Editor's Note: The following is The Big Spoon, an opinion column on San Antonio's food and drink scene.
The Kozy Burger, $10, from Tucker's Kozy Korner's Jeff White, formerly the executive chef at Boiler House.
As we continue our tour of “Inflation is real, and food costs more money than it used to,” we pivot our attention to burgers.
San Antonio loves a good burger. Just recently the West Side’s Papa’s Burgers made national headlines for being named one of the top 10 burgers in the country – and the only one in the San Antonio area to make the cut. The restaurant has been flooded with new clients, which has led to a public apology by founder Robert Walker about the restaurant’s response to the onslaught of burger fans.
“We substituted the quality of the experience that we’re known for for the ‘rush’ of quantity in business,” Walker wrote in the San Antonio Restaurants Facebook group.
Again, San Antonians love burgers. It never fails that we’ll get plenty of impassioned comments on any burger article we write or any list we try building.
Price points are always a point of contention. What qualifies as a good burger and where exactly that burger is served are variables that San Anto takes to heart.
Over at Tucker’s Kozy Korner, Jeff White’s lean kitchen staff was about to lose another employee because of erratic sales. For all intents and purposes, the long-standing bar doubles as a comfort food joint with burgers and sandwiches high on the list of what’s served. At $10, the Kozy Burger defies gravity with two patties, double cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and house-made pickles, served with fries or tater tots. It’s a worthy adversary for any big appetite and probably one of the best burgers in town.
If chefs are trained to allocate 30 percent of their costs to food, labor and overhead, items such as burgers can help spread out those numbers.
“Someone has to spend hours slicing cucumbers, so [we] might as well fry them and serve them as appetizers, same for fries,” White says.
The dizzying math also takes place over at Bexar Pub, the new home of the Folc Burger, 2016’s No. 1 burger in all of Texas as declared by Texas Monthly
(which I helped compile). Folc was a New American restaurant in Olmos Park, which was first opened in 2014 by chef Luis Colon and business partner Daniel Eisenhauer.
In 2016, when the burger’s standing was announced, Colon and Eisenhauer faced the same deluge of burger seekers as Walker has this month. That turned into a clash of audiences – those who were familiar with Folc’s concept and those who weren’t and were expecting a completely different experience and not an $18 burger.
Now featured at Bexar Pub (Folc closed after an electrical fire and has been in litigation limbo for almost a year), the “best burger in the state” still adds pork belly to a brisket patty, combined with house-made pickles, Folc sauce, American cheese and a fried egg. At $12, the burger isn’t cheap, and if you’re truly hungry, the Bexar Burger adds another patty, along with onion, lettuce and tomato for $14. The buns aren’t house-made, and might feature maligned iceberg, but the flavors are still worth seeking.
The burger, first created at one of the city’s best restaurants, now lives inside its sister bar at Bexar Pub in a completely different side of town that comes with its own obstacles.
“It’s like an invisible line that keeps people from coming here,” Colon said recently.
After spending several months opening another bar in Lubbock (just off the main drag, and filled with plenty of college students and staff), Colon came back to San Antonio recently to find the patio bar broken into, ransacked and an entire safe lifted from the property.
“Sad to say, it’s getting harder and harder to make a proper buck,” wrote Colon on his Facebook wall.
Stuff happens, and Richard Peacock Jr., the new owner of Chris Madrid’s, would know.
Last October, the 40-year-old burger institution suffered smoke damage and has been operating out of their new food truck, which launched in December and houses guests under two large tents that make up their mulch-lined dining room.
The tostada burger will set you back less than $9, and fans of nostalgia will still think it’s tasty. But don’t let the nostalgia stop you from exploring other burgers worth your attention.
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