Novemburger: Cat Mountain Grill

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 21: Cat Mountain Grill
3815 Dry Creek Drive. 432-5390,
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 11.21.11
2012 UPDATE: Cat Mountain Grill has closed.
The burger: What fun would a longterm burger series be without stunt food? You’ve got your doughnut buns, your jellied bacon, your 13-ounce doubles. And the Chupacabra, the demon of Cat Mountain Grill, which took over this summer where the Hub left off. The Chupcabra ($7.99/regular) employs a chopped and roasted pepper relish — new condiment name: hellish —made with serranos, jalapeños and habaneros, then lights the fuse with pepperjack and pickled jalapeños
Let’s talk about degrees of heat. The Chupacabra (pictured above) is so hot it triggers your fight-or-flight response. There’s danger here, immediate risk to life and limb. Your heart rate goes up, your eyes get wider and dart for the next safe place. Your mind fast-forwards to the consequences, and a Cheech & Chong movie flashes before your eyes. “Come on, ice cream.”
But something compels you to come back for more, even though it hurts you so bad. A Relationship Burger. A Parenthood Burger. Maybe it’s the big, sweet kolache-style bun or the spicy sauce. Fight or flight? Bite.  
Just in case the Chupacabra turned into an unredeeming practical joke, I also deployed the Black ‘n Blue (pictured at left), going with the half-pound patty ($8.69) instead of the standard quarter-pounder ($7.29) to get a better sense of the Angus beef, which holds its own even under a blanket of blue cheese thick enough to count as insulation under city codes. The beef’s bigger presence works well in this construction, because it weaves itself into the fabric of salt and crackle from good bacon and the richness of blue cheese that has more in common with chevre in texture and taste than it does with a veiny block of blue. At the same time, the big sweet bun that tamed the Chupacabra threatens to overwhelm the Blue, already sweetened a degree by caramelized onions.
Fries or rings? At about $8 for a quarter-pound burger with no sides, I was all set to decide Cat Mountain was too big of a lump to swallow for lunch, that it was too expensive once you added fries and something to drink. But a side of fries balances the value equation at just $1.49, hand-cut medium-thick and fried a crisp burnished brown. They do well with an unloved onion ring substitute — the humble onion string, that boomerang stick of onion for folks who can’t handle the whole circle thing right now. They’re loose and flaky, with a little sliced-veggie spring left in them. And a solid deal at $1.99. They’re better than any sides need to be after the Chupacabra, with a dose of capsaicin that leaves your mouth numb to heat, texture or flavor. My advice? Save the burger for last.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)