Chop House Burger, 300 Throckmorton St Ste 180, FW. 682-312-8477. Sun-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm. $
One City Place, the strip of downtown development built on the bones of Tandy Center, sometimes feels like a buffer zone between Sundance Square and the untamed wastes around the Fort Worth Central Library. Nonetheless, a few restaurants of note have gamely set up shop along the pedestrian corridor that cuts through the property along West 2nd Street. The upscale Avanti anchors the strip on the eastern side, while the casual Wild Salsa bravely guards the western edge of civilization. The latest addition to the watch, Chop House Burger, stakes out the southern flank.
It can be lonely and thankless work, guarding the perimeter — particularly on weekends when the jazzy sounds of carefree crowds waft down the city streets, always a few blocks away. Intrepid diners may find, though, that there are reasons to stray from the beaten path and give these outliers a try.
Chop House Burger, for example, is the first restaurant since never to open up downtown without a single item priced over $10. Most of its sandwiches cost several dollars less. The small menu features some fairly predictable (but successful) flavor combinations, with a focus on local suppliers when practical.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, my guest and I had the run of the place, and the friendly counter staff gave us their full attention, earnestly explaining the menu and offering recommendations. We settled into thick, high-caloric milkshakes spiked with Nutella and scalded cream, and took to the critic’s favorite pastime — mocking the décor.
Actually, the place was quite pleasant and restful, a shady respite from the springtime sun, with sheet-glass windows facing north along the plaza. Only a few macabre touches earned a grimace, notably the room-sized light fixture made from slaughterhouse rails, meat hooks, and wanly hanging Edison bulbs.
When our food arrived a few minutes later, we were pleased to see that the reasonable prices corresponded to reasonable portions. These were not dinner-plate sized hamburgers, designed to shock and awe consumers. They were of a size a normal person could enjoy before heading back out into the heat of the day without wishing they could run home and take a nap.
The Chop House Burger was a basic hamburger with shaved red onions, locally sourced tomatoes, and green leaf lettuce, served between the golden domes of a toasted brioche bun that collapsed like a memory-foam pillow when touched. A hint of black truffle in the house sauce gave the sandwich a whiff of elegance.
Truffle oil gets a bad rap from purists, but for certain dishes — French fries, for instance — a few drops can really do the trick. The kitchen’s truffle fries with chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese were the perfect pairing for the house burger’s truffle sauce.
The Wine Country burger packed in a bit more decadence, with warm goat cheese and honey mustard spilling out the sides of the bun. A few leaves of spicy arugula bit through the heavy interspeciation.
Perfect for mopping up the dregs of goat cheese were the kitchen’s sweet potato fries, which, thankfully, were cooked until crisp and brown, allowing for a deep nuttiness to overtake the candy sweetness of the tuber.
The “Green” Burger was the meat-free option on the menu, and it was a good, if hardly original, idea — a burger sized falafel patty topped with marinated cucumbers, tomato, and tzatziki, a cool sauce of spiced yogurt and mint. The flavors of the individual components were all excellent, but the size of the falafel patty made for a dry and mealy texture that needed much more sauce than the bun around it could hold.
In addition to the kitchen’s simple fare, Chop House Burger offers a selection of local beers on tap, contributing to the sense that this western outpost may be just the place to rest and regroup before returning to the fray of Sundance Square
Chop House Burger
Chop House burger $5.95
Wine Country burger $7.95
Green burger $7.50
Truffle parmesan fries $3.25
Sweet potato fries $2.99