I haven’t had the opportunity to eat at Andrew Weissman’s nationally acclaimed French restaurant, le Reve (praised by the NY Times and Texas Monthly), but I have eaten at his burger joint, Big’z. You can’t miss the barn-looking red metal building on Loop 1604 on the NW side of San Antonio. This is a great location and the building has been designed to accommodate a large number of people with indoor and outdoor seating and a safe and large open area out back for kids to play, although I did not see any kids playing there (nor anything for them to play with had they chosen to do so, mind you). The interior is clean and the seating is well-spaced, although the ceiling height is a little out of scale. The earthy ochre and terracotta paint scheme blends well with the corrugated sheet metal wainscot.
But, enough of the building and decor, and on to the food. The menu is pretty simple, though burgers and fries are the main event here. The burgers can be ordered as singles (1/2 lb.), doubles (1 lb.), or a gut-busting triple (1-1/2 lbs.). There are also three sizes of fries that are ordered and served in “cones.” Beer and wine are available, which is a must if this place is to see the likes of people like my dad, who enjoys a beer with practically any food he eats.
Reviewing burgers is a very subjective task. Ask ten people where they get their favorite burger and you are likely to get ten different answers (“my own backyard” being one of them). My personal opinion is that the burgers at Big’z are nothing special. The one thing I appreciate is to be able to get full, and that I did with a single burger and a regular order of fries to split with my wife and son. However, I felt that the burger was under-seasoned, and thus, lacked flavor. Signs at the register and on the menu indicate that the patties will be cooked with a little pink inside unless requested otherwise. I decided to let it be, since I wanted to taste the burger as the chef designed it. Many burger aficionados say that the bun should never detract from the meat. However, as I already mentioned the meat was fairly tasteless. This bun was plain and didn’t even appear to be grilled. In fact, the bottom bun was already soggy when I got it, which is a pretty funky texture on any sandwich. I asked for cheddar on my burger and it, too, lacked flavor. This joint uses Roma tomatoes and Romaine lettuce on their burgers. I found the Romas to be small, few, and a little too ripe for my taste, and the lettuce lacked the crisp texture of iceberg that most people are looking for in their sandwich. You can “Make it Dirty” by adding a fried sunny side up egg on your burger. It enhances the flavor of the angus beef.
In addition to the burgers you can order a Chicken or Veggie sandwich, or a Cobb salad.
I believe the high point here are the fries. They are thick cut, crisp, well-seasoned, and plentiful. There are a number of dipping sauces you can ask for to complement the fries. I chose the chipotle mayonnaise and the basil garlic mayonnaise. I think this is a great idea and unique. However, I found both dips (again) bland and unexciting. The flavors were too subtle, and I think that these dips should really be developed to be made more memorable.
In an interview I read with Weissman, he claims to “believe in minimal manipulation…to coax out the essential excellence” of ingredients. While this may be true of le Reve, my opinion is that this restaurant misses the boat here. Overall, the restaurant is a good place for family gatherings with decent food. However, if you are looking for a great burger, there are much better places to go.