There area a multitude of opportunities to obtain gourmet and handcrafted burgers in The Woodlands, you could do a lot worse than Grub Burger Bar *cough*Jerry Built*cough* in Research Forest. But you might find yourself hard-pressed to do much better. Though it's been a while since we attempted to find the best burger in The Woodlands, and since that past adventure, a few of our favorites have sadly, ceased to exist, while other new restaurants have opened their doors and we have yet to give them a try. That being said, Grub Burger Bar definitely deserves to be on the short-list of where in The Woodlands to get a great burger. The interior of Grub Burger Bar is eclectic, yet simple. Cutting edge, yet cold. There's not a lot of color splashed around, what with the exposed-concrete floors, butcher-block tables, steel stools, and black bench booths along the walls.
There are some interesting canvases with select song lyrics from artists such as Dave Matthews and Pink Floyd on the walls, along with music by the same variety of artists playing (sometimes quite loudly) over the sound system. We have to say we're not real fans of the service method setup at Grub. It's that counter-service similar to fast food vendors like Whataburger. And they certainly aren't the only restaurants to, I hate to say offer because it's really nothing more than simple service. Yucatan Taco Stand, Beck's Prime, and Fuddrucker's do it too - there may or may not be menus available at the door, you have to go to the counter to order and pay for your meal, whereupon you're given one of those familiar locater pucks. Sure, they are flashy with their blinking lights and the table-dance when your food is ready but, that only means you have to go back to the pickup window to retrieve your meal. Not quite the same story at Grub Burger Bar.
So, blingy thing in hand, we happily scamper off to find a table. Provided that we don't make that first turn we pass by the drink bar, serve your own drinks before choosing a table. The modern, wireless system alerts the staff that you've settled on a table, letting them know where to bring your meal when it is ready - rather than you having to retrieve it from the window yourself. Where things get odd - for us, anyway - is when a server typically comes around to ask if you need anything, and let you know they'll be bringing the meal. You're already sitting at your table, soft drink in hand. If you've come in to eat, you likely bypassed the full-service bar, and probably didn't think to order an adult beverage (if you want one) at the register, so we suppose there is some convenience in having a server come to you at this point, if you want a beer or cocktail. But in our experience each time we've been to Grub, there's hardly time to get even one drink ordered and brought to you before your meal arrives.
Our point is this: if you want to stick around for drinks, you may find yourself more comfortable sitting at the bar itself, where the meal is full service, and a tab can be more easily tracked. And if that is your plan, well, then there's no real reason to approach the main counter when you first arrive. You see how this can be a bit confusing, right?
Anyway - on to the review. We've dined three or more times at Grub since they opened in late August, but held off on a write-up until we'd given them ample time to work out any new-kid-on-the-block-jitters and get settled in. That, and we've been busy, to be honest. But we'll give you a run-down on a few of the burgers we have sampled over the course of those visits...
If you've been reading us for any length of time, you know my "go-to burger" includes bacon and cheese. Grub Burger Bar kicks this favorite of mine up a notch by also adding in some Dr.-Pepper-barbecue-sauce and not one but two Shiner beer-battered onion rings, along with some fresh pickles to their half-pound, certified Angus burger, served within a soft, fresh-every-hour, in-house baked bun. Each time I've had a burger here (another variety I've tried is the Ghost burger, with Pepper Jack cheese, ghost chili sauce, grilled jalapeños, lettuce and tomato) the beef has been consistently juicy and cooked medium well. They've not been dripping with juices, but they're certainly not dry. And the mild blend of seasonings in the beef do not over-power the meat at all, but rather enhance the flavor well.
Under the "Burgers That Don't Moo" section of the menu, my favorite non-beef selection, the Jive Turkey, is a 100% turkey breast, ground and pesto-seasoned patty, with bacon, Swiss, sprouts, avocado, and chipotle aioli on a wheat bun ($8.25). It sounds healthier than a beef burger, but I'm guessing the caloric benefits are marginal at best. And though you may not be up for a turkey burger in the days before or after Thanksgiving, don't write it off entirely - you don't know what you'll be missing if you do. The introduction of the pesto into the ground turkey is a wonderful addition, punching up the flavor of the meat far better than simply spreading pesto onto the patty before topping it off with the bun. Likewise, the chipotle aioli is a far better flavor enhancer than any "traditional" catchup or mustard could be to this sandwich. My recommendation - go for a beef burger this week; come back next week for the turkey.
And if you should have someone in your party that would really prefer to not have a burger - or any sandwich - at all, well, that's fine, too. Grub Burger Bar offers a limited but varied menu of sides, such as Tabbouleh, Harlem Chicken Tenders, Ahi Tuna steak and more; and salads both small and large, with larger salad options like the Napa, Greek, Pesto Turkey Cobb, and Ahi Tuna Salad, all served with in-house made dressings. See? Even hard-to-please Aunt Debby and Uncle Carl will approve.
This was the best Turkey Burger I've had in quite some time. I could do with less grass (sprouts) on my next one but, there will be a next one. I've also had the same Turkey Burger served up as a salad. Pesto Turkey Cobb - Sliced pesto turkey burger, mixed greens, hand chopped bacon, bleu cheese, avocado, egg, red onion and tomato with a choice between jalapeño ranch or balsamic vinaigrette ($10.5). Seriously, all Turkey Burgers should be made the same way.
The OMG Burger - a Texas chili, Grub skinny fries, cheddar cheese, chopped onions and mustard ($7.75); on their house-made bun. "Oh My God"; a; slang term that gets tossed around like an old high school gymn towel. Nothing about this burger was 'Oh My' anything, the bun (at the time) was a bit dense, for my taste. I'm partial to the buns that other vendor's we know serve, Sheila Partin's Bakery makes some very tasty bread. The burger patty was good, and the chili was a little dissapointing. The sweet potato fries were tasty but nothing special. Oh, and about the name of this burger. "OMG" is not what comes to mind when I think about the Chili Cheeseburger at Grub Burger Bar in The Woodlands.
Grub Skinny Cheese Fries are topped with monterey jack and cheddar cheese, ($7) chopped bacon, and jalapeños, jalapeño ranch dip. Made from scratch chili and chopped onions + 1.75. Grub Skinny fries are just that, skinny, they have no skin at all. How skinny are they? I've got toothpicks that are thicker; than grub skinny fries. Cook time in the deep fryer can't be more than 30 seconds and even; then, there isn't any potato left; that is not crispy. This is actually a pretty tasty combo and a great way to keep those skinny fries warm a little longer. The onion rings are much better than the fries. They are usually made from the larger diameter slices and while crispy, the batter can be a bit thick
Luau Fries Braised pulled pork, monterey jack and cheddar cheese, grilled pineapple, jalapeños, teriyaki & BBQ sauce. Served with jalapeño ranch dressing. ($8.5). Really? That's enough to make a meal - it's a large sized serving. Certainly enough calories to cover you for one meal. And before I go any further, I have not sampled the Laua Fries Appetizer, and honestly, have no plans to do so.
Ok, so maybe the 'skinny' in the name 'grub skinny fries' refers to the serving not having any toppings other than the aforementioned shake mix ($2.5).
She said that the shoestring fries leave a little (he says "a lot") to be desired. On the one hand, they come served up hot, with a nice garlicky seasoned blend of spices. And because they are so thin, they are nicely crispy and have yet to arrive soggy. But also because they are so thin, they get cold within minutes of hitting the table, and that's disappointing.
With alcohol or without, traditional or hand-crafted, all of the milkshakes we've sample thus far have been great. Note our use of the word "sampled." Because while you may really, really want to drink the whole thing, the meals are filling enough at Grub Burger that you likely won't be able to finish off a whole shake along with a meal. Which isn't to say it might not be a bad idea to stop in and grab a shake for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up. And let's just get this right out of the way: we both tried a "Kitchen Sink" shake. You're welcome. It sounds a little scary - vanilla ice cream with pretzels, peanut butter, salt, butterscotch sauce, caramel sauce, chocolate chips, coffee grounds(!), and potato chips(!!), but trust us - once you get past your brain telling you that just doesn't compute, your taste-buds will thank you and ask what took you so long to try it while you brain screams WTFWS!?
Think we got it wrong? Or did we hit the nail on the head? Let us know in the comments below. And remember, you don't have to take our word for it - give them a try for yourself and decide!
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