The stretch of U.S. 377 between North Tarrant Parkway and Golden Triangle Boulevard/Keller Parkway is undergoing a bit of a burger boom.
Plans are in the works for a Smashburger, and not too far north, on Kroger Drive across from Central High School, is the whimsically named Hello My Name Is Eat, a less-than-year-old joint known for its stuffed patties. On U.S. 377, YourWay Burgers & Wings opened late last year. Bronson Rock Bar & Grill also recently opened for evening business in Old Town.
And then there's Bottlecap Alley Icehouse Grill, within walking distance of Bronson; it's the second location of Bottlecap Alley, which originated in Grapevine and is owned by the same company that owns the Cotton Patch Cafe chain.
I haven't been to the Grapevine location, but the Keller one has a relaxed vibe, with families with small children dining at tables while other grown-ups hang out at the bar. At the rear of the restaurant is a sunroom with a pool table and video games. We visited late on a Saturday afternoon, and judging from the healthy crowd, the place has already become pretty popular with residents of Keller and nearby cities.
Part of a growing trend among burger places, ordering at Bottlecap Alley is done via a checklist menu (viewable on the restaurants' website); you check what you want, and what you want on it, and then hand your order to the cashier. Seven burgers are listed under "Designer Grillworks," including a blue cheese burger, a chili-cheeseburger and the "huevos ranchero" burger, which comes with chili, pico de gallo, cheese and fried egg.
There's also a "Build the Big One" option that includes a selection of patties (including black bean), cheeses, toppings and dressings. Basics such as lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, etc. are free; cheese, bacon and certain other "extras" are 60 cents a piece. (In addition to the burgers there are also salads, chili, sandwiches and hot dogs on the menu.)
I took the simple route and ordered the "Cure" burger ($5.75), which features fried egg, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo and American cheese. The big winner here was the bacon, which was cooked to a perfect crunchy consistency and had plenty of smoky flavor; it upstaged the patty, which had decent flavor but was a little flat and dry. The egg and veggies were all right, and if there's one place American cheese works, it's on a cheeseburger. But the bun had a grocery-store look and texture.
Overall, not bad -- but I liked Bottlecap Alley's feel and friendly servers enough that I wish I could say something a little more complimentary than "not bad."
My dining partner, a vegetarian, went the build-your-own route with the black bean patty ($5). Unfortunately, Bottlecap Alley's black-bean patty had a mass-produced feel; my partner thought it was OK, but probably not worth a return visit.
For sides, we ordered fries ($1.75 for a "small" order) and beer-battered onion rings ($3 for a small order that really did look small). I like my fries best when they are so good that they don't need ketchup; these were of the wimpy, wilty variety that needed a ketchup boost. They were better than the onion rings, which reminded us of frozen food.
I did pay a return trip to Bottlecap Alley, solo, a few days later to try the loaded Frito pie ($5), which aside from the usual ingredients of chili, Fritos, cheddar cheese and jalapeños, includes pico de gallo and is covered with a layer of queso. Good stuff for cheese lovers. My only wish is that they would turn up the spice factor a little more -- I could've used something strong enough to clear my sinuses.