$9 American Kobe Beef Burger at the Mockingbird Bistro Bar

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The $9 American Kobe Beef Burger at Mockingbird Bistro
There's nothing more fun that sitting at a bar and eating a burger. When the burger happens to be a $9 American Kobe Beef Burger, and the bar happens to be at Mockingbird Bistro on a lively Friday night, the enjoyability factor goes up several notches.

Arriving after 8 p.m. on a Friday evening, I snagged the very last seat at the bar, which meant that I was in prime position to watch what was, in effect, a cocktail-making show by bar manager and resident mixologist Carlos Ballon and another bartender named Renee. They both worked speedily, grinding mint, shaking shakers, crushing ice, flipping bottles - ultimately producing a myriad of drinks from the uncomplicated to the complicated - like Ballon's signature pisco sour, with a lusciously thick foamy top; the new summer-menu gin-spiked strawberry-basil adult snow cone; and the refreshing, dreamy rum-spiked yuzu-lemon adult snow cone.

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Mockingbird Bistro Resident Mixologist Carlos Ballon making some drinks
The bar menu is distinct from the sit-down menu, and while everything seemed appetizing, the amazingly bargain-priced American Kobe Beef Burger had my name on it. "Have you had the burger here before?" I asked the gentleman seated next to me, who was a regular at the restaurant. "Oh yes," he nodded, "many times, and it's awesome every time."

I don't know what I expected, but this burger definitely exceeded it. From the soft springiness of the slightly toasted Slow Dough onion bun, to the perfectly rendered medium-rare patty dripping in flavorful juiciness, to the full-size order of crispy, thin-cut fries served with deeply flavored homemade aoili (garlic mayonnaise), to the small dishes of cornichons and pickled red onions provided for garnishment, this was one mighty fine burger. And the $9 price tag was almost unbelievable.

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Crispy thin-cut fries served with aoili (garlic mayo)
"How on earth can you sell this for $9?" I asked Chef/Owner John Sheely in wonderment. "We don't really make any money on it," he replied, " but it brings people in and it's a crowd pleaser." Texas Monthly named this burger one of The Fifty Best Burgers in Texas, and it definitely pleased me, so much so that I pretty much cleared the plate, including all my fries. I found out later that you can upgrade to truffle fries for a small supplement. An over-the-top version of this burger topped with a huge slice of seared foie gras is also available on the sit-down dinner menu for $32.

As far as ambiance goes, the restaurant's funky gothic decor, with the large wrought-iron chandeliers and colorful patterned carpeting, creates a welcoming warmth that puts you at ease. Or maybe it's the smiling countenance of Chef John Sheely darting in and out of the kitchen, shaking hands with regulars and exchanging banter with his staff. In any case, I can definitely understand why Chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez named Mockingbird Bistro his favorite restaurant in the city when I chatted with him last week.

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New at the bar: Strawberry-basil snow cone with gin, Yuzu-lemon snow cone with rum
Mockingbird recently expanded its bar area, doubling the seating capacity. The restaurant also introduced a $5 happy hour menu, with $5 dollar wines, signature cocktails, and bar bites from 5-7 p.m. daily.

Even though the burger is only available at the bar, sitting there was half of the fun. I can't think of a better way to spend what would have been a lonely Friday evening than with a juicy burger, a spiked snow cone, and some great conversation at a bar that has been recognized by Esquire as one of the Best Bars in America of 2010.



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Location Info

Mockingbird Bistro Wine Bar

1985 Welch St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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21 comments
Jalcail
Jalcail

Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen beat them to it last November.  You can build your own. We order it with arugula, lobster, and a aioli mayo.  Fantastic!

KP
KP

Love that you defined aoili and not "cornichons" -- haha.

brandius
brandius

Whats with these whippersnappers talking about MB being for oldsters? I object!

Actually, no, no I do not. Living a block away and dropping in one to two times a week it's obvious that it attracts the older crowd. Mainly because that is what the neighborhood is filled with. Old people. Who are white. And wear sweater vests like theres no tomorrow.Food is still good and their happy hour and great service are why I'm there so often. 

what?pants
what?pants

As an employee at Mockingbird, I must thank the author of this interview for validating the product we sell, which is a hard-earned combination of service, ambiance, and haute cuisine. The value offered at the bar is only REALLY great because of our dedication, from the dishwasher up to Chef John. So, And I speak for every member of the Mockingbird team.Thank you

Correction: Happy Hour is 5-7pm seven days a week.....

CameronByars
CameronByars

You've sold me! Heading there for lunch today :)

PaulaM
PaulaM

I wish I could take credit for the Esquire bar feature, but I can't.  That was a surprise to all of us.  The writer apparently lives in the neighborhood.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

I  kind of like hitting Mockingbird alone. A good book, a glass of wine, and the $5 happy hour menu & I'm all set. (And home by 9. Am I an oldster at 34?)

Farnatella
Farnatella

Esquire props are very suspect, I've found...the My Table pr/ad folks at Patterson & Murphy have their ear and get disproportionate ink for their pets.

I do, however, love the sweetbreads!

Hugh Ramsey
Hugh Ramsey

My favourite restaurant in the city as well.  Daniella, just make sure you take someone to talk to, you'll be fine

DaniellaG
DaniellaG

Mockingbird seemed somehow very suburban to me. Old guys in sportscoats, ladies who lunch, lots of valets and status-mobiles. The food I like, the oldster scene not so much.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

That sounds awesome (and I love Hubbell & Hudson)  - but how much is their burger? For price, quality and what you get, Mockingbird's kobe burger is definitely one of the best in the city. 

Anastasiadumint
Anastasiadumint

It's not the *local* oldsters primarily...it's folks from the Memorial area, where Sheely first opened, and then ran a restaurant in the hotel, and where he was raised. These Memorial folks drive in for what seems a daring meal in kwazy gargoyle-festooned atmosphere; for them, it's the wild side, living life on the edge, baby!

Kelvindu
Kelvindu

34? merely half the age of the average dining room patron.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Definitely not oldster! 

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

The PR may get a restaurant noticed a bit more, but Esquire wouldn't give props if the restaurant didn't have the goods to back it up.

And sweetbreads can be had on the on the HH menu for $5!

DaniellaG
DaniellaG

Thanks Hugh, you're a lad with good advice, although perhaps with questionable taste in restaurants. Maybe I could tote you along for a distracting chat?

Jalcail
Jalcail

That is funny! My dad would agree with you. The couple times I tried to take him there, he says, "all those fogies, it smells like death!"...and he is 90!

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

It's definitely not one of the newer, trendier places like what you'll find in West Ave or CityCenter. The charm is that it's more of a local's hangout with great food. The dining room scene can be a bit older (30's-40's something), but at the bar, there's definitely a wide range of ages.

Sugarpie
Sugarpie

I use the laudromat next door to Mockingbird and see a lot of the restauant's patrons as they come and go.  I can tell you that A LOT of them walk there, often in groups.  The attitude of 'us against the olds' is wildly irritating and parochial. 

Amphora
Amphora

Isn't John Mariani at Esquire? He's been pretty much discredited as a critic, due to the way his staff calls restaurants and asks if they'd "like to host a dinner for John Mariani". If they say yes, and foot the bill, they're in the running. If not, good luck getting ink from him. Tawdry to say the least.

Casey28
Casey28

 I myself have seen a lot of them park down the street to avoid the valets, unload from Suburbans, and walk en horde to Mockingbird. Seeing them approach, I often feel like I'm in MJ's Thriller video.

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