Review #5 - Belle's Burgers

Posted by Hamburglar | | Posted On Friday, January 16, 2009 at 10:20 PM

When people refer to a place as a dive, have you ever wondered exactly what they mean? The text book definition of a dive is "a cheap, unattractive bar, place of entertainment, etc." Although the word appears to have negative connotations, often times people use it with a positive meaning. For example, I'm sure you've heard someone say: "That place is a dive, but it has great food." You'll even hear people talking about their favorite "burger dives." So what does it take to be a dive? Is it an establishment's surroundings? Is it the building the establishment is operating in? These are the thoughts running through my mind as we drive down the street to Belle's Burgers passing by four men in front of a house knocking back tall boy beers in brown bags and grilling their lunch at 11:45 a.m. on a beautiful Wednesday morning.Belle's is located at 517 Pleasanton Rd., and upon pulling into the parking spot right in front of the building, the splattered sign on the restaurant showed that this burger joint had the markings of a potential "dive." Given that Belle's Burgers had pretty good reviews online, I thought this could be the best "burger dive" in town...

At most burger joints you step up to the counter and place your order, and Belle's Burgers is no exception. However, we encountered a "burger joint first" upon stepping up to the counter at Belle's. Belle's Burgers is a one man operation. That's right, the same guy that takes your order, steps into the back and cooks up your food. Strange? Sure. Endearing? Sort of. Slow? You betcha, but not as bad as you might think. We had to wait at the counter a few minutes before placing our order while our waiter/cook/cashier was in the back grilling up some patties. We figured the extra time waiting was probably going to be rewarded by a great burger....
The only menu at Belle's is taped on the counter and helps add to the "dive" atmosphere - it is a little bigger than the size of a hand and, as you can see from the picture, is well worn. The menu appears to offer a good selection of burgers and sides at extremely reasonable prices. Unfortunately, when we tried to order "seasoned fries," we were told they weren't available. So, we placed our orders for cheeseburgers and "regular" fries, and curiously wondered how much of the other menu items were actually available to order.

The Burger - 3.0 out of 10

The cheeseburger had a nice toasted and greasy bun, but the patty was pretty skimpy. It was so skimpy in fact, that I expected the crotchety old lady from the 1980's Wendy's commercials to pop out at any second asking: "Where's the beef?" At a small burger dive, we expected the meat patty to be hand made and well seasoned. Unfortunately, ours was neither. The patties were certainly pre-made and pre-frozen before purchase, and the seasoning was almost nonexistent. The pre-made/pre-frozen patties greatly upset Burger Boy who had a bad experience in college with these types of patties. The fries were definitely from a frozen package, but they had a decent taste. As we were eating and discussing where the pre-made patties and frozen fries had been purchased, I watched a young man unload several HEB bags of groceries (which included bags of frozen fries) from his car and carry them into the kitchen.
My fellow reviewers rated their burgers as follows:

Burger Boy - 3 "The prefabricated hamburger patty that was probably thrown on the grill still frozen was singularly unimpressive."

Fry Daddy - 2.5 "The last time I had a burger like this, it was at a concession stand."

Sides - 4.5

We all ordered fries with our meals, and the fries were pretty much ho-hum. They could have used a little more salt, but salt was nowhere to be found in the restaurant. In fact, ketchup was in scarce supply. One of the few bottles of ketchup available in the restaurant may have actually been used in the 1980's "Where's the beef" Wendy's commercials mentioned above (see below). The ketchup bottle was so frightening that no one would sit in the booth where it was located.

Ambiance - 2 out of 10

What kind of ambiance should one expect from a "dive?" I believe the picture below provides a pretty good checklist, and I don't think anything I write could describe it any better.
Price - 8 out of 10

The Belle's Burger with a single meat patty is $2.44. A combo, which includes fries and a drink, is $4.44. Seriously, I'm not sure I could go to HEB and pick up all the ingredients to make a burger for $2.44. Apparently, Belle's has figured out a way to hit the HEB and make it happen.

Service - 3 out of 10

Since the cashier is the same person who cooks the food, and also brings the food out, one has to expect the service to be slow. However, our cashier/cook/waiter (Casookter) moved pretty well for the amount of patrons in the restaurant, and we give him a nod for his multitasking abilities. Unfortunately, we weren't anticipating a long lunch at a small out of the way burger joint, so Casookter takes a bit of a hit in our service rating.

Summary

Overall, I believe Belle's Burgers epitomizes the definition of a "dive," which I believe to be a combination of the external environment and internal environment that encompasses a business establishment (bars on the windows are an added bonus). Unfortunately, my fellow reviewers and I won't be referring to this dive in the positive. In fact, I don't think we'll be returning.

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