Ian Tucker, owner of Balls Out Burger, wants the ingredients to shine at his new Heights restaurant, which opened on North Durham Drive on Saturday. "We don't want to ruin good meat and bread by piling it with other crap," he says. In the case of Balls Out, the meat is beef from 44 Farms. The bread is an Amish potato roll made each day by Slow Dough to Tucker's specifications. What else? Diners have the option to order lettuce, onion, pickle, tomato and jalapeño—all of which are local—atop their burgers, but Tucker doesn't encourage it. "We're using the best ingredients we can get and letting it speak for itself," he explains.
That means only four different burger options for adults: a hamburger, a cheeseburger and double versions of each. Burgers are five ounces, so lighter eaters might want to go with a kids' burger or cheeseburger. The patties are seasoned with Himalayan pink salt for reasons of both taste and health. Buns are crisped in rendered tallow on the griddle. Tucker says his goal was to make a New York diner-style burger, not an easy thing to find in Houston. And he's succeeded in transporting this Northeasterner to her childhood local bodega.
Fries are available as bistro-thin shoestrings, skin-on hand-cut fries and sweet potato fries that crunch outside but melt within. Sodas and a selection of St. Arnold Brewing Company beers are available only in cans as part of an effort to keep the restaurant environmentally responsible. Napkins and the liners of the trays on which burgers are served are made from recycled materials. The only drinks served in (recyclable) cups are Texas-made wine and milk shakes made with Austin-based Amy's Ice Creams. Currently, there are only two flavors of the latter, vanilla and chocolate thickened with banana.
All service takes place at the counter (or outside window), except when the patio is busy, when Tucker says servers will bring food to guests. The 4,000 square-foot patio is dog-friendly (no surprise given the restaurant's focus on the planet's health) and man and beast alike can listen to music, watch TV or play cornhole, giant Jenga, extra-large Connect Four or darts under the massive awning. The burgers may be East Coast-style, but the ambience is all Texas.