The people at Arkansas Burger Co. have been doing things right for years. Winners of multiple Ark. Times Reader's Choice awards, their walls are proudly plastered with the words "best burger" in nearly every corner of the building. A place like this stays relevant within the constant flux of food trends and culinary cultures by sticking with what they know and doing it with consistency, always with genuine gratitude and respect for the customers burning through their paycheck to purchase their products. I'm typically not one to blabber much about a restaurant’s service, unless I've found it particularly intrusive or disturbing, as I've generally been able to overlook a whole heap of service-related sins if the food offered is exceptionally good. That said, I've found the staff at ABC to be some of the most attentive and appreciative folks I've come across in years. I've always felt that they sincerely valued my business and my satisfaction.
While the burgers at ABC are simple, they are respectable. I'm not typically and "thin patty" kind of guy, but I respect this style of burger for what it is and I understand the need to give it space in the overall design of the burger kingdom. The thin patties, when done right, must be seared, quickly on a hot flattop. The outer surfaces must achieve the slight crust of gently scorched cow flesh, while allowing the thin interior to remain tender and juicy, without reaching the point of unforgivable rubber. ABC's burgers adequately fulfill the necessary requirements for a properly prepared thin-patty burger, enough so that, a “thick-and-pink” burger guy like me can easily enjoy one without any complaint. The rest of their burger toppings are standard to most diner-style burgers. Appropriately, they are using thinly shredded lettuce, another "must" in this situation. Their classic bacon-cheeseburger, "The Hog," is chock full of succulent bacon, cooked such that the strips of pork curl and swirl all over itself as it crisps up, then are piled high between the buns. It will make you weep for your vegetarian friends, who may never experience such pleasures.
I was rather perturbed, however, by my order of chili-cheese fries during my last visit. My basket was so overwhelmingly full with chili and mounds of cheddar cheese, the fries were completely overtaken and washed out of the flavor pool. It would have been impossible to eat this dish without a fork (or spoon, for that matter) as it was nearly entirely chili and cheese, with an occasional potato fleck peeking through the heavy, dense red and orange suspension. I could hardly make my way through a quarter of the dish, and afterwards had one of those rare moments of legitimate diner’s remorse, feeling like I should have ordered a side of EKG and a roll of Tums after such a devastating gut-bomb.
Still, Arkansas Burger Co. is a Little Rock classic and deserves the respect of both the casual burgerist and aficionados alike. It’s a place that reeks with character and tradition, and should not be discounted by any making their way through the ever-extending burger parade in central Arkansas.
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