My children have been urging me – as subtly as any kids can – to try the Twisted Root Burger Company for at least two years now. I had resisted … until a recent Sunday night, when I was alone, hopeful … and (clearly) vulnerable.
The Twisted Root is located on Rocky Ridge Road in Vestavia, near Birmingham. For non-Hamers, it’s an established suburb, but not really that far from the downtown foodie scene. It’s not a new, hip area of town or even a place where new buildouts are typically the norm.
Nevertheless, a few years ago, Twisted Root joined the Bham burger scene – at the end of the last burger boom. It’s not unique to Bham – Momma and Daddy Root are from Texas/Dallas/Ft. Worth. Twisted Root offers franchise opportunities for those interested in burgers, fries and twists … and roots, I guess. The history of the company speaks a lot – good intentions, good plans and seems homey enough. The original Root was on an early episode of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
With the family build-up and a free evening, I went.
So, as I was sitting there, eating my “Freshman 15” burger, it struck me. There are a lot of reasons to visit Twisted Root, but the burger’s just not one of them.
I was trying to put my finger on exactly what I wasn’t enjoying about one of my favorite meals. Did the meat taste funny (kinda)? Was the meat overcooked (even for MW; yes)? Was the combo for this one (recommended by the staff) – a burger topped with fries, bacon and a fried egg – just DOA (it shouldn’t be)? If it could have yawned, the dead piece of cow would have. It wasn’t juicy. It was bland. The meat was boring and lifeless. It came with a single piece of lettuce and an onion. While I was left to place condiments and pickles at my leisure, my leisure was that I wanted someone else to present me with what they had to offer and for me to not be tasked with improving a signature dish with my interpretation of what the Freshman 15 needed (not knowing).
It needed some additional taste… This was supposed to be an indulgence burger – one of those, “don’t-tell-your-cardiologist” ones. But if you’re gonna sin bad, it should taste a lot more sinful.
I get that doing food reviews is a bit like getting one at bat in the big leagues or one date with the class beauty. I get that anyone can have a bad day or night. But… I’ve eaten hundreds of burgers over my lifetime. I eat them from Rojo, down the street, frequently. Good and consistent. Jim N’ Nicks – usually awesome, always frustrating.
I could go on. But there is a two-fold lesson here: 1) You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. 2) Impressions are there for a reason. Go with your gut.
My kids, who have an unnatural love of this place, are not going to be pleased with what I experienced, as if I willed taste-less beef to appear. As a reality check, this comes from the same kids that argue about the relative tastiness of McDonald’s … or any meal that’s devoid of lettuce.
So, I considered revisiting my experience … until I started doing my post-visit review of reviews, and found fellows in disappointment … for similar reasons. Bland meat. Weird flavor. Delivering less than expected.
But the place itself isn’t without highly redeeming qualities including:
- Beer and a bar
- Milkshakes (custard-based)
- Milkshakes for grown-ups (I might go back just for that)
- Excellent, hand-cut fries. There was a kid close by; I considered trading my burger for his fries. He gave me a not-in-this-lifetime glare…
- Possible fry improvers, like cheese and such …
- Sassy condiments — ketchups and chipotle blah blah.
- A pickle bar – dill, sweet and sour, ranch, wasabi and more.
- A kids play area and a very warm, family-friendly atmosphere.
- Nice people working there.
- Clever ways of calling out orders (I was Snoop Dogg).
It’s a fun place, and if the kids were good, and I was feeling agreeable, I’d take them. I wasn’t so bummed by the uninspired burger that it’s tainted me against them for life. But when I got there, I asked for a suggestion (I almost always do): what’s the most popular?
A barbeque thingy … something with avocado … the one with an bacon, egg and fries… Once bitten by the Freshman 15 is twice smarter. If there is a next time, I’ll get a plain cheeseburger. Nothing fancy or twisted there … and one of those $5 shakes.
Points are 1-10 (ten being the best)
Meat – 6.5 … Enuf said on this. Bland. Overdone. Edible but joyless.
Bun and fixins’ — 7.5 … The bland egg added to the bland meat. But you can get a world tour of sauces and pickles (if you’re into that kinda thing). Bun= What’s your name?
Sides – 9.0 … I’m still miffed that the little kid wouldn’t consider a burger-for-fries trade.
Service & Presentation – 8 … No nonsense and some fun. Nice folks working there, too.
Ambiance – 8 … Someone spent some time at the Ft. Worth Hobby Lobby … Cliched and cute
Bonus (Nada)– Again, I’m sorry kids.
Rating – B-