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Friday, July 11, 2014

Hamburger Hero reopens in downtown Wichita

By Denise Neil
The Wichita Eagle

When Hamburger Heroes suddenly closed down its Park City location late last year, residents were not pleased. The restaurant had developed a reputation as one of the town’s best burger joints.

But as soon as they closed it, owners Josh and Bri Sams announced plans to reopen it in downtown Wichita, where they felt they could find more of a dinner crowd.

By early December, the move was complete. (And the “es” was dropped from the title. It’s now just “Hamburger Hero.”)

Although the Sams didn’t find their dinner crowd — in a few weeks, they’ll eliminate evening hours completely and add breakfast — so far, they’re attracting healthy crowds of downtown workers hungry for a lunchtime burger fix.

ON THE MENU: The 24-item menu includes several styles of grilled burgers, fresh-cut fries, a few chicken sandwiches, a cheese steak sandwich, a pulled pork sandwich, a salad, a hot dog and fried catfish strips.

DON’T MISS DISHES: The Hamburger Hero burger is a good one. The patty is not too thick, not too thin, and has the smoky flavor of a burger cooked on a well-seasoned grill. We ordered the bacon cheeseburger ($6.50 with choice of fries or chips), which comes topped with melty American cheese, bacon fried in the shape of a disc, grilled onions, pickle, ketchup and mustard. The burger had slightly crispy edges, and the beautiful split-top bun — which comes from an independent bakery — was soft but substantial enough to hold everything together. Other burgers listed on the menu are topped with ingredients such as mushrooms and Swiss cheese, grilled jalapenos and fried onion strings.

We ordered sides of both french fries and tater tots to go with our meal. The fresh-cut fries were the wonderful kind that retain a bit of the skin, are thin cut and fried until dark brown. The tots were delicious, too, and weren’t the grease sponges that tots can easily become.

The menu touts the restaurant’s catfish strips ($7) as “the best in the galaxy,” and they were pretty amazing. An order features a generous serving of thin-cut, farm-raised catfish fried in a delicious (but pretty salty) batter. The fish inside was fresh tasting, and the strips were not at all greasy. Ask for a side of tartar sauce.

We also enjoyed the “cheez steak” sandwich, served on a fresh-baked hoagie and filled with a decadent mixture of grilled rib eye, onions, mushrooms and melty Swiss cheese that sticks to your teeth.

AMBIENCE: There’s nothing fancy about the restaurant, which features two large dining rooms filled with red-checkered tabletops. But Hamburger Hero offers a rare perk for a burger place, the benefits of which I cannot stress enough: It’s properly vented, meaning that you don’t leave smelling like eau de french-fry grease.

SERVICE: Mom-and-pop friendly. Bri Sams takes orders at the cash register, and Josh is visible behind her, cooking away in the kitchen.

Ratings reflect the critic’s judgment of the food, service and atmosphere in relation to the price. If you would like to nominate a restaurant to be reviewed, call 316-268-6327.

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