Before you visit J’s Casa Burger, the city’s hot new burger restaurant, keep one thing in mind: It’s not really a restaurant.
Housed in a former fried-chicken drive-thru in River Oaks, Casa Burger is more of a burger stand. Take the “stand” part literally: There’s nowhere to sit, save for a single folding table outside. Until a planned patio materializes, you have two options: Get your burger to go, or use the sidewalk or your car as a dining table.
Part of Casa Burger’s charm comes from the sense of community it forces its patrons to create. A recent Saturday night saw a vast swath of people gathered in the parking lot, eating burgers and fries in the backs of their trucks, on the sidewalks, on the hoods of their cars. There’s something very Fort Worth about people of all ages and races eating burgers side by side; picture Kincaid’s outdoors.
This is owner Jesus Gerardo Garcia’s third burger venture. Local burger aficionados may recall his first restaurant, Burgitos, a burger and Tex-Mex gem on White Settlement Road. After a year, he closed it and moved into a smaller place with more traffic: a gas station on busy River Oaks Boulevard.
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Thanks to a mannequin Garcia propped up on the street, holding a “Best burgers in Fort Worth” sign, DFW.com discovered his burgers, and he landed a spot in the 2015 Burger Battle (ultimately, Casa Burger lost to Fred’s Texas Cafe in a close battle).
Earlier this year, Garcia moved out of the gas station and into a nearby former Church’s Chicken. The smaller his spaces become, the more his business booms: A swirl of people is constantly gathered around his new spot.
Garcia’s burgers are mostly of the old-fashioned variety. Thin, USDA 1/3 -pound patties are hand-formed and topped with fresh vegetables, bacon and American cheese. A few have cool little twists: The Hawaiian burger is topped with pineapple and ham; the Mexican burger comes with salsa verde; the Cowboy comes splashed in barbecue sauce.
Of the three burgers we tried, we were least impressed with the Casa burger ($7.15), a double-patty offering topped with bacon, Thousand Island dressing, lettuce and raw onions. Thin patties are difficult to cook any style but well-done, as was the case here, but these patties were too dry, and if there was seasoning present, we couldn’t taste it.
Far better was the Mexican burger ($5.99), whose cool mashed-avocado spread helped palliate the fire of a spicy green salsa and sliced jalapeños. Two planks of bacon, criss-crossed over the single patty, boasted of that hard-to-find middle ground between crisp and soft. The patty, too, was good — seasoned well with salt and pepper, its edges brandishing a charred black crust.
The Cowboy burger ($5.99) was likable as well, and would be a good choice for those who like sweet barbecue sauces, which blanketed the patty.
Excellent brioche buns, from Metro Bakery in Haltom City, had more texture and character than typical burger buns. Spongy interiors allowed leg room for toppings, while their firm shells helped keep the burgers intact.
The menu also features chicken sandwiches and a handful of burritos. For sides, there were crisp, golden onion rings ($1.99), frozen but not bad, and thin fries ($1.69) that looked promising, in a McDonald’s sort of way, but were lukewarm and limp.
Ordering can be confusing. Best bet is to ignore the drive-thru and order at the walk-up window. Employees will deliver your food to your car, or wherever you happen to be standing.