Casual dining. We all know it—gathered like early man along the asphalt shores of Interstate America. But finding a quality casual meal is not always an easy task. Enter Grassburger (from Durango, their second location is here in the Northeast Heights) and their menu built around grass-fed beef. There are eyebrow-raising claims associated with grass-fed beef (as opposed to grain-fed) though the issue remains contentious—with all sides funding studies reaffirming their respective positions by either conflating or parsing the quality of the end product from/with the impact of producing it. Add in the moral concerns of diners, and it’s clear I’ll hardly settle the issue here. So I’ll leave the arguing to the pros and focus, instead, on our meals.With light colors, pop music and industrial-meets-cowhide design, we’ll call the vibe strip mall casual—with a pet-friendly patio and a play corner inside for kiddos. We ordered at the counter, and on our first visit, the gratuity was billed as optional. Their small beer and wine list is hip enough to carry PBR, and while a good buddy of mine vehemently insists “they don’t give blue ribbons to second place beers,” I’ll point out that, for just four bits more, you can get a Marble brew instead. The menu isn’t enormous, but there’s probably something for everyone, and the staff was plentiful, enthusiastic, and the tables clean. We started with the green chile Jackburger ($7.75 quarter lb./$10.25 half lb.), adding bacon to one, grilled onions to the other. Grassburger is wise to make this their staple—a quality burger we found to be tremendously flavorful. The patty was a good size and juicy without being greasy and the pickles, lettuce and tomatoes were far better than average. They don’t ask how you’d like the burger cooked, serving them at medium well, and while I’d go rarer, I still can’t complain about the luxurious flavor. The green chile was tame on our first trip, better on our second, and I wanted Swiss cheese and sliced avocado—but neither were available. On the side, we took the half and half fries ($2.75). They are solid—salty, light on the grease, with the sweet potato fries being just sugary enough to skip the ketchup. Discovering the Boylan’s lemonade ($2.50), one of the sugar-cane-made sodas on their fountain, had me scouring the inter-webs for a local source for home. They’re definitely hip to diners with gluten issues, offering both gluten-free buns and O-Mission beers. Or you can skip the bun entirely, taking yours as a lettuce wrap. There’s even a kid’s meal ($7.95) that sacrifices nothing in the way of taste.After tasting the beef, I had to try the green chile grass-fed beef tacos ($8.95). It’s your choice of flour or corn tortillas, filled with what might’ve been fairly typical taco-spiced meat if not for the deep-steeped green chile within—a bright punch that again was juicy without being heavy. Instead of salsa, they came topped with thin-sliced cabbage and a pico-de-gallo-like mix of onion, tomato and cilantro, plus grated cheese. For a native New Mexican, it was an atypical taco, but still a tasty one. Take the coleslaw as your side: It had a great little vinegar tang and was light on the dairy, keeping the cabbage and carrots crisp.Chief among the non-beef options is the vegan black bean burger ($5.95/$8.50). It’s a gorgeous patty, protein-packed courtesy of the black beans and quinoa, that holds together well. It was sturdy and filling with a smoky flavor, though a touch dry. Next time I’ll add cheese, chipotle mayo and the grilled onions—which are certainly worth the extra buck each. As non-meat burgers go, it was a hearty, well-executed one that I’d order again—though, if you’re comfortable with either it or the beef burger, I’d take the latter.Grassburger has wisely built their restaurant around their scrumptious burger and quality beef. They are committed to their culinary vision and intentional in their choices restaurant-wide. Of course there are added costs when doing so, and that means prices, while not unreasonable, might turn off casual diners interested mainly in cheap eats. It’s certainly not fast food, and it’s not “slow food”—call it comfort food with a conscience. The limited options, including only two cheeses, kept us from really customizing our burgers, and while the silky chipotle mayo was great, I wanted a few more spicy options. There are plenty of reasons to consider what we eat. Grassburger makes great burgers, works around food allergies, and eliminates some of the guesswork—and that’s something worth encouraging if not heartily embracing.
Grassburger11225 Montgomery NE, Suite C(505) 200-0571eatgrassburger.comHours: Daily 11am-9pmVibe: Pet- and kid-friendly strip mall casualAlibi Recommends: Green chile Jackburger, half and half fries, Boylan's lemonade, chocolate shake