Novemburger: Blue Star Cafeteria

Because 50 Burgers, 50 Days wasn’t enough, I’ll write about a new burger every day this month. And next. We’ll call that Decemburger.
Day 15: Blue Star Cafeteria
4800 Burnet Road, Suite C-300. 454-7827,
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. 10 a.m to 3 p.m. Sunday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 11.15.11
Blue Star Cafeteria was among the first wave of restaurants doing upscale comfort food when it opened five years ago. Maybe we all looked like we could use a patty melt, a cup of chicken and stars and a nice meatloaf plate. We can still use those things, even if so many people started doing comfort food that the phrase lost all real meaning. Whatever you call it, food with the shapes and tastes of yesterday is always in vogue. But our tolerance of irony has a shorter shelf life, so if you’re not Magnolia or Arkie’s or Hoover’s, chances are good your comfort-food experiment has ended. Blue Star Cafeteria has held on, a testament to the skill of owner Eddie Bernal (Santa Rita Cantina, 34th Street Cafe, La Sombra) and the enduring appeal of shrimp cocktail with pea salad or a tuna sandwich with coleslaw or chicken-fried quail. Or a decent burger, which is why we’re having this conversation in the first place.
The burger: This isn’t a patty-melt series. If it were, Blue Star’s patty melt ($11.95 with a side) would have its own fan page. The magic is a marble rye with the unlikely convergence of conflicting styles. It’s crunchy through and through but not fly-away dry like Melba toast, yet it’s somehow soaked to its starchy bones with butter or grill oil or great-tasting 30-weight. Oiled like a Greek good but still all toasty and crackled, it’s a melt that flirts with matter and anti-matter. The meat inside is 8 ounces of grilled, pink-hearted Angus draped with grilled onions and heavy cheddar. With a side a side of sweet-and-sour Russian dressing, it’s a Reuben-esque peepshow distracting me from my Novemburger timeline.
Fine. Here’s your Blue Burger ($11.95 with a side), with that same grill-tested beef but this time on a fluffy, chewy, gold-crowned brioche bun, toasted to form a halo of raspy crunch on the cut side. Two strips of bacon tasted like they had been cooked just for this burger instead of tonged out from a warming tray. A few tablespoons of blue cheese added a zig-zag spike of salt to the equation. Before you agree to sign on for that much salt, ask yourself if you need the crazy-uncle element that blue cheese brings to a burger first. If it wouldn’t be a homecoming without him, invite him to the party.
Fries or rings? It’s a sign of onion-driven mutation or zombie apocalypse if I’m not feeling like just half a man when there are no onion rings on the menu. At Blue Star, I take comfort in it (there’s that word again). Yes, there are french fries, the thin, dry dusky kind with a little shake of paprika or other flavored dusts from the red family. But you can sub coleslaw, pea salad, glazed carrots or another dish. Macaroni salad’s a decent direction, with soft elbow pasta, mayo, celery, pickle and red bell pepper. But the mac daddy is grits with boursin cheese with all the right notes of aerated cream and light floral herbs.
Tuesday bonus: All day on Tuesdays, the basic Star Burger is $6 instead of $9.95. Add blue cheese and bacon and it’s the same as the Blue Burger for $8.45 instead of $11.95.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)