Quiero una hamburguesa deliciosa, una hamburguesa grande. These were my thoughts as I shuttled myself and a carload of burger bloggers to the Malt House, un restaurante famoso de San Antonio located at 115 S. Zarzamora just a few minutes west of downtown. This was to be the first encounter with the Malt House for each of us, and little did we know that la Casa de la Malta would bring crashing down every pre-conceived notion we had about San Antonio burger joints. And while my thoughts on this car ride were not actually en español, unbeknownst to all of us we had embarked on the San Antonio Burger Blog's equivalent of a study abroad.
The Malt House had been added to our growing list of San Antonio burger joints after I had read several online reviews touting its delicious hamburgers and malts. Upon reading these, my mind conjured up images of a 1950's diner, where preppy teenagers engage in a heated high school fight song sing-off while ponytailed waitresses rollerskate between tables with burgers and frosty malts on trays held high above their heads. Unfortunately, my high-pitched rendition of Be True to Your School was cut short by my boss, who showed up in my doorway to demand that I get rid of what he could only assume was a cat giving birth in my office.
Our hopes were still high as we arrived at the Malt House, where we immediately saw a sign advertising a quarter-pound hamburger, fries and medium drink for $2.60. We took this to be a good omen. Ever since Floyd's, we've been on the lookout for other burger bargains. As we approached the doors, I thought I heard the sounds of The Everly Brothers coming from the jukebox inside . . .
My ears, like my overactive imagination, had misled me, though. It turns out that not rock 'n' roll but conjunto (which to my untrained ears sounded like a mix between tejano and Bavarian polka) is the Malt House's musical genre of choice and was in fact the only music we would hear for the next hour.
The first thing that greeted me as I entered the Malt House was not a peppy cheerleader straight from the set of Grease but rather a giant plate of greasy enchiladas. Immediately alarm bells went off in my head. While I love enchiladas as much as the next guy, our burger reviews with very few exceptions focus on dedicated burger joints (as opposed to restaurants that sell burgers among a multitude of other offerings). Were we to undertake the task of visiting every bar or Mexican restaurant with a burger on the menu, our burger quest would never end and, more importantly, the ratio of really crappy burgers we would have to eat would increase dramatically. However, because we feel it is likely that others may have the same misconceptions about the Malt House (poodle skirts and all) that we had prior to dining there, we offer this review as a public service.
The Malt House's menu is massive. Mexican food is the main event, followed by chicken, steaks, seafood, and so on, and on and on. Here's a test for you: Can you find the hamburgers in the menu below?
Keep looking . . .
The Burger - 5 out of 10
Undaunted (and more than a little relieved to see that there were in fact burgers on the menu), we each ordered a jumbo cheeseburger. Burger Boy and Prefers His Tots Tatered, noticing fried eggs featured elsewhere on the menu, excitedly asked the server if they could have fried eggs on their cheeseburgers, Burger Boy drooling a bit as he did so. The server assented, and there was much rejoicing.
The fried eggs turned out to be the burgers' one saving grace, at least according to Burger Boy and Prefers His Tots Tatered, who each bumped their ratings accordingly. I ordered my cheeseburger sin huevo, and to me it tasted much like a fast food cheeseburger, albeit a big fast food cheeseburger. However, I will confess that my heart did a little happy leap when I noticed that the Jumbo Cheeseburger came with two beef patties and didn't skimp on the other standard toppings.
Sides - 4 out of 10
The crinkle-cut fries were a true disappointment and really brought down the overall score for sides. Prefers His Tots Tatered astutely observed that similar fries can be purchased at your neighborhood HEB. The Malt House's sides rating would have been abysmally low were it not for the onion rings, which were actually quite scrumptious.
In past reviews, we have often treated frozen dairy desserts as sides. The effect of this is usually that an otherwise low rating - attributable to sides likely purchased from the frozen foods section at HEB - is significantly increased by the factoring in of milkshakes made from "real" Blue Bell ice cream - likely also purchased from the frozen foods section at HEB. Figuring that a place called the Malt House would have all of its ducks in a row when it came to malts, I ordered a large chocolate malt with my meal. The result, pictured below, was not really a malt, as far as I could tell, but rather a giant cup of soft serve vanilla ice cream smothered in Hershey's syrup. This was oddly enough served before our meal, "like it was an appetizer or something," as Prefers His Tots Tatered noted in disgust. All in all, a missed opportunity for the Malt House to pick up a couple of bonus points.
I should note that the complimentary chips and salsa were quite good.
Ambience - 4 out of 10
As we have established by now, the Malt House is not your parents' burger joint. Es el restaurante de su abuela.
The general consensus among the reviewers was that the Malt House had nice ambience - for a Mexican restaurant. Burger Boy noted that if he were reviewing the Malt House as a Mexican restaurant it would score a 5 for ambience, but "since I am reviewing the Malt House as if it were a burger joint, I give it a 1." The rest of the reviewers were not quite so harsh but shared similar sentiments.
Price - Muy bueno
Despite our disappointment at having been beguiled into a place called "The Malt House" by expectations (at least partially justified, but admittedly somewhat self-created) of dining in a classic 1950's burger joint, no one was disappointed with regard to the price paid for their meal. I can't say I actually saved much money, however, since my excitement at the subterraneous prices precipitated an ordering frenzy. Still, I spent less than $10, post-tax, for a large cheeseburger with fries, a basket of onion rings and a large malt. I suppose the dollar really is stronger at the Malt House than at your standard American burger joint, where you cannot, coincidentally, order your favorite Mexican specialities, such as: