Good, even very good, hamburgers can be found everywhere these days.
So when I heard a few months back that STAX was opening in a newly renovated strip center at Old Roswell and Holcomb Bridge roads in a space that had been occupied for what seemed a nanosecond by yet another burger joint, I was indifferent to the news.
Did north Fulton really need another place to buy a hamburger?
But as usual, Deep Stomach was on point. Yes, STAX Burger Bar offers terrific burgers. But surprisingly, it is so much more than its name implies.
Let’s start at the beginning. The STAX Classic is two three-ounce patties of a freshly ground mix of tenderloin trimmings, chuck and shank meat from Black Angus grass and corn-fed cattle “stacked” on a brioche bun with melted American cheese, lettuce, tomato and red onions.
Simple? Yes. But it’s as good or better than any of its peers. I suspect this is at least partly because the kitchen isn’t shy about seasoning the patties with its custom blend of salt and white pepper.
There are four variations, with bacon, portobello mushrooms, guacamole, pico de gallo, blue cheese, jalapenos and caramelized onions all playing parts in different combos.
It’s the specialty burgers that really dazzle, however. In working our way through that section of the STAX menu we have been enraptured by a salmon burger made of fresh Atlantic salmon minced by hand, mixed with chopped green onion and held together with a dusting of flour and a dollop of cream. The patty is delicious by itself, but layered with applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato and a mayo flecked with rosemary, thyme, parsley and garlic, this sandwich is pure bliss.
Ditto the scampi burger, which is fresh minced shrimp with garlic and parsley mayo garnished with fried lemon slices. It’s the pleasantly acidic tang of the lemon accenting the brininess of the shrimp that lifts this sandwich way over the top.
We also really liked the saltimbocca burger, veal topped with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, tomato and sage mayo, and a special of the day, burger patties with pork belly, Korean barbecue sauce and chopped cukes.
And I’m looking forward to a lamb burger with roasted red peppers, olive salad and mustard and rosemary mayo on my next visit. I expect the veggie offering of roasted portobello mushrooms and cheddar cheese to be excellent as well.
But the star of the show for us so far has been a burger of spicy chorizo sausage mixed with ground pork, graced with cooked potato, chipotle catsup and a fried egg. You can’t imagine how satisfying it is to squish the egg with the bun top and then bite into the runny rich goodness of the yolk mingling with the piquancy of the patty.
Now here’s where it gets weird. But in a good way.
There are the usual sides of fries, onion rings and fried okra. All of them are hand made fresh in house. No off-the-corporate-giant-truck frozen product here.
Not too unusual for side dishes? Okay, how about creamy green pea risotto with parmesan cheese, cooked perfectly? Ten vegetable fried rice that’s superior to what’s served at most Chinese restaurants? Or the stupefyingly delicious sautéed Brussels sprouts with shallots, pancetta and brown butter?
You get the picture. STAX is not an ordinary burger place. In fact, I wish they’d change the name, because executive chef and co-owner Luis Ramirez has a much broader culinary point of view and the cooking chops to back it up.
He’s a product of the well-regarded Sedgwick restaurant empire, which includes Aspens Legendary Steaks, Vinny’s on Windward, Bistro VG and Pure Tacqueria. Ramirez was the chef who opened most of them and worked at all of them.
Now he and his brothers, food industry veterans Luciano and Carlos, are the driving forces for STAX. They redid the space themselves, building the tables, bar and wall décor from old oak railroad ties and using vintage Americana items like Coke coolers for decoration.
The menu, which also includes four specialty salads and genuine milkshakes and floats, is likely to be augmented in the future with whatever pops into Chef Luis’s head. During a lunch last week, he talked of an Italian veal burger topped with a giant homemade ravioli, fresh mozzarella and ricotta served on garlic bread, and a Chinese-influenced burger with Asian flavors and a fresh made dumpling.
“This is not the typical burger place. We want to give people options for a lot of different stuff to choose from,” he said.
The only things I’m not too crazy about here are the wine and beer lists, which are short and very blah. But the Ramirez brothers more than make up for it with a tasty and seemingly innocuous white and red sangria that knocks my socks off after a couple of sips.
STAX Burger Bar
690 Holcomb Bridge Road