keller. 817-431-5543. Noon-10pm Sun, 11am-midnight Mon-Wed, 11am-2am Thu-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
The Bronson Burger ………………… $8.49
Yard Bird ……………………………….. $7.99
Old Mexico Fries ……………………… $7.49
Buttermilk pie …………………………… $4.50