Nearly every food lover I know is searching for the best burger in their city. I am no different -- I am completely smitten with beef between two buns. No matter how often I try to stray from non-burger items on an unfamiliar menu, I always seem to find myself overcome with curiosity and order the burger, thinking that, perhaps, this could be that hidden gem, the best undiscovered burger in the city.
The Capital Bar & Grill’s burger has been touted as one of the best in Little Rock, and with food buzz like that floating around, it was only natural that I put such claims to the test. I always have respect for a place that has the guts to name their spin on this American classic, “The Burger.” Perhaps they are claiming that this is “the” burger to end all burgers, and that all other burgers best step aside while “the” burger is making its way to the table. Regardless, I accept their audacity. I enjoy a little ego in my meals.
The problem is, CBG’s burger has a lot of growing up to do before it should ever be proclaimed “best burger.” There is potential, but some serious errors need to be addressed before it steps in that arena again.
First, let’s point out the successful elements of “The Burger.” As I ordered mine with bacon and pimento cheese (as was recommended to me), I will speak to those elements first. The bacon is spot on. Cured in house, it comes out sizzling, smoky, and crispy. Perfect bacon is a thing of beauty that, unfortunately, is a rare treat, often too soggy and limp or conversely, burnt to a sad, dry strip of forsaken pig. Not at CBG, they are doing bacon justice. Next, the pimento cheese, which CBG also serves in appetizer form alongside soda crackers and celery. The pimento, tangy and sharp, added a nice creamy richness to the overall experience. However, its flavor was overshadowed and underwhelming alongside some of the burger's weaker elements.
Undoubtedly (and perhaps obviously), the most important element of a great burger is the beef. Here is where CBG takes a nose dive. At first glance alone, I could tell this thing was overcooked, with far too much crispy black char for any self-respecting piece of beef. I asked that mine be cooked to medium, yet there was not a hint of pink on the interior, simply the lifeless, sullen gray of overdone beef. Dry and dull, there was not a drop of burger juice to be found within this hopeless slab of cow. The texture was off-putting as well, reminiscent of the horrific frozen, value-brand, hockey-puck burgers one might pick up from your grocer’s freezer aisle. I wish I could speak better of the bun, but alas, I cannot. Plain and dry, it was nothing remarkable and quite forgettable.
The search for Little Rock’s best burger certainly does not end at the Capital Hotel. I am confident that with a few upgrades, CBG could produce a worthy contender, but for now, I’ve got at least a dozen places I’d recommend before you go dropping fifteen bones on this thing. Hey, at least the fries are good.