Remember back in the day, when the only choice anyone had for topping their burger was cheese or no cheese? I do. It was awful. I mean, sure, there were some options you could order up, like extra “special” sauce, hold the pickles, and no onions—but c’mon. Let’s get real.

Fortunately for us, we now live in a time when burger options are in abundance, and the only limitation is your imagination. From PB&J burgers to burgers with ramen noodle buns and everything in between, chefs have taken the classic beef patty and made it their playground.

One of the newer chains to jump into the creative burger game is the Texas-based Grub Burger Bar. Though they’ve only been in business since 2012, they already boast 20 locations across seven states. Their latest shop in Santa Clara is the first in Northern California.

As their name suggests, Grub is more than just burgers; they also have quite the selection of adult beverages—including a dozen draught beers (with two rotating local brews), wine, signature cocktails and even spiked milkshakes. They also have a generous happy hour, which features $5.50 beers, cocktails, wines and apps and runs Monday through Friday from 11am to 7pm and 9pm to close.

They also have a great menu of house burgers, including a mac ’n’ cheese burger ($9.50) for the kid in us; Trinidad Moruga Scorpion burger ($9.25) for the chili heads; and even a basic lettuce, tomato, mayo and mustard burger ($7.95), aptly named The Front Porch, for the grandpa in us.

My girlfriend couldn’t resist shroomin’ out on their Voodoo burger ($9.25), but I had my sights set on their wagyu burger ($15.95), which comes out with their signature Shiner Bock-battered onion rings. I feel it’s also important to note that all their burgers are served medium-well by default, but they will happily cook it to diner’s preferences upon request.
I needed something to wash all that down, and one of their handspun milkshakes sounded about right. Grub has a nice assortment of classic flavors (strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, etc.), and some fancier ones that involve candy, gummy worms and the like. The fancier ones looked like a bit much, so I opted for a classic Nutella milkshake ($5).

I had heard quite a bit about their rings and we both dove in right away while they were still warm. We ended up being split on the two textural components of said rings; while I enjoyed the onion interior being slightly firm and toothsome, she wished it was a bit softer. And while I thought the crunchy exterior was a bit too crunchy, she felt it was just right. Go figure. However, we did both agree that the batter was delicious and that these were some of the better rings we’d had.

To help aid the ring debate, I had lined up cups of their freely available house-made sauces that include jalapeño ranch, chipotle ketchup, honey mustard and their patented Grub sauce. I particularly enjoyed the honey mustard, as its sweetness was nicely offset with their sharp, vinegary mustard. The other spice-infused sauces could’ve used more zing, as I could barely taste the peppers.

After the ring tête-à-tête, we started in on our burgers, and the first thing we noticed was their fresh, house-made buns. They had a nice gloss and feel to them, as they were soft but sturdy enough not to fall apart under the weight of the burgers and their toppings.

It was interesting to note the differences in their standard beef vs. their wagyu beef; their standard beef has a bit of an understated flavor, while the wagyu was way more bold, assertive and juicy. Not to say the standard beef was overcooked, as it came out perfectly medium with just a bit of pink in the middle, but the way they grind their meat is a bit chunkier than what we’re used to.

The toppings of the burgers were the clear winners in all this, as the absinthe-sautéed mushrooms on the Voodoo burger and the arugula and roasted garlic mayo on the wagyu were a hit. I also enjoyed the French-fried onions on the wagyu, as it gave the burger a nice textural contrast.

A quick word on the Nutella shake: friggin’ delicious. The Nutella flavor was evident, and the shake itself was the perfect smoothness and consistency.

Grub Burger Bar
785 Lawrence Expwy, Santa Clara