Big Daddy's Burger Bar is exactly what you think it's going to be, given the name, the look, the location and the prices.
As I was just telling someone who asked about review criteria, North Carolina's motto (“to be, rather than to seem”) is all well and good, but in the restaurant business, you had better be what you seem or someone's going to get disappointed.
And from the crowds that have milled about this place since it opened Dec. 31, you can tell that if there have been disappointed folk, there must not have been many.
Frank Scibelli of Mama Ricotta's and Cantina 1511 runs the place (restaurateur Dennis Thompson is again a partner, as he is at Cantina) and that puts a lot of Charlotte experience into the mix. There may be more challenge, culinarily, in the regional Mexican fare of the Dilworth Cantina right across the street, but there's play in this menu.
Witness the fries and fry-like offerings:
You can get duck fat fries. They're the regular house version (quite nice on their own) cooked in a little duck fat, which makes them crisp up a little harder – it doesn't affect flavor much, but the texture is notable.
You can also get fries swimming in queso sauce of varying spiciness with add-ons like chili and bacon.
Tater tots are just tots, done perfectly, and you know how good those are, while sweet potato fries show an admirable lack of greasiness and the chipotle ranch for dipping has pep but no real sting.
Potato chips are cut in house from Kennebec spuds (yes, that's right; the menu misspells it), a variety known for its flavor. They're terrific when they're crisp and not so when they're floppy, which about half ours were, and come as an appetizer with old fashioned French onion dip and/or a very restrained pimento cheese made with Cabot white cheddar.
And we're not to burgers yet. Let's pick up the pace.
The menu lists 10 options, all of which you can tinker with, from the Western burger (buffalo meat, Monterey Jack, crispy fried onions, barbecue sauce) to the Frenchie (turkey burger, brie, bacon, apples, garlic mayo).
Those who need more control can start from scratch and choose among proteins (grass-fed, hormone-free beef; chicken breast; turkey burger; buffalo burger; black bean burger), “breads” (including a lettuce wrap), cheeses (10 kinds, counting queso sauce), condiments and toppings.
I batted .500 on pre-designed burgers, loving the juicy-with-a-little-crunch Western, but finding the Frenchie too labored an effort to moisten the turkey (brie and mayo? A losing battle).
A mix-and-match beef burger with blue cheese fared beautifully and actually had more blue than I needed, not the usual circumstance.
And the Sam I Am (beef with fried egg, ham and pesto, with cheddar subbed for American) was delicious.
Salads come in small and large, and even the small was sizeable; the large are enormous. Toppings come in varied proportion though; I had so little feta I had a hard time finding it, particularly with so much crumbled egg. The chopped wedge is a winner, though.
Note the checkered and aluminum interior with '70s soundtrack and a hefty beer list: a Boomer's delight.
Not so much the servers; though we had one who knew the menu down to what's in each sauce, we also had one prone to blank looks (who also pulled off her uniform shirt at shift's end with a salutatory “I'm DONE”).
But you figure on a little of that at anywhere called Big Daddy's, and here, you get what you figure on.