Last visit: January 2013
Other locations: Austin (2)
Many of you will probably remember my series on Keller Goes Burgers and Beer last January and February. In the timespan of a month, downtown Keller ended up with four new establishments cashing in on this concept. Namely: Yourway, Keller Tavern, Bronson's, and Bottlecap Alley. We liked the burgers at all four places, and while the beer selection was certainly better than average, they all could have used improvement in this area. I recall having a distinct conversation with the bartender at Yourway promising new beers would be introduced regularly. About two weeks ago, I snuck into Yourway and took a look at their taps. Nothing has changed in one year. Now to be fair, none of them claimed to be fully stocked beer bars (like Ginger Man does), and I thought they did a fine job on their core product, which is the hamburger. But...
...but if I were owning one of these fine restaurants, I would start looking over my shoulder at what's coming on the horizon, and perhaps get ahead of the curve. You don't have to beat all the competition, just the local ones. There's an old story/joke that gets passed around in leadership/management training, that no doubt some of you have heard. So the story goes that there's two guys camping in a tent deep in a National Forest. In the middle of the night, into the tent comes a black bear for a night of snacking - preferably on the campers themselves. One guy starts freaking out, and screams "What should we do?". The other camper, meanwhile, calmly puts on his sneakers. The first person gasps "You can't out run the bear!" And he replied "Yes, that's true, but I can out run you".
And the bear in this story are the new generation of burger and beer places. In December, we visited Rodeo Goat, one of our most popular entries, and a restaurant that is getting serious attention over at Urbanspoon - and has been rated in the Top 10 of all places in DFW for the last two months. And now we have those Austin black bears sniffing around our good town with their own creation: Hopdoddy Burger Bar. And they're not even messing around with the Bud, Bud Light, Michelob, or even Shiner thing. Only "Craft Draft from Local, Small Batch, Artisanal Brewers". Where do I sign up? Who do I need to influence to get one here in Northeast Tarrant (same for Rodeo Goat actually)? Now their website lists some droolworthy beers, but does caution that selection varies by location. That's fair, but I sure hoped they would've "imported" more of those delicious Austin beers. They did bring two along, that we've also seen in places like Flying Saucer - that is (512) and Live Oak. Otherwise they celebrate our local brewers and I'm all for that too! So if you're looking for a place to try Lakewood, Deep Ellum, Franconia and Peticolas, Hopdoddy is a great place to do so. Their website also lists Circle, Thirsty Bear, Austin Beerworks, Ranger Creek (San Antonio beer), and Independence, but I guess for now you'll have to go to Austin to try them. The RJG has managed to try at least one from each of those except Thirsty Bear and Austin Beerworks.
So, RJG, talk about the burger - you lush you! And for those that drink Sprite with their meal, you will be no less excited, as the burgers here are delicious. I tried the Terlingua burger, which is their chili burger (I'm sure you already figured that out). Most chili burgers are a complete mess. And I was prepared for it. Our waitress even asked if I wanted a fork with it, and I said yes. But I didn't need it. They put just enough on, to get the flavor, but not to dominate. The chili is meaty, and they also add in some Fritos to give it the consistency it needs. The burger flavor itself is delicious, with plenty of good seasoning provided in the beef mixture. The overall combination is divine. My old buddy had the Buffalo Bill since he's been on a blue cheese kick of late. He said it was awesome. We each enjoyed a couple of beers with our meal - I had the Peticolas Golden Opportunity and Lakewood Rock Ryder, while he had the latter along with a Franconia Kolsch.
The service is a bit odd. When you walk in, you will be assigned a table on a ticket. You take that ticket to the front counter to order your meal and first round of drinks. Then you find the table that you were assigned. From there on it becomes full table service so if you want more drinks, they attend to that, and bill you separately. Weird idea, though I suppose if you don't get any more to drink (or eat), it adds to the efficiency. And if nothing else, the RJG is proud to make the experience inefficient. As well, it ensures folks don't snag tables until it is their turn.
We arrived early at 11:00 am and had a choice of seating. By 11:30 there was a line out the door. So file that away. As an alternative, especially for solo travelers, is that you can just sit at the bar - if there's room. Hopdoddy is situated in Preston Center, a perfect spot for such a place. I predict it will be here for many years to come, if they stick with their core principles. As for us folks in Northeast Tarrant, it's a destination place, and well worth the 30-45 minute drive.