Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
As the fast-casual burger concepts continue to spread across the nation, Arkansas has certainly not been left in the dark. With the recent arrival of Mooyah out of Dallas along with the success of Virginia chain Five Guys, the days of being subjected to The King or The Clown for a quick burger are no more. Additionally, with the expansion of the Southern California sensation, In-N-Out, to Texas last May, with more locations springing up regularly, it seems only a matter of time until Arkansas will gain its very own “Animal Style” outlet. I was in Dallas last year when the In-N-Out burger bomb hit the city, and if you thought people were going nuts for Chipotle, just wait until you see the burger freaks who camp out for a Double-Double. I expect Arkansas will see other burgeoning national and regional burger chains as well in the not-so-distant future, such as Denver’s Smashburger.
What draws patrons to these popular burger establishments is the promise of fresh food, made to order menus, and a comfortable atmosphere without the need to drop a hefty chunk of change on a decent meal. But do the local guys sometimes get lost in the shuffle? Many of the small, locally owned shops are putting out excellent food with the consistency and efficiency you would expect from the most well-oiled chain operations.
One such joint that should never be discounted is David’s Burgers. Walking into the Little Rock location of David’s for the first time, it’s difficult not to make comparisons to some of the other fast-casual burger chains. The color schemes, the bright and cheery young employees, the honest, straight-forward menu, even the diverse but happy clientele…it’s easy to picture this place as a very successful national chain. However, I feel David’s easily rises above the doldrums of chainhood. They are making burgers not only efficiently and at a great value, they are producing a product that exceeds the big chains in flavor and freshness, and doing it with the heart and soul of a locally-owned business.
The freshness of David’s beef should never be in question. They are so transparent in their handling and processing of the ground beef that finds its way between your buns, it makes you wonder what’s going on at the other places behind closed doors. David’s proudly displays all their beef, hand-cut and ground in house, in a brightly lit display for all to see as they enter the restaurant. The entire cooking process occurs in full view of the customers. Your likely to see a young man or woman stationed behind a blazing hot flat-top in the center of the kitchen, stoically slapping large balls of bright red ground beef across the hot metal, steam billowing up into his or her face like an angry geyser waiting to blow. Yet, I could not help but watch in admiration, thankful to these young burger warriors for taking time out from their night to provide me with my guilty pleasure. It gives me hope for this country.
And the taste? Excellent. I’m not going to say this is the greatest burger I’ve ever eaten in my life. But I will say it trumps any of the aforementioned chains with ease. The beef is cooked exactly how a thin, flat-top burger should be cooked, and has just the right fat to protein ratio. The beef remains tender and juicy, without being saturated with grease. The fries are not to be overlooked either…crispy, golden exterior and tender interior, and lots of them to each order. They make In-N-Out’s fries seem more like Styrofoam than potatoes (actually, that’s not very difficult to do).
Support the local guys. Arkansas is no stranger to chains, but we would all be better off if we could continue to see the homegrown businesses flourish a little more. There are swarms of brilliant, talented chefs, cooks, and bakers in this state and many of them simply need fertile soil in which to spread their culinary roots.
David's Burgers (2 locations):
101 S Bowman Rd, Little Rock -and- 201 Skyline Dr. #1100, Conway
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