Let’s accentuate the positive first, shall we?
The buns are nice, fresh, soft, slightly sweet and squishy, just the way they’re supposed to be.
They don’t put sesame seeds on them — another big plus.
They use good meat and season it properly.
That meat is cooked to medium (the way “the kitchen suggests it”) which is too much for us, but just fine for most folks.
Those burgers (9 oz.) are neither too big nor too small…and they’re priced right: $9. As one of our dining companions remarked: “It is a good burger, not life changing, but very nice for the price.”
We even liked the bbq pork sliders with their dousing in sauce and plenty-wet chipotle slaw. They won’t win any awards but are fun and filling as bar food goes. Even the arancini impressed; it being as light and tasty as any you’ll find in a decent Italian restaurant…even if they do incorporate truffle oil…something we’ll forgive in a burger joint.
The staff seems to be on its game, and has been from the get go, and after several trips here (two where we were “made,” one where we weren’t), we feel confident we can endorse the service as top notch.
Liquid refreshments of the adult variety are compelling and well priced. Trappist ales on tap share billing with $18 half bottles of Qupe syrah — both of which go splendidly with the food. (The Tobin James full bottle of cabernet sauvignon ($43) is also a relative bargain.)
Before you get to all of those goodies (including milkshakes made and garnished with an entire Hostess cupcake…yikes!) you’ll have to navigate the problematical floor plan. The design achieves what can only be called negative feng shui by mixing more metaphors than this website. The hostess stand and foyer have the look of a fancy restaurant, behind which sits a milk shake bar of sorts that tries (and fails) to evoke a retro-50s soda fountain vibe. It fails mainly because it sits catty-corner to a real bar — the two of them bisecting the two dining areas. The effect creates an immediate sense of schizophrenia that challenges the patron: Am I in a groovy-cool, wholesome throwback diner, or an adult burger joint with serious beer and wine pretensions? Sitting in either space, you can feel the designer’s dilemma as they tried to combine the two concepts…and ended up flopping at both. None of this distracts from the food, but at times you wish it would.
The main culprits are the “Baltimore” fries, the signature “Double Helix Stuffed” burger, and steamed meatballs that were so unappetizing we couldn’t bring ourselves to post the picture of the grey blobs as they appeared. The fries, if left alone, are decent enough, but someone had the idea of covering them in both brown gravy and an extremely salty cheese sauce. The effect is to take a decent fried potato and turn it into a sloppy mess with zero visual appeal, and no tasteful one we can think of — unless gloppy brown sauce and over-salted cheese is your thing. The nachos were also a disaster — again suffering the indignity of a smothering cheese sauce (this time with black truffles!) — adding insult to injury with kalamata olives thrown in for those with a sodium chloride deficiency.
Finally, there is that signature burger. It tries to duplicate the success of the famous Daniel Boulud stuffed burger (sans foie gras), at half the size and price. Ours resembled a withered, grainy, brown baseball, with all the chew-a-bility of one left out in the sandlot too long. The braised short rib stuffing was akin to beef mush punctuated with un-masticate-able chunks o’ meat that would give shoe leather a run for its money. It is a disaster of a “signature” menu item, and should be deep-sixed as quickly as possible, lest it end up “signing” the death warrant for this place. — something we’ve told the management face to face.
There is good food at Bottles & Burgers, you just have to look for it. Once the cooks stop gunking things up, and pare down the menu, and quit trying to copy a chef whose talents are far beyond their pay grade, this place could become a neighborhood institution. We’re rooting for it, but right now we can’t quite root for the food.
BOTTLES & BURGERS by Double Helix
In Tivoli Village
450 South Rampart Boulevard #120
Las Vegas, NV 89145