Okay, I warn everyone in advance that this post will not make much sense. Yes, I'm a vegetarian and I'm a bit too obsessed with Five Napkin Burger. Yes, today was its opening day and I went, by myself (more on that later). Thus, I did not get a burger, nor did I have an opportunity to inspect their burgers up close. So consider this post a preliminary look-- I will be back, with a burger-consuming dining partner in tow, with more of a report.
So-- on to the review, such as it is. I had plans to meet a friend from high school there for dinner, but she got stuck at work and bailed. I then cycled through my entire roster of possible dining companions, and somewhat unsurprisingly nobody was available for a last-minute dinner. So, as the time ticked down to the wire, I finally said, screw it, I'm going on my own. So I did.
I arrived shortly after 6-- the time they opened-- and requested a table for one (sniffle). They didn't bat an eye and led me to a two-top near the back of the restaurant. The place is pretty-- exposed ductwork on the ceiling, bare lightbulbs hanging decoratively. There were two large chalkboards covered with random doodles on the back walls, which was somewhat weird. But the space was certainly appealing and inviting, a little loud but backed up with a nice soundtrack of pop hits verging on "da club" status.
The table was set with a condiment caddy (ketchup/mustard), glasses, and flatware-- no salt and pepper, though, which could have come in handy with the bread. The server handed me the menu, and I looked it over. There was a small selection of wines by the glass and a larger selection of beers; I ordered a glass of sauvignon blanc for $7 while I perused the rest of the menu. Below is photo documentation of the menu, so you can take a look for yourself:
There are a few things to note about the menu. First of all, I wasn't hugely impressed with their non-burger selection (yes, I know, it's a BURGER joint, and I'm a VEGETARIAN. I get it). Second of all, the place was expensive-- burgers hovered around $15, dinner salads around $18 (why??). Third of all, there was a large selection of maki rolls that they were pushing pretty hard-- the waitress even came to ask if there were "a maki roll I'd like to start with." Um, no. Is this a sushi place or a burger place? It seemed really out of place, frankly.
I placed my order and waited for a few moments for the bread. Soon, a basket with one large slice of bread arrived, along with a dish of a couple hunks of butter. I had just reached for a bit of bread when my entree arrived-- whoops. Opening night timing issues...
I decided to have some bread first. I took a bite and got a very strong note of honey, which mellowed out to a nice wheat flavor. The crust of the slice was chewy but nice, with a good dusting of cornmeal on the bottom crust. The butter was a bit too cold and a bit too tasteless-- it wasn't salted but it wasn't sweet cream, either, so it was basically just industrial butter. Oh well; it served its purpose.
The waitress brought the bill promptly after I was finished; it came rolled up in a drinking glass, which was a cute touch. In total, my summer rolls and glass of wine came to about $15-- not too bad at all, although not a cheap price for a small amount of food, either, and if I hadn't ordered the cheapest thing on the menu (cringe) it would have been significantly more than that. I was content when I left, pretty full and not too much lighter in the wallet. By the time I gathered up my things, the restaurant was almost full-- pretty good for a first night!
So, my overall impressions? Well, there were certainly service issues to be worked out: the waitress seemed almost painfully unsure of herself, though she was very nice and obliging, and the meal wasn't paced quite right. And in general the food seemed a bit expensive for what it was (again, I ordered VERRRY carefully). But-- and I'll repeat this one more time-- I didn't get a burger. I don't think you can fully evaluate Five Napkin Burger without getting a burger, or at least going with someone who gets one. Therefore, at this point I'll refrain from awarding any spatulas. I'll return shortly with a burger-eater, perhaps try something new, and report back with a full-fledged spatula rating.