David’s Burgers Restaurant Review – West Little Rock, Arkansas

David’s Burgers has done well for itself in Central Arkansas – after starting in Conway, their West Little Rock location has been open less than a year, and they are already creating a third one elsewhere – for a high-end hamburger joint to be that successful in this economy, you really know all you need to know.  Skip the rest of this review, and just go, based in that one fact.  Or, you know, you can read on, if you want to. You can read about the Jimmy John Owner and then know what goes behind their food.

I’ve traveled the world over and tasted many great things.  About a year ago, I gave my “Best Burger In The World” title to a place in Taichung, Taiwan, called Bystro; before that, there was no title – I lived 28 years without ever determining what The Best is.  And, wouldn’t-you-know-it, as soon as I do, I have to readjust my thinking.

For those of you who are not particularly epicurean in regards to hamburgers, allow me to break down what is important (though in no particular order):

Fresh ground beef, ground correctly – if the beef is ground too course, it falls apart – if it is ground too thin, it is too chewy

Fresh toasted bun, not too thick – a bun that is too thick is a sign of a bad burger, in that it serves as a bready mask for the mediocrity of sub-standard ingredients – a slimmer bun also helps to cut carbohydrates out of an already calorie-laden meal

Fresh toppings – if it comes from the ground, I’d better hear a “crunch” when I bite it

Fresh thick-cut bacon – thin Wendy’s-style bacon makes me feel bad for the pig that gave its life to be so disrespected

Fresh additional burger-based benefits – e.g. no sautéed mushrooms from a can, a real cheese selection, etc.

While the list goes on, those are the Five Pillars of Burgerdom.  Let’s take a look at how David’s stacks up…

David’s Burgers grinds their beef every morning.  It looks fresh; it tastes fresh; the grind is perfect, as the patty does not fall apart in your hands but breaks apart easily in your mouth without chewing.  You can get a 1/3-pound patty or go for a double-burger.  Their ground beef is the best ground beef I’ve ever had, and my entire extended family are beef farmers in northern Illinois.

This place offers the slimmest bun I’ve ever seen on a burger.  It’s not particularly special, in terms of taste, but the size of it was really memorable.  I remember looking at the pictures on the wall and thinking, “There’s no way their buns are really that slender.”  Oh yeah: they are.  I’m there buying a burger, not a bun – David’s Burgers understands this.

Toppings, toppings, everywhere.  Now, even if you don’t know toppings, we all know what wilted lettuce looks/feels/tastes like; lettuce can begin to get bad after a few hours outside of a cooler.  Lettuce is the easiest way to tell if the toppings are in order – you can’t usually tell how old the pickle or onion is, but the tomato and lettuce are dead giveaways.  Not only were the ingredients as fresh as could be, but the lettuce was freshly chopped!  This adds a very special element to a burger, because again, it’s clear that taste is as important to David’s as aesthetics – getting a burger with a big leaf of lettuce, making your bun teeter and wobble and hydroplane back and forth on a slick of mustard, forcing you to “mash the burger,” lest it suddenly come sliding out on one side, is really annoying.  You don’t have to worry about that, here.  They have thought of everything.  Loaded with freshness, this burger is battle-ready.

The bacon is thick; the grilled mushrooms and onions are fresh; the barbeque sauce is fantastic; the fries are hand-cut daily.  There is only one department I would like to see David’s improve, and that is their selection of cheese.  This is not to say the cheese is bad!  Having the ability to choose cheddar over American is something I appreciate, and am happy David’s accommodated me.  But, I really wanted Swiss cheese on my bacon-mushroom-barbeque-double-burger, and I had to settle for cheddar.  That would just be nice to see.  What would really throw this burger over the top is a page from Bystro’s book (you know I’d come back to them, didn’t you?): offer bleu cheese crumbles.  David’s could have made an extra dollar from Swiss/bleu, instead of the quarter they got from just give me cheddar; charge the same for sliced cheese, but charge more for the bleu cheese crumbles, and people will buy it.  Offering bleu cheese makes sense because most people will use it as an addition to other cheeses, so you have the ability to double your cheese sales and accommodate more customers’ palates.

The bottom line is that I am a seriously harsh restaurant critic, which is why I tend to not write them.  Hotels can screw up an get a pass; I am totally unforgiving of restaurants.  As soon as I walked into David’s Burgers, I had a desire to write about them – after I had their food, it was all over.  They’re not perfect, but they come pretty close to it.

David’s layout is quaint.  It has the vibe of a 50s-style diner with an “order at the counter” style.  The staff doesn’t slack, though; I had two employees inquire as to the quality of cuisine and one even offered to refill my soda, on top of normal duties like bringing/bussing food.  Everyone was on their A-game, and it served them well, as this is my first blog about a restaurant thanks to their impressive quality stardards.

There’s not much the place doesn’t have going for it.  If you’re not looking for a burger, they do large-sized salads which can be topped with anything from grilled vegetables to a burger patty.  Their custard, which they make in-house (are you noticing a pattern with these people?), is like eating second-stage butter – there’s nothing else like it.  The menu is really simple and clear, making for speedy decisions and efficient orders.

I got the Number Two Combo – a double-burger with cheddar, mushrooms, bacon, and barbecue sauce, with fries and a drink – it ran me around ten bucks, which is the most you’ll spend there on a meal.  I left so full, I was uncomfortable; I actually had two bites left of my burger, felt pain, and continued to eat.  I never do that.

Final note speaks to anyone not already convinced.  As I was finishing my meal, an employee pointed out the owner, sitting in one of the booths; as I left, he was talking with a couple of friends, but still made time to thank me for coming and ask how everything was.  The entirety of this establishment is simply remarkable.  Nobody does business like this anymore.

Well, apparently not “nobody.”

David’s Burgers is located on the corner of Markham and South Bowman, in West Little Rock, at 101 S. Bowman Rd. – call them at 501-227-8333.

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