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Pulling into the parking lot of Datsaburger, the relatively new faux-50s themed burger joint in Bryant, we asked ourselves if Central Arkansas really needed another place touting high-end burgers. Little Rock’s burger scene is a crowded one, with several locally owned restaurants like Big Orange, the Root Cafe, and Arkansas Burger Company competing with nationally established chains for supremacy in the world of seared ground beef. Things are a little different down I-30 in Saline County, though, with the usual fast food suspects and big-box franchises making up the bulk of restaurant choices in Bryant, and so we were excited to see a new, locally-owned restaurant open up advertising burgers that their website describes as being made with “the best quality products” served up with “excellent customer service.” The dining area, all black and white tile with chrome and red trim looked promising, if a little hokey.

Datsaburger is one of those “order at the counter” places, and the menus were large and easily visible. Deciding to let the place do what they claimed to do best, we ordered the Datsaburger ($4.59) with a slice of pepper jack cheese for another $0.65. And since Datsaburger’s tagline is “Home of the Bottomless Basket of Fries,” we went for the fries-and-a-drink upgrade ($3.49), making our total combo fairly reasonable for a mid-price burger place. Wanting to try some of the non-beef portions of the menu, we also ordered the Datsa Razorback Burger ($5.49), a pork burger covered in grilled onions and barbecue sauce. Our cashier handed us a couple of styrofoam cups and we headed over into the main seating area to take a look around.

The first thing that struck us about the dining room at Datsaburger was a decent sized toppings bar…that was barely filled with anything at all. Two stainless steel pans held some of the saddest, palest slices of tomato I’ve ever seen and a limp pile of shredded iceberg lettuce that was light green and flecked with beige. A few other smaller containers contained jalapenos, pickles, raw onion, and a couple of bottles of mustard and mayonnaise — and we were skeptical that the swiftly melting ice in the bar could keep these ingredients cold enough to stay fresh. We stared at this sad state of affairs for some time, feeling the growing sense of dismay that comes when you know you’re in for far less than you bargained for.