Happy Thanksgiving! If at some point the whole long day seems like too much fuss for too little payoff and you'd rather just relax with a burger, beer and good deal, Stack City Burger Bar can make that happen.
At least I hope it's happy. Because, while this holiday is a great time on paper, we don't live on paper, and Thanksgiving is fraught with potential pitfalls.
Pasty mashed potatoes and lumpy gravy? Been there. Slaving away at the oven only to wind up with a flavor-challenged turkey that's dry in places, raw in others? Done that. And don't get me started on that "classic" green bean casserole - or the first tipsy person to bring up politics at the table.
If at some point the whole long day seems like too much fuss for too little payoff and you'd rather just relax with a burger, beer and good deal, I feel your pain. If you hang on, Stack City Burger Bar can make that happen tomorrow.
Open since August on the Cap at Union Station, Stack City is the newest, chain-ready creation from the Hyde Park Restaurant Group. Stack City's modus operandi is to riff on familiar burger-based restaurants, but with enhanced ingredients (grass-fed and Ohio-raised meats, hand-cut fries, local craft beers) and a semi-upscale sports pub setting that features wood, upbeat contemporary pop, abundant windows and TVs and a centerpiece, rectangular bar.
Among Stack City's many familiar elements are its bun-bordered logo, which resembles the 1990s Burger King logo, an enormous burger sculpture near the entrance which recalls similar behemoths from Max and Erma's, and numerous menu items.
Regarding the latter, the Big Stack City ($11, note the name), is three - not two - all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese and pickles on a sesame seed bun. Yep, it's the biggest, freshest and best Big Mac you've never had.
Because the meat is grass-fed, it's relatively lean; because it's carefully cooked, it's juicy and textured - even if every patty I sampled was more densely packed, and therefore chewier, than I'd prefer.
The Big Stack City is made with 3-ounce griddled patties, but all other hamburgers come in 6-ounce or 9-ounce versions that are also smash-griddled and thematically garnished.
For instance, the East Coast ($9/$12) - topped with thick slices of serious pastrami, fresh red cabbage slaw, melted Gruyere cheese and zingy mustard - gives Stack City's base hamburger a delightful deli spin.
If beef isn't your thing, opt for burgers made with grass-fed lamb ($9.50), turkey ($8), or even the Brat Burger ($6.50) - a messy but big and satisfying ground sausage patty outfitted with creole mustard, deeply caramelized onions and aged cheddar.
Skipping meat altogether? The house Veggie ($7.50) is a somewhat loose but compelling amalgam of beets, black beans and rice (a la the Northstar Burger) plus corn, carrots, baby kale leaves, jack cheese and a flavorful yuzu and soy glaze.
Staying in the key of healthy good-deal meals, the harmonious Super Salad and Chicken ($8) tosses chopped-thin Brussels sprouts, red cabbage and kale with generous slivers of OK breast meat, toasted cashews and a sweet, poppyseed-like dressing.
If you want a side or starter, the Fried Dill Pickles ($4) in a sweet and puffy batter are justifiably popular. Thin and crisp Housemade Truffle Chips ($3) are another fine pick, although a bit oily.
Sometimes my fries ($3) were crisp, sometimes not. If you get them hilariously slammed in a diet-be-damned fashion with sweet and smoky pulled pork, Cheez Whiz, and diced pickles (High Street Fries, $8), they'll resemble the "Porky Fries" sold at B-Spot, and their crispness will matter considerably less.
If you order the rich and thick Biscoff Milkshake ($6) made with gourmet-grade Belgian Biscoff cookies (think ginger snaps meet graham crackers), selecting it with the bourbon option ($3) will give you something for which you can truly be thankful.