San Antonio has another burger master on the rise, and this one is entirely self-taught.
Christian Hawx, the 24-year old owner of Hawx Burger Bar and Electro Lounge on Vance Jackson Road, previously worked four jobs simultaneously to support his self-started, struggling insurance company. The persistence paid off. So much so, that he was able to sell the company at a profit and open a restaurant this past February that is now growing a rapt audience for its burgers, cocktails and beer.
Set in an unassuming beer-garden style establishment about a mile inside Loop 410, Hawx’s place, during the day, appears to be your typical, quiet (sometimes empty — hey, they’re still relatively new) wood-paneled burger joint and sports bar. However, on weekend nights, the DJs and lasers come out, tables are removed for dancing and heavy bass beats blast through the summer night’s breeze.
So how exactly does an insurance broker become a restaurateur? Pretty much by accident. Hawx was entertaining friends one night, cooking dinner. He made burgers. They raved. He listened.
“I always was interested in how you make things from scratch,” says Hawx, on why he thinks his burgers stand out.
That curiosity led him to grind the meat himself, mix the spices by hand and play around with ingredients and flavors.
His meticulousness shows, with an Angus chuck burger that’s savory and juicy (“Order it medium or medium-well for optimum flavors,” suggests Hawx.). Want cheese? You’ll get two slices, not one — hand-sliced, at that. The veggies? They’re fresh from local area farmers and all hand-sliced in-house, as well. And you’ll find those veggies on the bottom of the burger, not the top, so they keep the bottom bun from getting soggy. Yeah, he thought of that, too, or as he puts it, “There’s a method to my madness.”
And then there are the buns. Oh, those buns. When told that the presentation of his burgers is what first attracted our attention, he points out that his buns are made from scratch in the kitchen daily. You’ll find two types on the menu – one is a shiny, fluffy brioche topped with both white and black sesame seeds, well buttered and delicious. The other is a whole-wheat brioche variety, complete with a smattering of toasted oats on top, also impeccably slathered with butter.
The establishment boasts 12 different burgers and sandwiches, each with its own unique blend of flavorful ingredients and toppings. Hawx’s favorite item on the menu is The Norteño burger.
“It’s what burgers want to grow up to be,” he correctly surmises.
Inspired by the rich flavors of Mexico (his mom, a doctor, is from Monterrey, and Hawx is a first-generation Texan), the Norteño was the first burger he created. Cheddar and Oaxaca cheese, hickory-smoked ham, avocado, applewood smoked bacon, grilled onions, grilled jalapeños and homemade chipotle aioli all adorn this masterpiece. It’s a spicy, pungent and over-the-top celebration for the senses.
A quick shout-out to the supporting players: Hawx has done it with the accompaniments, too. There’s the Blue Moon-battered onion rings, fried pickles and something called jalapeño roulette that we will most definitely be returning for. But most importantly, the fries. Are they wedges? Are they curly fries? Yes and yes. And, yes, they’re delectable. Sure, you can have them “Simply Salted.” But why the hell would you when there’s something called Asiago Truffle Fries on the menu. Oh, yes. They’re as good as they sound. Better, even.
You want a good place to watch a game? Come here and check out the huge wall-size screen you can’t miss when you walk in. If that’s not your scene — it really wasn’t ours — then maybe wait for the weekend and check out the music and dancing.
But don’t worry. Any time you come, those burgers will be waiting.
Hawx Burger Bar, 2603 Vance Jackson Road, (210) 320-4299, 11am-midnight Mon-Wed; 11am-2am Thu-Sun