As further proof that 2012 may indeed prove to be the end of civilization as we know it, Chick-fil-A is in the late phases of testing it’s latest creation: a premium all-beef burger with a twist on their famous moniker – The Chuck-fil-A Sandwich.
Maybe it’s not so far-fetched, after all. For years, Chick-fil-a had a very limited and static menu. Then in 2004, they introduced an innovative new breakfast line of a previously unheard of Chicken, Egg, and Cheese Bagel, Chick-n-Minis, and Chicken Breakfast Burritos. For the first time, they also began selling their first non-chicken menu items, the Sausage Biscuit and Burrito and the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit.
[Photo: Peter Mier]
Competitors envious of CFA’s persistently long lines quickly took notice that their very lucrative breakfast hours were being attacked and set out to compete on Chick-fil-A’s home turf. Wendy’s attempted to create their own line of premium chicken sandwiches with such creations as the Asiago Ranch Chicken Club, while others (eh hum… McDonald’s and Church’s) blatantly plagiarized CFA’s signature creation with the Southern Style Crispy Chicken Sandwich and the Southern Style Chicken Sandwich respectively.
After the successful unveiling of the Spicy Chick-fil-A Sandwich and breakfast-item Biscuit, it appears they are now looking to go head-to-head with their fast-food competitors for burger supremacy.
While I was unable to find any information on their website on the details of the new offering, the helpful employees at the test store in Cypress, Texas were able to shine a light on some things. Note: Texas is the primary test market for the new burgers, and there are apparently 3 other stores in the Houston-area serving up the goods.
As with their chicken fillets, the 1/4 lb. 100% beef patties are hand-prepared each day and served hot on a buttered (oil) white bun with two pickles. I opted for double meat, although this was not on the menu. You have choice of cheddar, provolone, and/or pepper jack cheeses but oddly enough, neither bacon nor onions is offered at this time. As expected, you can also opt for the Deluxe, which adds lettuce and tomato. Where it gets interesting is with the self-serve sauces that they have stockpiled. You can not only go classic with mayo/mustard/ketchup, but also get freaky with Buffalo, BBQ, Ranch, Honey Mustard, Polynesian… you get the picture. I opted to stay classic and went with mustard and mayo.
As for the taste, I can honestly say if this burger was available nationwide, I would put it at either #1 or #2 maybe just ahead or below Five Guys. It’s very well-seasoned and juicy as far as fast-food burgers go. The lettuce and tomato added a nice crunch and contrast. I opted out of the waffle fries this time but had a hankering for onion rings (CFA: hint, hint) . At the bottom of my receipt there was a link to a website where I answered a short survey and was able to provide feedback. It appears the link is one-time only, as I couldn’t access it from my other PC.
According to the manager, Chick-fil-A is planning on expanding its current “COWZ” marketing blitz with an “Angry Birds”-like campaign, only they’re at war with the cows instead of those devious pigs. I’m looking forward to it.
So, what do you think? Are you pumped about the new burger(Z?) or do you think the CFA should leave well enough alone?
Leave us a comment below or send your feedback to CFA marketing here: http://www.chick-fil-a.com/Connect/Contact-Us-CARES
Are you excited enough about next week’s grand opening of Carl’s Jr. in Houston? Based on the response we’ve heard from you already, it would be safe to say “YES!” Would you be willing to stand in an almost certainly ridiculously long line to get your grubby little mitts on one before almost anyone else in town? Well, it looks like you’re going to get your chance. Three chances, actually.
The guys at H-Town Chowdown are reporting that Carl’s Jr. has scheduled three events in the days leading up to the grand opening on January 14 in which they will be giving away FREE Western Bacon Cheeseburgers!
- On January 11, they’ll be giving away lunch from 11am to 1pm in Jones Plaza downtown.
- On January 12, dinner will be served from 5pm to 7pm at the Discovery Green ice rink downtown.
- On January 13, a pre-opening lunch will be served from 11am to 1pm at at new store: 8491 Hwy 6 N.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Source: H-Town Chowdown
When Whataburger announced back in 2009 that the ever-popular A1 Thick & Hearty Burger was going away "forever" after spending over a decade on the limited-time only menu, I quickly dismissed it as a McRib-style marketing ploy. In fact, I was so sure of it’s eventual return, I didn’t even bother going to try it one last time. I bet a fellow co-worker a burger that we would see it’s return by the end of the next year.
But come back it did not. Rumor has it that Whataburger’s contract with A1’s distributor had run its course and was not being renewed in favor of an exclusive deal with Burger King. Indeed, in 2010 BK released its mediocre A1 Steakhouse XT Burger while at Whataburger, the Thick & Hearty was nowhere to be seen.
Well, what do you know. Today Whataburger announced their "newest" creation:
"Introducing the Steak Sauce Double with bacon, cheese, grilled onions and our smoky, tangy, slightly sweet steak sauce. Come and try one today. But hurry, it’s available for a limited time only."
Compare this to their description of the A1 Thick & Hearty Burger during it’s farewell tour:
"The famously tasty burger has two sizzling hot patties of 100 percent American, fresh, never frozen beef, grilled onions, cheese and two slices of crispy bacon, topped with tangy A.1. Thick & Hearty Steak Sauce and served on Whataburger’s signature freshly baked, five-inch toasted bun"
Now that they control their own destiny by using their own BBQ sauce, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one make the regular menu eventually should it garner the same following as it’s predecessor.
I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, so if you have let us know how it stacks up to the original!
[Photos: Peter Mier]
Ricky Craig was not happy. His tiny downtown-Houston burger joint had just opened for the day and people were already filing in. My friend and I watched as he frantically shuffled between taking customer’s orders and answering the phone- (which sounded like a call center) only to inform them that they weren’t accepting call-in orders today. Someone didn’t show up, leaving them short-staffed. “It’s going to be a hell of a day”, Ricky said as I approached the order counter. “We’ve only been open 5 minutes.”, gesturing behind me – the still-forming line was already out the door.
Not that there wouldn’t be a line forming regardless of how many people were on staff. Despite this truly tiny restaurant’s size and single downtown location, Hubcap Grill is quite possibly Houston’s worst-kept secret amongst burger aficionados in town. People wearing suits & ties cram in with those wearing t-shirts and backpacks into the claustrophobia-inducing dining room or the small covered alleyway on the outside of the restaurant.
I was surprised to learn that one of my co-workers and fellow burger-lovers had never been, so with the weather outside finally starting to cool, we decided to make the trek downtown.
Jalapeño Cheese Burger & Chili Cheese Fries
The ordering process is straightforward and decidedly old-school. Orders are handwritten on paper guest checks and handed back to the kitchen. Transactions are cash-only (there is an ATM on-premises, though) and orders are brought out to your table by the first available person, including Ricky himself.
My buddy Marshall went first and ordered the Jalapeño Cheese Burger, an order of Chili Cheese Fries and a bottled Coke. There are no fountain drinks served here; as with so much else, quality comes first.
I decided on the Black & Blue Burger (bacon & blue cheese dressing). For most burgers, the standard options are mayonnaise, mustard, shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion, which is what I ordered mine with. Then, I had a sudden change of heart and decided to try the burger that has been in the back of my mind for some time: the Sticky Burger (cheese sauce, bacon, and peanut butter). What the hell, I decided I’ll just get both. I knew I wouldn’t be able to knock out the two and make it back to work, so I ordered the second one to go.
Marshall was the first to receive his order, approximately 15 minutes after we sat down. As he made his way back inside to retrieve an knife and fork, I gawked at the size of the Chili Cheese Fries, which were damn near the size of the burger itself. He sat down and proceed to make quick work of both in near silence. He was nearly halfway finished when I asked him what he thought. Between the sniffles, he commented on how fresh the vegetables were and how juicy the meat was, but was most impressed with the bun. I noticed that instead of the usual sliced pickled jalapeños, there appeared to be full jalapeños sliced lengthwise. He said it was pretty hot, but not trying it myself, I don’t know how spicy it truly was, or how much of a wussy he is. He pushed both aside, having reached his limit just as my order came out.
Black & Blue Burger
One of the side-effects of sitting so close together is that when fellow patrons gawk at your food, you can hear them. When they set my Black & Blue down, the table next to me was surprised at the size. We talked a bit, then it was time for me to dig in.
I never paid much attention to how burgers were assembled before, but increasingly I have become a fan of having the meat on top of the veggies (hmm. this would make a great survey). The 1/3 lb. patties here are thinner than some other places, but larger in diameter and have a great scraggly shape with browny bits. The patty isn’t over or under seasoned – it’s crumbly and juicy (there are rolls of high-school brown napkins on the tables) and tastes… meaty. The green stuff was great, no big hunks of white lettuce or green tomatoes here. The bacon seemed freshly cooked, although not nearly as thick and meaty as Rockwell Tavern’s. Then the bun. The bun here is what may really set these burgers apart. At first glance, it looks to be a huge amount of bread, but in reality these buns have the perfect bite outside without the risk of losing a tooth trying to tear your way though it with a fluffy interior. They’re not sweet, but hardy enough to prevent the dreaded “burger blowout”. I’m surprised these buns are custom-baked locally. I didn’t know it was possible to bake good bread with our hard water. I plowed my way though half of this burger before I knew what had to be done.
The Sticky Burger.
Tell someone you’re going to eat a bacon cheeseburger and they’ll shrug their shoulders. Add peanut butter to that, and the scowls and gag-reflexes begin. I’ve had chicken sate before, so I know that PB goes well with meat proteins. Marshall and the couple next to me looked at me as I pulled the burger out of the to-go packaging. I bit right in, expecting my mouth to fuse shut, forever silencing me and thereby making most of my friends and co-workers extremely happy. That wasn’t the case. This might be one of my new favorite burgers.
The day may not have started how he wanted, but at the end of the day Ricky Craig has a lot to smile about.
Pros: Near-perfect hamburger buns, highest quality ingredients
Cons: Downtown location may be far for some, lack of free parking, limited seating
1111 Prairie – Houston, TX 77002 (map)
Jalapeño Cheese Burger, Chili Cheese Fries & Bottled Soda $10.74
Black & Blue Burger, Regular Fries & Bottled Soda $9.50
Sticky Burger $5.50
Overall Rating 9.5/10 bytes
[Photo: Peter Mier]
The first Houston-area Carl’s Jr. location has been spotted under construction near the intersection of Texas Hwy 6 and West Road nearly two years after the Houston Business Journal reported a major franchisee’s plans to expand into Texas markets.
The regional chain, mostly based in the mid-and southwest US, is famous for bucking the “healthier option” trend many of their competitors rallied around in the mid 2000’s by introducing even bigger and calorie-laden products, starting with the full pound Double Six-Dollar Burger. The chain also offers a wide variety of chicken sandwiches and salads.
We have yet to know Houstonians’ response to yet another burger chain, but it looks like Carl’s is confident in their product and are gunning for the competition. They are located in the same intersection with Texas-favorite Whataburger, Wendy’s, and Chick-fil-a and within earshot of BK and McDonald’s. Bring it on.
Credit: Sharon Cartwright for the scoop!
Update (11/2/2010): Another location has just begun construction in Missouri City at the intersection of FM 1092/Hwy 6.
Update (12/27/2010): Clyde A. George of CKE Restaurants has confirmed that the Hwy 6/West Rd. location is scheduled to open on Friday, January 14.
Today we decided to hit up Christian’s Tailgate on Washington. They also have a midtown location, but Washington is closer to the office for a quick lunch. And if quick is your game, you’d better get there early and beat the line.
[Photos: Spencer Hutton]
It wasn’t my first time here, but I wanted to visit with a review in mind this time.
For 8 bucks, you can get a 1/3 lb. burger all the way, with fries and coke, aka, my ‘usual’. Not bad considering the competition has been crossing into double digit prices for less of a burger.
I gotta hand it to Christian’s, they make a mean burger. I don’t know what it is, but the simplicity of it all just makes it delicious. A hand-formed beef patty, seasoned perfectly and cooked up just right. Not too greasy and just the right amount of juiciness to sink your teeth right through. It’s not the prettiest thing to look at, but I’d rather eat a burger not trying to play dress-up and look tasty, whether it was or not.
I gotta give these guys one strike this time, and I hate to do it, but the fries absolutely sucked this time. In the past they have been great, but they missed the ball on this one. Quite unfortunate since in my opinion, good fries help make a good burger.
Will I be back to Christian’s? You betcha. Will I hope my fries taste better next time? They better. Will I still come back and order onion rings instead? Hmmmm, probably, but let’s work on the fries. Maybe the Sysco truck was late this week.
Update (1/1/2011): Christian’s has changed their fries and I must say, for the better. I have been back 3 times since the time of this post and everything was most excellent each time. I can’t wait to go back again.
Last night was my girlfriend’s turn to cook. But with Texas A&M playing Oklahoma State on national TV, that wasn’t going to happen. As I pondered what to eat for dinner, I received a tweet that one of my very favorite burger joints, Rockwell Tavern & Grill, had just been sold. Worried that Rockwell’s would lose its mojo after new ownership took over, as so many other restaurants do, I decided to head on down.
There are a lot of places here in Houston to get a great burger. A lot of online reviewers put inside-the-loop restaurants such as Hubcap Grill, Langford’s Grocery, and Christian’s at the top of the list, and rightfully so. But in spite of some great recent press by the Houston Press, Houston Chronicle, and others, it seems that many people still haven’t heard of Rockwell’s outside of the far northwest Houston suburb of Cypress, Texas.
[Photos: Peter Mier]
As with so much in suburbia, Rockwell Tavern & Grill is located in the middle of a small, relatively staid shopping center. From the outside, you would almost pass it by unnoticed if it weren’t for the sign up front proclaiming “Voted Best Burger in Cypress”. With concrete floors, a brick wall veneer in the back, and a disco ball (?), the look of the interior is eclectic and without a central theme; almost as if it were unfinished. There’s a small game room in the back to keep the kids busy. But I don’t go to Rockwell’s to look around. In fact, because I live so close, I usually order takeout. This would only be my second time to dine in.
Rockwell’s has a dozen or so specialty burgers from the “King Bubba”, a bacon cheeseburger topped with a glorious sunny-side up fried egg to the “Instant Vintage”, a uber-rich burger topped with thick slices of Cheddar, Swiss, and Monterey Jack cheeses. Unlike many others, Rockwell’s doesn’t offer an a la-carte topping menu to build your own. Tonight, I decided to go with the “Texas Jax” cooked medium and a bottle of Flensburger Pilsener (one of over 130 different brews available) at the suggestion of manager and head-bartender, Tiff Moore.
Texas Jax & Fries
The Texas Jax is Rockwell’s take on a BBQ burger done right. As with all of their burgers, they start with a 1/3 lb. fresh and hand-formed patty seasoned perfectly and cooked to temperature (yay!). Unlike other BBQ burgers that simply substitute BBQ sauce for the main condiment, it’s almost as if the patty of the Texas Jax is lightly brushed with sauce instead. This really allows the flavor of the meat to come through and not be totally dominated by goopy sauce. The patty is very juicy but doesn’t come across as the slightest bit greasy. A thick slice of cheddar cheese tops the burger, along with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and pickle slices. Oddly enough, there’s no sign of grilled onions, but they are not missed. A thin spread of mayo tops the bun.
And oh what a bun it is. The choice of bread for a burger is almost equally as important as the meat, toppings, or sides. Rockwell’s uses a specially-made bun they refer to as “sweet jalapeño sourdough”. For my taste, it doesn’t really taste like sourdough at all, but more like a slightly spicy and slightly less sweet Hawaiian-style roll. The sweetness of the bun perfectly complements the savory BBQ smokiness, beef, and cheese. It’s lightly toasted and very soft, yet sturdy enough to keep the burger together.
The sides at Rockwell are equally good. The hand-cut French fries are cooked just the way I like them. The insides are very creamy and the thickness of the cut prevents them from drying out too quickly. The onion rings are cut very thick and have a very light batter and in my opinion are very tasty. I’m not a fan of sweet potato fries at all, but my girlfriend tells me theirs are very good.
The staff of Rockwell’s Tavern is great. Service is quick and friendly. I had good conversation with the new owner over a beer as well as with chef Brett Cady, who has some great new ideas in the works. My fears of my favorite local burger haunt going AWOL are no longer of any concern. The old ownership may be gone, but the passion is alive and well at Rockwell’s. Texas A&M may have lost the game tonight, but Cypress definitely has a winner on it’s hands here. And it can compete with the big boys.
If you’ve been playing it safe with inner-loop burgers, head up north to see what your missing. Hell, drop me a line. I’ll meet you there.
Update (10/31/2010): It appears that Rockwell’s has discontinued several of their specialty burgers, including the Texas Jax. I’m adjusting the overall score from 9/10 to 8/10 due to the apparent de-emphasis on specialty burgers.
Update (12/30/2010): I have heard rumblings from locals and online that the product and service has indeed degraded since our last (and many others) review. We plan to do a follow-up soon. Stay tuned.
Pros: Innovative specialty burgers, outstanding buns, good beer selection
Cons: Out of the way for many, lack of parking