Jeff Smith 6 p.m., Oct. 8
Western Steakburger is not the hippest place to grind a burger and some fries. It might be the least cool restaurant in the neighborhood with its mid-century anachronistic facade, un-ironic decor paying tribute to Western-themed cinema culture, and cafeteria quality seating and service. But, as is the case with so many things, thereby also lie its charms. Just don't take a date here for that upcoming manufactured holiday....
Humble as it may be, Western Steakburger has a certain amount of pride. Hipper places might be far too cool to wear their hearts on their sleeves, but the cooks here wear white chef toques like burger-flipping Escoffiers and everything is polished, shined, and given the very best of care.
The business is an unabashedly family affair, and portraits of all kinds are proudly on display.
The menu is large and features all manner of sandwiches, Greek items, barbecue, and the namesake burgers. The burgers start at the reasonably priced 1/4 pound steakburger (3.99) and range all the way up to such ludicrous options as burgers topped with gyro meat and pastrami. The special burgers can cost up to $8. Adding cheese is 45 cents, and fries are $1.95.
Word of warning: the restaurant is cash only, which has a little bit of old-school cool, but is mostly annoying in 2012.
This is neither the realm grass-fed beef nor of heirloom tomatoes and artisan breads. All the ingredients are basic and basically prepared. Bear in mind that none of this implies that the food isn't good. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. The burger receives a good, deep char from the scorching grill. It's rather boldly seasoned with black pepper and not too salty.
The meat has enough fat for flavor, but not so much that it's a greasebomb. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise are all standard. The burger also does an impressive job of staying together for the entire meal instead of falling apart into a slurry of meat juice soggy bread and slippery vegetables gliding about in a sea of condiments.
Overall, it's better than expected; a prime example of a talented hand in preparation making the most out of otherwise average materials. Portions are ample and the crinkle-cut fries are good and blistering hot.
2730 University Avenue
Open 10-9 every day except Sunday
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