Time was, a good burger was a little harder to find in Little Rock than it is now. When Big Orange opened we remember a friend saying he thought it was a "game changer." Turned out he was right. Everybody's burger had to get better to keep up. Now there's no shortage of good ground meat between buns, and they come cooked a few different ways. There's the aforementioned Big Orange, which seems stately, almost high-falutin' when compared with the simply sizzled and consistent offerings of someplace like The Box. Then there's the grass-fed gorgeousness of The Root, and the pimento-cheese-topped staple at the Capital Hotel.
The real question now is how does any new burger joint distinguish itself enough to stand out from the crowd? Bash Burger Co. in West Little Rock manages, somehow, to pull off the seemingly unlikely: offer something new to the Central Arkansas burger game. Its burgers are, as promised, "hearty," but there's another term we might use to describe them: familiar (but a good kind of familiar, you know?).
They taste like the ones our grandmother used to make for our grandfather at lunch during a workday: flattened out patties given a good cooking, but not enough to dry them out, sandwiched between buttery homemade buns. Mammaw never put mac and cheese on 'em, though. The Bacon Mac n Cheese Burger ($10.99), sure to sound to some as gimmicky, comes off as anything but. Topped with a slice of cheese, an adequate layer of well-done (not too goopy) mac and cheese, and three strips of thick bacon, it's very tasty, and not too much. A side of french fries (included with all burgers) was hand-cut, not over-salted, and fried twice, we'd be willing to bet. They were as fries should be, hot and almost creamy on the inside, with a nice crispy shell.
The macaroni-topped burger was just one of a list of special creations: the Atomic Bomb (jalapenos, bacon, pepperjack cheese and atomic sauce), the Standard Man (queso, grilled jalapenos, bacon, fried onion strings), the Aloha (ham and grilled pineapple) and the Pitmaster (cheddar, pulled pork, barbecue sauce and fried onion strings) are others. But Bash also serves up classic burgers (these come with cheese, which is not mentioned on the menu, so be warned if you frown upon fromage). It's what you'd expect: lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, mayonnaise and mustard. But let's get back to those buns. A chef who ventured out from the kitchen told us they were homemade, which is evident in the tasting. They're yeasty and warm, but not too thick. They remind us of the homemade buns from the old Dixie Diner in Texarkana, a taste we've yet to find nearly anywhere else.
That same chef also told us the fried pickles ($6.99) and the chicken wings ($13.99 for a dozen) we'd scarfed earlier were homemade and hand-battered as well. He told us how Bash had started as a food truck and took pride in making everything at the restaurant. He was modest about the buns, though he needn't be, and was kind enough to remind us that wings are 50 cents on Tuesday nights. We tried two different varieties and left nothing but bare bones. The Diamond Bear BBQ wings could have done with a little more sauce, but the Asian Chili variety was well-covered. They were big, lightly fried, tossed in sauce, and made for a great appetizer. The pickles didn't disappoint, either. As our friend said, fried pickles are pretty much always just fried pickles, but these stood out. Homemade batter helps. When Bash gets its license to sell beer and wine (soon, they promised), they'll go down even better.
Buoyed by our experience, we came back for brunch the next morning. The previous night's meal left us full. But after a solid eight and a dog walk, we were ready to give it another go. It was later in the morning, so burgers won out for most around our table. All were, once again, pleased. We can report there is one absolute standout dish among the brunch offerings. An order of the Sweet and Spicy Chicken ($6.99) will get you three good-sized, hand-breaded chicken tenders drizzled with a honey-based hot sauce, all on top of a few slices of French toast. As someone who has always loved both chicken and waffles but has never been wowed by the combination of the two, this sings to our soul. The tenders were great, fried up in a tasty, but thin and crispy, batter. The toast was thick and came with grill marks. The hot sauce was the perfect combination of sweet and savory. Don't eat this dish every week, but do let yourself eat it once in awhile.
Bash Burger Co.
315 N. Bowman Road, Suite 15
The cheesecake, made with cold-brewed Mylo coffee, was exactly what you'd expect from good, homemade cheesecake. It was thick and stout with a light-to-medium brown crust on the top. Our server told us a partnership was in the offing between Bash and Honey Pies, another popular mobile food establishment. Honey Pies is set to move in next door and take over the desserts, we were told.
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Credit cards accepted, beer and wine coming soon.