Dining » Dining Review

Fun at Burger 21

Good burgers, great shakes.

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'MESSY, BUT IN A GOOD WAY': The Shroom comes with musrhooms, caramelized onions and roasted garlic aioli.
  • 'MESSY, BUT IN A GOOD WAY': The Shroom comes with musrhooms, caramelized onions and roasted garlic aioli.

Burger 21's slogan is "Burgers Reinvented," which may be a bit of a stretch, but it is fair to say the restaurant's onto something. The decor is modern and clean, the staff is helpful and nice, the menu has something for everyone, and, judging by what we've had, it's pretty darn good.

This is an order-at-the-counter operation and the menu is lengthy enough to create some indecision anxiety. There are 20 different kinds of "burgers," including Angus beef, chicken, turkey, vegetarian and even seafood. There's also a featured burger in rotation every three months.

We went with the featured burger, the Southern Lucy ($6.99), and it was a stunner. If you like cheese, you're going to love this one. The patty itself was substantial and stuffed with American and Swiss cheese. A couple of bites in, the cheese started to ooze forth. We thought this might be a bit much, but it wasn't. It would have come off as gimmicky if it hadn't been so tasty.

There was a lot going on in this burger: The patty sat on a bed of tomato jam and was topped with fried onion strings and a bacon aioli. The bun was substantial enough to hold all of it together without falling apart or buckling. We really were surprised by this burger. There were a couple of things that made us think it would be intolerably rich: the oozy cheese bomb in the middle and the bacon aioli. Strangely, it all came together without being too rich to enjoy.

Our buddy tried out the Shroom ($6.99) and was not disappointed. He found it to be "messy, but in a good way." The caramelized onions were a nice touch and the roasted garlic aioli went well with the mushrooms. He also ordered a side of Onion Strings ($3.09), which were a favorite among the side dishes we ordered. They were thin, crispy and stringy. We prefer these to the larger, more heavily battered variety, and Burger 21 does them well.

The fries, especially their warmth or lack thereof, have been a point of contention in online reviews. We found complaints that they weren't served warm to be true, unfortunately, but the fries were still tasty. They were of the McDonald's variety: thin and skinless. We ordered a Half and Half Fries (half regular, half sweet potato for $3.09). We enjoyed the sweet potato fries. They were thin, crispy — and hot.

There were lots of sauces to choose from, everything from the basics (ketchup and mustard) to more inventive condiments. The Ragin' Cajun, which was a bit like a remoulade, was great with fries and onion strings. We didn't get around to the Thai Ketchup or the Toasted Marshmallow.

DIVINE: The chocolate milkshake.
  • DIVINE: The chocolate milkshake.

Burger 21 has a solid "Shakes and Sweets" section of the menu that features Coke floats, sundaes and all kinds of signature milkshakes, including Bananas Foster, espresso and strawberry shortcake. We tend to be milkshake purists, so we just went with the basic chocolate ($3.29). We're glad we did. It might sound a bit ridiculous to say, but it was divine. It was smooth, thick and frothy. The chocolate was incredible: Ghirardelli syrup (we had to ask). One of the best things about it is it's served in a glass, which is better than a shake in a Styrofoam cup.

We'd say Burger 21 is no-frills, but that's not exactly true. There are a few. But that's OK if everything tastes good, and it does. It's clean. It's new. There is plenty to choose from, including salads, so everyone will find something they like. It's a cut above fast food and one step behind some of the trendier burger places in town. We've been trying to put our finger on exactly what we liked about it and the best we can come up with is it's just fun to eat there.

Burger 21
12319 Chenal Parkway
Little Rock
916-2520
burger21.com

Quick bite

We just had to try the Spicy Thai Shrimp Burger ($7.79). Is it like a po-boy, we asked? No. The patty was made of shrimp (and probably some other stuff). The toppings — Sriracha aioli, sesame Thai slaw, lettuce and tomato — made the whole thing come together. It had a nice kick, too. A good lighter option is The Skinny Burger ($6.29). It's a turkey burger topped with avocado, lettuce, tomato and a sun-dried tomato aioli. We're not usually into turkey burgers, but this was a good one.

Hours
10:45 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Sunday.

Other info
No alcohol, credit cards accepted.

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