[NOTE: THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED.]
WHY STRONG’S: One would expect a great burger from the founder of mega-chain Chili’s, and at Larry Levine’s latest concept restaurant in the making, Strong’s Everyday Tavern, the man with the golden spatula gets it well done. Or is it more a lovely, rosy medium? Either way, this new Uptown haunt is a highly polished altar built to pay homage to its intended audience: the young urban professional. That means instead of an honest-to-God pub steeped with local lore and bourbon stains, you get Levine’s facsimile: a handsome, two-story space featuring period light fixtures, ebony trim, and white-washed walls as blindingly bright as the bleached teeth that frequent this popular spot. And popular it is, so much so that the noise level reaches ear-bleeding decibels at the height of lunch hour. Strong’s isn’t the place you want to go for sensitive business negotiations or intimate conversation. This is a place for celebrating the big deal or showing your employees a good time.
WHAT TO EAT: The name “Everyday Tavern” should be a tip off. Keep it simple and you won’t go home hungry. Strong’s burgers feature Montana Legend beef, so rich and flavorful that the classic combo of lettuce-tomato-onion-pickle will suffice. But bolder palates will appreciate the tavern’s namesake burger, overflowing with bacon-carmelized onions, Gruyère, blue cheese, and tangy arugula. It’s served on a toasted panini with whole-grain mustard. The Hill Country version with chili and Bucky’s bacon burger with flash-fried leeks and barbecue sauce were equally memorable. But avoid the El Paso burger with its overly sweet guacamole. The same can be said for the dry and under-seasoned Grandma Strong’s meatloaf. (Really? Someone’s grandmother came up with the recipe?) Other hits include a Thai chicken salad with kiwi and mango, the Uptown dog featuring a fat frank from Rudolph’s Deli, and slow-roasted pork ribs tender as they are delicious. Save room for dessert. Strong’s serves only two sweets—coconut and double chocolate cream pies—steeped in dreamy, creamy nostalgia. The chocolate cream pie is the best in town.
WHERE TO SIT: The two-story space is open in concept with the upstairs loft overlooking the first floor. Floor to ceiling windows give Strong’s a bright, airy feel. No matter where you sit, you’ll feel a part of the raucous scene, making conversation difficult. If your business lunch demands a more intimate setting, the covered, street-side patio is as private a space as you’ll find. But no worries: order a tequila flight and join the party.
STRONG’S EVERYDAY TAVERN
2816 Fairmount St.
Burgers and classic pub fare
$ (Average lunch entree price: $11)
Young Uptown pretty people
FULL BAR: Yes