Restaurant Reviews: Stackhouse, Liberty Burger, Goodfriend Beer Garden
Three new gourmet burger joints you should get to know.
I will warn you: when crowded, the place can be a bit frenetic. The order-at-the-counter-and-seat-yourself concept with a touch of table service creates a whirling pattern of patrons trying to fill their own drinks while runners with plates of food scout for table markers. Plan your route before you leave your table, and be prepared to bump into someone. You’ll recognize Ms. Street if you bump into her. She’s the sassy blonde with the headset delivering food, chatting with customers, and perhaps on the verge of creating a successful Mariel Street concept. Knowing her father, I’d guess he’s just a tad envious.
Matt Tobin is a big, friendly bear of a guy with tattoo ink that turns his arms into comic books and a bushy black beard that could, one suspects, serve as a fine bird’s nest. The bird would have to tolerate profanity.
“When we leased this building, we didn’t know what the f--- we were going to do,” he says, explaining why it took him and his partner, Josh Yingling, 11 months to open Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House. Yingling previously managed the bar at Vickery Park, on Henderson, which Tobin also owns. After signing the lease, the guys took a trip to see the Mavs play the Bulls. In Chicago, they ate at Kuma’s Corner, a renowned restaurant that serves burgers named after rock bands. That’s when they knew. “We didn’t want to rip them off,” Tobin says. “But it was just the idea of doing a badass beer, badass burger joint.”
Cooking those burgers fell to Jeana Johnson and her partner, Colleen O’Hare. The two run Good 2 Go Taco and were the ones who talked Tobin into signing the lease on the space next door, with the idea being that when the Good 2 Go kitchen finished breakfast and lunch service (at which point it closes), it could then cook for Goodfriend. They pass the food through a window cut into the shared wall.
What comes through that window is, indeed, badass. It is so badass that I personally know a couple who were looking to buy a house in another neighborhood but, after eating the great burgers and drinking the craft beers at Goodfriend, instead bought a house down the street so they could walk to all that badassness.
There is a lot to recommend Goodfriend—a spacious, dog-friendly, pergola-covered patio; a funky, comfortable interior designed with a lot of reclaimed wood; hip music played at a volume that allows conversation; 16 well-edited draft beers (plus many more in bottles)—but the highlight might be the meat, the provenance of which Johnson was still tinkering with as D Magazine went to press. After taste-testing beef from 26 farms across the country, she initially bought her beef from a farm in Missouri. In late January, though, she switched to McKinney-based Local Yocal, which developed what she calls a proprietary blend of beef ground to her specifications. Some of it comes from grass-fed cattle raised at Sloans Creek Farm, in Dodd City, Texas, using no hormones or antibiotics. Some of it comes from wagyu cattle raised by Genesis Beef, also in McKinney. The wagyu are fed ground fruits and vegetables, barley malt sprouts, and brewer’s yeast. Why brewer’s yeast? I can’t tell you. Johnson had no idea when I asked her.
But I can tell you that the burgers themselves are something special. If the term “grass fed” connotes dryness to you, then it shouldn’t. These are thick, juicy patties held firm by a salt-and-pepper-seasoned crust. The buttered and toasted white bun is stout enough to keep The Coop—made with lettuce, tomato, thick-cut bacon, Brie, and an over-easy egg—from turning into a complete mess. The Fungus Among Us is another good option, with its Emmentaler cheese and hen-of-the-woods and oyster mushrooms. Burgers ordered the recommended medium usually arrive with a faintly pink center. In my experience, slight inconsistency here will sometimes produce a rarer patty. All burgers are served on parchment-lined aluminum baking trays. The napkins—good cotton towels intended for polishing glassware—are free, but the sides cost extra. Excellent waffle-cut sweet potato fries are $4. Cabbage feta slaw runs $3.50.
If, on principle, you refuse to pay $10 for a sideless burger; if you are in a hurry and don’t like crowds; if you want food before 5 o’clock, when service begins; if you are affronted by salty language, then Goodfriend isn’t the place for you. The rest of us, we’re pretty happy that Tobin, et al. finally figured out what the f--- they wanted to do.