May has somehow become the month of burgers and fries on this blog – two nights ago I followed up recent trips to MoJoe’s in Raleigh and Bull City Burger & Brewery (BCBB) in Durham with a visit to Only Burger. I’d tried their burgers once before, from their truck, and didn’t especially love them (though I did enjoy the fries), but I was eager to check out their new storefront off of Shannon Rd. in Durham.
The space itself is tiny, with only a handful of tables. Cavernous ceilings make it exceptionally loud, even if only a few patrons are present. Despite the starkly limited menu, ordering at Only Burger is a bit tricky. Your choices are spelled out on an array of placards above the counter, but they aren’t really arranged logically, and they don’t tell the whole story. I think it would be helpful if the types of cheeses available were listed, and to mention, for example, that you can get your onions grilled, if you like. I ordered a single ($4.75) with cheddar (an extra $0.50) and fries ($1.75), and my wife got a single with cheese and a side of onion rings ($2.75). This, especially the former, is a good deal – for $7 you get a burger and a hefty cup full of fries (enough to split).
Your order is packed up in a paper bag when it’s ready. Truckside, this is a necessity, but in the restaurant it’s just cumbersome. It’s difficult to remove the fries and especially the onion rings from the bag without spilling some, and there’s really nowhere to put things – your burger’s foil wrapper immediately becomes your plate. But these are minor quibbles. The burger itself was quite good. By comparison, BCBB’s burger was downright elegant (and a good bit juicier), but lacked the nice charry crustiness of Only Burger’s version. The patty was well cooked and appropriately seasoned. The fries were good but not great; similar to those from Five Guys, if a little less greasy. The onion rings, on the other hand, were just bad. The onions were cut too thickly, and there was almost no seasoning. The accompanying dipping sauce was equally as forgettable.
The use of local, fresh ground meat and the varieties of cheese available – American, cheddar, swiss, pepperjack, pimiento, and maybe one other – puts Only Burger squarely ahead of Five Guys in my burger hierarchy, even if the overall experiences are roughly equivalent. Only Burger also routinely offers specials, some of which are very enticing. On the night I was there, they were offering 2oz lamb sliders with feta and tzatziki sauce. It was very tempting, but, as you can probably tell from my last few posts, so is a good old-fashioned hamburger.