I had a long day on the road recently seeing a number of dealers before getting into the western suburbs of St. Louis around 8 p.m. I checked into my hotel and did a quick search to see what restaurants were in the immediate area. Not far from the hotel over in Creve Coeur was a place that I hadn't heard about before - Dave & Tony's Premium Burger Joint. It had gotten some good reviews from diners and in the local St. Louis press, so I decided to head over there to check the place out.
Dave & Tony's grew out of a concept sandwich shop - Sammy Scott's - that was started by David Miller, Anthony Dahl and two other investors back in 2009. The sandwiches were upscale and pricey, but I understand that they did very well with the lunch time crowds that would come in. However, the restaurant couldn't sustain the level of business needed at night and on the weekends. The group decided to close the business in March of 2011 and Miller and Dahl decided to do something else with the corner location in Bellerive Plaza strip mall off of Olive St. (see map)
Miller - whose grandfather is noted St. Louis entrepreneur/restauranteur/developer Lester Miller - and Dahl - who was once the executive chef at J. Buck's in downtown St. Louis, and also at the former Finale in Clayton - decided to come up with a premium burger concept where people could build their own burgers featuring ground steak burgers and multitudes of toppings. Hoping the more broad approach to the concept would appeal to consumers, the two opened Dave & Tony's in June of 2011. Since they just celebrated their 4 year anniversary, I'd say they've hit on a winning concept.
Even though it was around 8:30, there was still a pretty good crowd in Dave & Tony's enjoying their burgers. The menu for the place is located on four flat-screen monitors next to the front counter. You place your order and go find a table. They bring you your food and you eat it. Pretty easy, huh?
Dave & Tony's BYO Form -
The first step is if you want a sandwich, a garlic/herbed wrap, or just a salad for $6.99. Then you get to choose from a list of either a premium steak burger, an extra large steak burger (for a buck more), grilled chicken, or a turkey burger or a veggie burger for the health conscious. Then you get to tell them how you want your burger cooked.
From there, you get your choice of five different types of buns, or - once again for the health conscious - a lettuce wrap. Then the choices start getting interesting.
You can then choose from nearly two dozen different types of toppings that include black beans, jalapeños, roasted sweet corn or sprouts. Oh, they have the regular items like tomatoes, red onions, iceberg lettuce and caramelized onions. But I don't think I've ever seen a burger with carrots, candied walnuts or crispy wontons on it.
They also have a list of about a dozen premium toppings for $1.00 each such as bacon, a fried egg, roasted mushrooms and even baked beans (once again - baked beans on a hamburger?). Then you get a choice of one type of sauce or dressing. They had chipotle ketchup, steak butter, roasted garlic aioli, and three different types of mustard. (If you wanted additional sauce toppings, they were 50 cents each.)
Now, if you don't want to go through all that, they do have things like a simple burger, a mushroom and Swiss cheese burger, a Southwest turkey burger with pepper jack cheese, roasted peppers and jalapeños, a grilled chicken sandwich, as well as hot dogs, chicken tenders, grilled cheese sandwiches, salads and wraps. They also have a kids menu at Dave & Tony's.
I decided to build my own burger - a 10 ounce extra large premium steak burger topped with pepper jack cheese, roasted mushrooms and red peppers, bacon, red onion slices and kosher dill slices. I also got a couple bottles of Budweiser (hey, when in St. Louis...) to go along with the burger. The counter person asked if I wanted any fries or onion rings (they also have chili cheese fries and garlic herb fries, too), but I declined anything more than what was probably going to be an already too-big burger for me.
The burger was loaded with toppings - roasted mushrooms and peppers were mixed with sliced red onion rings and kosher dill pickles. Two thick cut slices of bacon criss-crossed the top of the burger. I got the regular bun for this particular burger. With everything all together, this was a handful of a burger.
The taste of the burger was very good. With everything that was going on - taste-wise - with the burger, meat shined through very well. I order my burgers medium and this was just about as medium as you can get it. It had a small hint of pink in the middle and maintained it's juicy flavor with each bite.
However, about 3/4's of the way through eating the burger, I bit into something that was sort of rubbery and something that I couldn't get my teeth to fully cut into. Discretely removing it from my mouth and setting it on the wax paper that the burger comes on, I found it to be a rather gnarly mushroom that had the consistency of a pencil eraser. But that didn't deter me - I finished up what I felt was a pretty good burger. Other than that little problem, I couldn't find much - if any - faults with my burger.
The gnarly mushroom notwithstanding, I felt the burger at Dave & Tony's was definitely above average. I'm frankly sort of surprised that they haven't opened more locations around the St. Louis area. Having the one location sort of proves to me that they're serious about the consistency of their food and wanting to do the best - even with all the choices you can make when you build your own burger. While I can't call the burger I had at Dave & Tony's the best burger I've had in St. Louis, it certainly is up toward the top.