It was a hectic morning, the kind of morning where you are lucky if you even get out the door with matching socks. This day, breakfast was, unfortunately, lost in the shuffle. I jumped in my car and zipped off to work with nary a Pop-Tart in hand to munch on. By the time lunch came rolling around, the tummy grumblies were getting the best of me…I needed something to make up for lost calories. Suddenly, I developed a brilliant plan—include those missed breakfast items with my lunch order. Burgers were suggested by a coworker. Yes, that would do. A burger with bacon, egg, and cheese? Perfect. I had a few minutes to make a quick pick-up from any number of restaurants in the area, and not yet having tasted the fruits of The House in Hillcrest, I decided to drop in for a quick bite.
I phoned in my order, which consisted of a bacon, egg, and cheese burger with sweet potato fries. I emphasized a couple things to the gentleman receiving my wishes, the burger needed to be pink in the center, ideally cooked to a nice, juicy medium. No overcooked beef, I didn’t care if it was still mooing. So long as it was pink, I’d be happy. Second, I’d like the egg runny…like, getting-all-over-my-hands runny. Not too much to ask, right?
The end result was a mixed bag of pleasantries and pities. First, the honorable aspects of the House burger deserve recognition. The bun is beautifully done. No surprise, they source their feather-soft brioche from Boulevard Bread (the same bun you’ll find supporting the fine burgers at the Root Café, of which I have previously professed my love with a nearly-excessive number of superlatives). The golden, lightly-buttered brioche does a quick stint on the griddle and shows up to the party in fine form. If I could bring a slightly larger version of one of these buns home, I’d be inclined to use it for a pillow while sleeping at night. Other positive notes: the vegetables were crisp, bright, and tasty. The smear of house-made mayo, while in slight excess, was appropriately tangy, rich, and herbaceous. It made the burger rather sloppy, unwieldy, and difficult to handle, but it was still a welcome addition.
The negatives. First off, there was no bacon, which, as I mentioned, played a key role in my breakfast-on-burger fantasy. I didn’t notice this flub until I had already left the restaurant with my to-go order in hand and had no time to turn back. Now remember, I had two inner-diva-invoking requests…pink burger, runny egg. Both were a disappointment. The beef was nothing but a dull gray throughout. Not dry, per se, but lacking the gentle weep of rendered cow fat and intramuscular liquid I so desire in the ideal burger. The overdone egg remained flavorful, as even a hard yolk is a cholesterol-laden treasure, but the yolk ran less than a 1994 Nancy Kerrigan after figure skating practice. Maybe I’m splitting hairs here that others would sooner leave intact, but in a city like Little Rock , where burger options abound, you’re allowed to be selective. In the end, I was still pleased with The House’s burger, but it simply failed to wow me.
Lastly, the sweet potato fries deserve some mention. It is nearly impossible to forgo food comparison in certain situations and in this case, The House’s version immediately sparks comparison to Big Orange’s near-legendary fries. The sweet potato fries are waffle-cut, similar to Big O’s, but are slightly thinner and larger. They are sprinkled with a healthy dose of course sea salt and arrive in a large, generous heap with each burger order. They are accompanied by The House’s own riff on curry ketchup, incorporating chunks of apricot rather than the mango made famous by their competitor. I occasionally feel that sweet potato fries are a bit gimmicky, but for some reason diners seem to nearly wet their pants with excitement whenever they are on the menu, like they are some exotic creation hand-delivered to mortals by the Greek gods all the way from the peak of Mt. Olympus. They’re only potatoes…and they are on menus everywhere. But sometimes, as in the case of The House’s fine specimens, I understand why they have become so incredibly popular.
With a few tweaks, or perhaps even on a different day, I could see The House burger exceeding my expectations. This day, it did not, but I will admit to being sufficiently satisfied with my order and no longer lamented my breakfast missed. I’ll return for another round at The House, but next time I may extend myself beyond the burger…the beer-battered fish and chips having caught my attention most last time I perused the menu.
722 N. Palm St.