June 6, 2014 Updated: June 6, 2014 at 12:35 pm
Burgers and fries. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Yet, it's somewhat more complicated at the Skirted Heifer, where there are lots and lots of choices to be made.
First, there's the type of burger: grass-fed beef, turkey or veggie quinoa. Four bun options are available: garlic focaccia, sesame seed, whole wheat or gluten-free. Sit back, we're just getting started. Diners then choose up to five free toppings from a list of 20. In case nothing on that list whets the appetite, a shorter list comprises the Deluxe toppings (75 cents extra) and an even more limited list includes the Supreme toppings ($1.25 extra). That's a total of 32. I don't want to do the math, but I imagine there are enough possibilities for combinations to last a good part of the year.
Cheeseburgers and fries are another humble marriage of traditional and comfort. Of course, there are decisions to be made here, too. The question is to skirt or not to skirt. The answer is to go for it. An extra layer of cheese (four or five to choose from, depending on the Burger of the Week) is melted over the top of the burger so it spills onto the flattop grill and caramelizes. It, in effect, creates a cheese skirt around the burger, thus the name Skirted Heifer.
On my first visit, I ultimately settled on the restaurant's namesake burger with Wisconsin cheddar, tomato, caramelized onions, lettuce and homemade pickles. And I chose a whole wheat bun. Everything is served in wax paper-lined baskets, and when fries are part of the order, it's a hefty amount of food. The burgers are large two-handers, even if cut in half, and there's the skirt to contend with. A good burger should be messy to eat, and this one ranks high on the untidy gauge - easily requiring two to three napkins.
Here's the problem with so many choices: The whole is not necessarily greater than the sum of its parts. The burger was good, the bun was good, the cheddar skirt was very good and the other toppings I selected were good. Yet it was difficult to get a balance of tastes.
Fortunately, there's also a selection of "No Brainers," where the only choice involved is to pick one of the seven predetermined burgers. This is the section of the menu I focused on during my second meal. It includes The Burger of the Week, which on our visit was the Bambino with pepperoni, red onion, marinara and mozzarella on a focaccia bun. No quandary about what to add. It was like a mini meatloaf pizza and all the elements worked well together.
The Pueblo Farmer is also a no brainer, but for reasons other than it poses no dilemmas: it has a depth of flavor accented by roasted Pueblo chilies, pepper jack cheese and guacamole. This burger alone is worth a repeat visit.
While it could be an oxymoron to offer, let alone order, a vegetarian option; it's not. The Veg Out is made with quinoa, grilled mushrooms, avocado and caramelized onions. Although difficult to eat because it doesn't hold its shape well, the onions complemented the subtle nuttiness of the quinoa. My dining companion said the Heifer Sauce, a blend of homemade ketchup, pickle juice and mayo, was the ideal complement.
Of course, the fries require decisions, too: Belgian, which are fried twice, or sweet potato? We tried both. The Belgian fries are thin but not overly crispy. The sweet potato fries, on the other hand, are thick and unevenly cut in the fashion of steak fries. Seasoned with Kosher salt, the smaller ones were cooked to perfection, but the larger cuts not so much.
There's little contact with anyone other than who takes orders at the counter, and on both visits, each was friendly and helpful in answering questions while making suggestions. The Skirted Heifer features Boylan's handcrafted sodas. The menu also features frozen custard, with, you guessed it, a choice of toppings.
THE SKIRTED HEIFER
Restaurant character: Small casual, family-friendly, appeals to carnivores and vegetarians alike. Orders placed at the counter for dine-in or takeout.
Rating total: 3.75 out of 5 forks
Food: 3.75 out of 5 forks
Ambiance: 3.75 out of 5 forks
Service: 3.75 out of 5 forks
Address: 204 N. Tejon St. Contact: 635-3276 Hours: 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m. daily
Credit cards: Yes
Vegetarian options: Veggie quinoa burger
Gluten-free options: Yes
As of May 30:
- 69 check-ins by 54 people on Four Square
- 4 out of 5 stars based on 1 review on TripAdvisor
- 90 percent of 10 voters "liked it" on Urban Spoon
- 3.5 out of 5 stars based on 18 reviews on Yelp
- Active on Facebook