published Friday, March 11th, 2011

Urban Stack measures up with a high-end hamburger

The newest downtown dining sensation, without a doubt, is Urban Stack.

Diners have been flocking to the high-end hamburger joint on the Southside since it opened just over a month ago. The wait on weekend nights sometimes exceeds an hour.

The restaurant is owned by Mike and Taylor Monen, who also own Taco Mamacita on the North Shore, and they have brought the same sense of upscale casual dining to Urban Stack.

If your idea of a good burger is off the value menu at a fast-food franchise, then you may not be ready for Urban Stack’s adventurous take on the American standard. But if you’re willing to take a chance on some unique combinations and pay a little more, then you may find that the golden arches will never be good enough again.

The menu

There are at least 20 exotic hamburgers for diners to experience.

All are made with 100 percent vegetarian-fed certified Angus beef, according to the menu. For an additional $3, you can upgrade to a Niman Ranch USDA Prime brisket and ground chuck blend prepared exclusively for Urban Stack.

For $2, free-range chicken breast can be substituted for the beef patty. All sandwiches are served on locally baked buns from Niedlov’s Bakery.

The burger selections range from the basic Big Cheese to the spicy New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger and the unique Good Day, Sunshine burger, which features bacon, white cheddar cheese and, interestingly, a fried egg.

In addition to what are called the Urban Classics, there is a selection of Specialty Stack Burgers, such as a ground lamb burger, a turkey burger and two high-end burgers featuring American Kobe-style Wagyu beef.

The prices for burgers range from $6.99 for the Big Cheese to $11.99 for the Hercules, a Greek-themed burger of ground lamb. No sides are served with the sandwiches, so if you want fries, it’s going to set you back another $2.50.

If you’re not a carnivore, they offer a Southwestern Veggie burger and a vegan mushroom burger.

Appetizers are a mix of pub fare such as chicken wings, potato skins and nachos, plus items such as fried bologna sliders and Smokin’ Hot Pimento Cheese Dip.

Urban Stack also bills itself as a top-end whiskey bar. A rotating selection of draft beer from local and regional craft breweries is also available, along with a basic wine selection and nonalcoholic beverages.

If you want something sweet, Urban Stack offers its Five-Dollar Shakes in flavors such as Banana Fosters, Orange Creamsicle and S’mores.

The order (for three): For a recent visit with friends, a serving of the Smokin’ Hot Pimento Cheese Dip got the meal off to a good start.

This dip is not like the pimento cheese from grandma’s fridge. It’s served hot with seasoned chips and has a spicy kick from roasted red peppers and smoked jalapeño peppers.

For the main course, I went with the Chicago Burger, which featured peppercorn bologna along with tomato, cherry pepper relish, sport peppers and onion.

The bologna on top of the beef gave the burger a unique taste, and the peppers made for a spicy take on the basic hamburger.

My companions ordered the Hercules lamb burger and the Philly Cheese Steak Burger. The lamb was served with feta cheese and had a very delicate, subtle flavor, while the Philly Cheese Steak Burger came with a cherry pepper relish as well as provolone cheese and sautéed pepper onion and mushrooms.

The service

The service was outstanding on our visit. Our server was attentive without hovering over us as we enjoyed our meal.

Water glasses were kept topped off, and we were asked on several occasions if the food was satisfactory and if we needed anything else.

The space

The restaurant is on West 13th Street between Market and Broad streets in the old Southern Railway Passenger Baggage building.

The Monens completely remodeled the inside of the building and have added patios on the front and the back that could become popular for dinner and drinks when warmer weather arrives.

The seating interior is casual and comfortable with tables and large booths in the moderately sized dining room.

The verdict

Urban Stack is off to a very good start, and the variety of burgers is enough to make anyone want to go back for a second, third and fourth visit to try the different offerings.

For the price, it would be nice if a side item, even something as simple as chips, was offered with the main course. Without a side item, the prices at the Urban Stack are a touch high but not so pricey as to deter repeat business considering how well the food is prepared and the quality of the service.

Contact Jim Tanner at jtanner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6478.

If you go

  • Where: Urban Stack, 12 W. 13th St.

  • Phone: 423-475-5350.

  • Website: http://urbanstack.com.

  • Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

  • Price range: $2.99 (Fire & Ice Pickles) to $11.99 (Hercules lamb burger).

  • Alcohol: Full bar with an extensive whiskey selection.

about Jim Tanner...

Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...

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