The kitchen is so close to the dining room, you can hear every little noise that spills out of it. The hiss and pop of the grill. Def Leppard on the radio. Fries getting dunked into the fryer.
One sound in particular, though, truly illustrates what you’ll experience at Good Food Co., a small burger joint recently opened in the Riverside Arts District on the east side. And that’s the sound of cook Evan Williams laughing. This is someone who’s clearly having a good time. Over the course of three visits, his audible grinning was a constant, other than the food living up to the name of the restaurant.
With Williams’ laughter booming from the kitchen, it’s difficult to have a bad time at his shoebox-slash-diner, a place that takes you back to when burgers weren’t $15 and topped with arugula and designer mustard. In you’ll squeeze for a good, simple, cheap burger that’ll remind you of Dairy Queen and cookouts and Friday nights.
Word of Williams’ old-fashioned place has spread via a new-fashioned way: social media. No doubt this is deja vu for Williams, whose last venture — a secret, all-night restaurant inside Magnolia Avenue’s Nonna Tata called Black Market Bakery & Grill — grew in the same way, by good digital word of mouth.
This time, he has help from another Magnolia Avenue veteran, Juan Solis of Upper 90 and Tina’s Cocina. Earlier this year, the longtime buddies took over this space, which used to be Greasy Bend Burgers. Not much was done to the interior. There are still only about 12 tables, and you’ll get to know your fellow diners, whether you want to or not. A TV stays glued to sports, and classic rock blares from the kitchen.
What’s changed primarily is the quality of the food. Fresh, hand-formed patties are used for the burgers, and crisp veggies top each one. There are nine beef burgers, with toppings ranging from bacon, mushrooms and cheese. The one veggie option uses a portobello for a patty ($4.25). The menu also features sandwiches, breakfast tacos and two entrees: chicken-fried steak and chicken-fried chicken.
But the burgers are the main draw. There’s nothing remotely fancy about USDA beef or Mrs Baird’s buns or American cheese or planks of bacon, but in Williams’ hands, those ingredients came together beautifully on a bacon cheeseburger ($6).
It was as simple as it was luxurious, with a thin patty that was both rich and smoky, crisp bacon that offered a blast of salt, and a slice of American cheese, still melting on the patty, that added velvety texture. Streaks of yellow mustard were a welcome sight; it was just plain ol’ French’s, as dependable as your pop.
Chicken-fried steak ($8.99) was also very good. A shell of well-seasoned, mildly spicy breading gave way to fork-tender meat that was never stringy or tough. On top came a pool of cream gravy, dotted with pepper. A nice thick piece of Texas toast came on the side.
Fries accompany entrees and cost $1.50 otherwise; they’re well worth it. They’re a rare breed of French fries, finding the perfect balance between thick and thin, crisp and soft. An absolute stunner of a seasoning is generously sprinkled on — a combination of salt, pepper, garlic and other spices Williams hand-picks from south-side seasoning emporium Pendery’s.
Right now, you’ll have to jump through a hoop in order to eat here, as the restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday. Williams says Saturday hours are coming soon, though; “good” news indeed.
Good Food Co.
2919 Race St.
Hours: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday