By Patrick St. Jean, Contributor
From the outside, Grub Burger Bar looks like a fairly typical fast-casual burger place, but the work put into the menu and the execution of the offerings are anything but typical.
Grub’s Plano location (there’s one on Lower Greenville in Dallas) is nestled in a relatively new strip center on Preston Road just south of the Sam Rayburn Tollway. My companion Heather and I headed over to check it out on a recent evening, where, upon arrival, we met our host, Matt, who gave us a short tour of the joint. He told us that they bake their buns and grind their meat in-house. Ordering is like at many of the fast-casual type restaurants: queue up, place your order, grab a table and wait for your food to be delivered.
To start things off, Matt brought out a selection of adult beverages, including some sangria, a peach martini and a margarita.
[Disclosure: Grub Burger Bar provided The Dallas Diva with complimentary food and drinks. The opinions here are the writer’s own.]
The peach martini was my favorite of the three. It was sweet, but not cloyingly so, with a good, but not artificial-tasting, peach flavor. And the jalapeño garnish added a touch of heat without being distracting. The sangria, made from the house red, was sweet and fruity, and would go well with a lighter-flavored burger on a summer day. The margarita was a well-balanced, successful execution of a bar staple. I’m not a huge tequila fan but still enjoyed it.
While I was sampling the drinks, Matt brought out a couple appetizers for us to try. First up were Grub’s Brussels sprouts, which are roasted, then fried and then tossed in a chipotle-lime vinaigrette and topped with queso fresco. These things were fantastic! They were bright-green, crisp with just a hint of sweetness balanced by the acidity of the lime. We’re both big fans of Brussels sprouts when done right, and these were definitely in the “done right” category.
The other appetizer was the Luau Fries (above), Grub’s take on cheese fries, with pineapple, pulled pork, Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce, and, of course, lots of cheese. These are not something that we would have ordered, in large part due to the pineapple, but they’re worth taking a chance on. The pulled pork was very tender, and the pineapple paired nicely with the zing in the barbecue sauce and the grilled jalapeño topping.
Soon the burgers started arriving. I started off with a You’re My Boy Blue, Grub’s version of a bleu cheese burger. In addition to the delicious bleu cheese, there are caramelized onions, tomato and arugula. I enjoyed the burger but decided to remove some of the arugula, because it was throwing the flavor balance off.
Heather had a Voo Doo Mushroom, which features mushrooms sautéed in absinthe. That was a very tasty addition, and while the absinthe flavor was certainly present, it didn’t overpower the Swiss cheese and Tabasco mayo. Instead, it just added a little depth to the earthy flavor of the mushrooms.
The next round of burgers were the Jive Turkey and Grub’s burger of the month, the Cuban (above). Both are nontraditional burgers, with ground turkey and ground pork patties respectively.
The Jive Turkey is, essentially, an avocado club sandwich in burger form. It was very well done, and while I could appreciate it, it wasn’t something that I’d order again. That’s not to say that it was bad, because it wasn’t. It’s just not for me.
The Cuban, on the other hand, was amazing. And it’s a shame that this my visit was the last week that it was on the menu, because that is one killer nontraditional burger. Grub’s take on a Cuban sandwich is a thing of beauty. The ground pork patty was juicy, and the ham, mustard, cheese and pickles all went together well. This is something that I hope, like the Mac ’N’ Cheeseburger, gets promoted to the starting lineup.
We also had a plate of skinny fries, the same fries that are the base of the Luau Fries. They’re the quintessential fry, crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, without being greasy. And nicely salted to boot. The fries were joined by a plate of the onion rings: good crispy texture, onion completely cooked, and not greasy. These two were accompanied by a selection of Grub sauces: Dr. Pepper barbecue, Come Back sauce, jalapeño ranch and chipotle ketchup.
At this point, we asked to try their Greek Chicken Sandwich (above), and Matt happily obliged. It’s Grub’s take on a Mediterranean-style chicken breast sandwich, brined, grilled, and served on pita bread. It was flavorful and juicy, a nice, lighter offering on the menu.
Grub’s idea of dessert is milkshakes, both unleaded and leaded. Which meant that we had to try one of each, for science.
Heather tried out the ET Shake, a peanut butter-and-chocolate concoction, and gave it two thumbs up. It came with a decent-sized peanut butter cookie, which was a rich and chewy surprise.
My Dirty Kitchen Sink, on the other hand, was the shake your mother warned you about. It has chocolate vodka, pretzels, potato chips, caramel, butterscotch sauce, coffee grounds(!), chocolate chips and peanut butter in it. This thing was amazing, and as stuffed as I was, I still wasn’t going to let any of it go to waste. It reminded me of some of the more over-the-top Bloody Marys that have been popping up. It certainly was over-the-top and delicious!
Overall, one thing that stood out from our visit was the imagination put into the flavor pairings in the food. This was our first trip to Grub Burger Bar, but it will not be our last, and we hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.
Grub Burger Bar, 8255 Preston Road, #300, Plano; 972-535-5157. Also at 4925 Greenville Ave. #150, Dallas; 972-370-3636.