When we put together the DFW.com Burger Battle bracket for 2015, we included Big John’s Burgers and Beer, a popular Weatherford spot, figuring that if we were going to include Dallas burger joints 30-plus miles to the east of Fort Worth, we should look west as well.
While the Burger Battle was going on, Shep’s Place opened in Weatherford. That’s not a non sequitur: The owner of Shep’s place is John Shepherd, who was also the namesake of Big John’s — Shepherd is 7 feet tall — but left that restaurant in 2014 during a rancorous dispute with a business partner.
Shepherd had other restaurant cred — he was on the ground floor at Wild Mushroom, along with Jerrett Joslin, who’s still there — but the Big John’s difficulties led to him to leave the restaurant business for nearly a year before he opened Shep’s Place in a radically refurbished Dairy Queen in late summer.
Whatever problems Shepherd had in the past, they don’t seem to be affecting his business at Shep’s Place, which was jumping on a recent Tuesday evening. It was a cold night, but there were some diners on a spacious deck-style patio, and the inside was a mix of singles hanging out at the bar and families surrounded by loads of hangout kitsch — retro video games, quotes from ’80s movies, Scrabble tiles spelling out things like “pickles,” and lots of “Star Wars” references — Shepherd is a big fan of the franchise. Somewhat literally big: He owns a Chewbacca costume in which he says he stands 7 foot 6. Let the Wookiee win.
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Despite all that size talk, Shep’s Place has a fairly modest menu: a half-dozen appetizers, a few salads, and a selection of sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs. The servings themselves are pretty heaping, but given how nutty some burger joints have gotten, a menu with fewer than a dozen burgers is almost minimalist these days.
We kicked things off with an order of onion rings ($4) and one of fried green beans ($6). The onion rings were among the best we’ve had, with a crisp, slightly peppery coating that never wilted, and some solid, spunky onion within. The green beans were good, if naturally a little more wilty, but we kept ignoring them in favor of the rings. Both came with two sides of ranch dressing; the rings didn’t need the help.
The burger menu might be relatively small, but it has a sense of adventure. The Original With Cheese is about as minimalist as it gets; most of the burgers follow the more “gourmet” route (such as the Presbaugh Burger, which comes with cream cheese and pickled jalapeño).
We tried the Big Kahuna ($9) a patty topped with Swiss cheese, grilled pineapple and two “slabs” (the menu’s word) of grilled Spam. It’s a nicely done Hawaiian tribute, with a juicy (and eventually messy) patty, with the sweetness of the fruit playing off the slight smokiness of the Spam and an almost nutty flavor to the cheese. It was also big enough that my friend who ordered it was able to take half of it home to his wife.
At our server’s recommendation, we opted for the Cowboy Dog over the intriguing-sounding German Shepherd Dog (all hot dogs are $8). The Cowboy is a quarter-pound Black Angus frank topped with pulled pork and pickled okra; the pork had a nice, subtle spiciness but threatened to overwhelm the hot dog. The beef flavor of the frank came through, although it fared best when a bite or two was pulled away from the pork.
The okra was a nice touch, but getting all of it in one mouthful was a bit of a challenge; the poppy-seed bun held up to the mess. Accompanying fries were OK, with enough flavor and texture to pass the don’t-need-the-ketchup test, but given the option next time, we’ll go with the onion rings.
Service was surprisingly solicitous — we didn’t feel like we’d been waiting long for our burger/hot-dog order when our server came over, apologized for forgetting to put it in, and offered to comp that portion of the meal (which then came to the table in about three minutes).
Shepherd himself came over to apologize; it’s his place, after all, and he wants guests to feel at home. But even our home doesn’t have this many knickknacks or video games in it.
- 816 S. Main St.
- Facebook: Shepsplacewford
- 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday