Location: 1101 Central Ave. 28204
Angus: Most of the time when Hereford and I visit a burger joint for a review, it’s just the two of us and maybe our significant others. But a couple of weeks ago I invited a few other friends from school to come along. All in all, there were seven of us there, and we gave what we called a “Live Burger Review” for them.
Now, we obviously write under pseudonyms—this allows us to be complete jerks without worrying about the consequences. So we asked the people in our group if they wanted a pseudonym as well if they were to be quoted. They all agreed. Some of them had pseudonyms of their own they wanted to go by, others let us name them.
Thus, at our table the two of us were joined by Matthias, Henrietta, Ferdinand, Colorado, and The Bearded Guy.
Hereford: Because we were going to have a group of people, we wanted to go to a restaurant that we felt confidant would be good. So, we visited a relatively new restaurant in my neighborhood, Kickstand. We’ve both been there before, and we both felt confidant that we were going to enjoy the experience.
Kickstand is right on Central Ave, and shares its building with the Mexican inspired grill, Loco Lime. Until a few months ago Kickstand was known as the Common House and had a completely different menu—a menu with food that I, frankly, disliked.
Its change was a definite improvement.
Angus: Kickstand gets its name from its bicycle theme. The entire restaurant is centered on the idea of bicycles. They have bicycles in the lobby and hanging around the restaurant. They have bike racks outside with a cool bicycle design. They have Fat Tire always on a $3 special. Why? Because it has a bicycle on it.
Both Henrietta and Ferdinand are cyclists, and one thing they pointed out to us that we were too oblivious to notice was that there were framed pictures all around of cycle shops in town, which we thought was very cool.
Hereford: During the Christmas season, they even had a charity where they were collecting bikes for kids. You could donate a bike or money for a bike and get a gift card. That’s more than cool—that’s awesome.
Angus: There are three main rooms in Kickstand. They have the main bar area, with a few booths against the wall. They have a dining room area with tables and booths. And they have a separate room for parties. While we were there they had a kids party in the separate room, and we were very happy they could close the doors and enjoy themselves without us really even noticing them.
There are a lot of TVs up in the other two rooms—a few too many for my tastes. They were lined around in a sports-bar style. I guess I felt it was wrong because I haven’t really considered Kickstand a sports bar and, to me, it seemed incongruous.
Hereford: Since we had a party we weren’t seated in the bar area, but one thing I would like to note about the bar area is that at the booths they have small TVs mounted above your table. It’s like the TV is invading your space. It might be nice if you don’t actually like the person you’re eating with, but I find it a bit too much. I usually turn it off when I sit there.
And sometimes they don’t have the TVs on ESPN or sports or anything else normal, they have some sort of on-demand channel that you can text a number to and control what you watch. But, the content is videos like billiards trick shots or the X-Games. In this age, is that really novel? Couldn’t I just look that up on YouTube? I can only wonder how successful that texting campaign is.
Angus: Since we had a large group, we ordered a couple of appetizers. We got some nachos and some fried pickles. Now, we figured that those fried pickles had to be on the menu as an homage of sorts to the classic Penguin. Even though they are a very different type of restaurant than the Penguin was, they’ve definitely been courting the crowd that misses it. A couple of months ago they even had a man dressed as a penguin standing at the side of the road to entice people to come in.
Hereford: Does that ever work? Would you ever shop at a store based on some poor guy who had to wear a costume outside? That’s such a weird tactic.
Angus: I think it only works when it’s a bikini-clad woman trying to flag you in.
Angus: Our party seemed to like the pickles. They were different than what the Penguin normally served. They were long spears, and they were served with scallions. Coloradosaid about them:
“I appreciate that they tried a different format. I can only eat so much from the Penguin—they can be overwhelmingly salty & fried.”
The only negative comment came from Henrietta, who noted that fried part came off of the pickle when you ate it. I’ve always heard about onion rings that the fried part should crunch straight through and not detach when eating, and I assume the same is true of fried pickles.
Hereford: While we were waiting we looked over the beer menu. We were very impressed with their selection. They had a lot of interesting beers, including a lot of local beers. They also included the percentage of alcohol in each beer, which is very informative.
Angus: When we go to a restaurant to do a review, we have a tape recorder on the table that we use to record our thoughts. We feel that eating, especially out at a restaurant, is a social experience. That’s the reason why we review together, and the reason why we have the audio recorder—it’s more fun to simply talk than to stop and take notes all the time.
But, that may reveal a flaw in our method. We always rate the service, but the servers know what we’re doing. They ask about the recorder and we tell them. They surely treat us different when they realize that their actions will be reviewed in a blog.
That doesn’t necessarily bother us—it gives them a chance to present themselves in the best light. A lot of times people can be angry about service and take it out on a server without knowing exactly the reason for why there is a delay or the server might be curt.
We’ve both worked in retail and people close to us have served as waiters and so we try to be understanding.
But, we still note when a server becomes more attentive when we tell them that we write for the Charlotte Burger Blog.
Hereford: We initially felt that our server was somewhat aloof from us. There could be one big reason for that—we had reserved a party for 10 and only 7 people were there. (We had a couple of cancellations). He may have been waiting for everyone to show up. Or maybe he was just busy.
Angus: But when I told him we reviewed burger joints, our service became outstanding. Our guests were blown away at how well we were treated. We were given a free appetizer of nachos. Henrietta and Ferdinand joked they wanted to come out with us more often.
Hereford: As I considered what specialty burger I would be ordering, I saw several interesting options on the menu. I already had before on previous trips tried the Cross Country and the Cycle Zydeco, and liked them tremendously. It would have been easy to rave about those.
I asked our server what I should try and he said his favorite was actually a combination of two burgers. He suggested getting a Hung Over Cyclist crossed with a Fender Bender. The Hung Over Cyclist is a burger and a tomato with two grilled cheese sandwiches for buns, and he said it was good, but he was concerned that it was too plain and too dry. There’s nothing on the burger itself but the tomato and he liked the other additions that came with the Fender Bender.
That did sound pretty good, but I decided that I had to order something that was on the menu, so I stuck with the Hung Over Cyclist and hoped that I would share the server’s reservations.
Angus: And I ordered a 2 Speed, which is their version of the bacon cheeseburger. I made a mistake, however, in that I didn’t notice that it wasn’t a double cheeseburger, which is what I wanted. That was my fault, though.
After about 20 minutes, our food came out.
Here’s the Tale of the Tape:
EXHIBIT A: 2 SPEED
Official Weight: 8.7 ounces
Official Diameter: 4 inches
Official Height: 3 inches
Angus: I have to admit, that since most of the guests at this dinner were my friends, I became more of a host than a reviewer. I was trying to make sure that everyone was involved and that I talked to everyone and I didn’t even eat my entire burger.
But, it was really good. You can tell when a patty is organic and the cow is naturally fed. There is a certain taste you get when you bite into something like that. Like you are not destroying your heart but instead enriching it.
The cheese was wonderful. I always prefer cheddar cheese over American and was glad that the former was standard on the 2 Speed.
Now if you have read all the previous reviews here on The Charlotte Burger Blog you know that I am a sort of Lettuce Nazi and I prefer crisp lettuce and lots of it and not this type of “garnish lettuce” that frequents a lot of burgers that we review. The 2 Speed did have that garnish lettuce but it was a small leaf and it did not overpower the burger, but as I said before, I prefer crispier lettuce.
The bacon was phenomenal and it just added to the overall juicy great tasting burger that the 2 Speed ended up being.
EXHIBIT B: THE HUNGOVER CYCLIST
Official Weight: 10.6 ounces
Official Diameter: 5 inches
Official Height: 3 inches
Hereford: I can’t overstate how good my burger was. Well, I guess I could, actually. I could say that it was so good it could change my mind about the existence of God. It wasn’t that good. But, maybe it was close.
My server brought out mustard and mayo to try on it, just in case it was too dry as he said. But he needn’t have worried. I thought it was flawless—I literally think that it was a perfect burger. The two grilled cheese sandwiches were amazing by themselves—expertly toasted and buttered. I probably could have eaten a stack of them. Then the burger was flavorful and juicy, and the tomato was great. I never did put anything else on it. I loved it.
It was so good that for several days afterwards I thought about that burger.
And who knows how good it is if you actually are hung-over.
Angus: The entire group enjoyed their food. Ferdinand had even completed his sandwich before we were even finished weighing and measuring ours. Colorado had a turkey burger and could not believe that it was actually turkey. It was so good that she almost returned the burger for not having turkey on it and instead a beef. This just proved to us even more on how healthy and organic all the meat was here served at Kickstand.
Hereford: And the fries were top notch. They were very starchy and crisp. They had a sort of bread coating to them that differentiated them from other fries that we have reviewed. I am not sure how they were able to do that or how they were fried but the coating on the fries just made them that more amazing. I believe that they are the best fries we have tasted yet.
So, for our final analysis:
Food: 4.75—Hereford argued for a 5 for his burger. Angus really liked his as well, but we deducted a small point for using the garnish lettuce that we hated so much in the Bad Daddy’s review. Otherwise, this was close to perfect.
Service: 4—The staff at Kickstand treated us really well and the manager on duty was very informative and accommodating. But it was hard not to notice how much it changed after we said who we were.
Theme: 5—We almost deducted the restaurant a small point because Henrietta and Ferdinand, avid cyclists, noticed something incorrect on an early visit on one of the bikes in the lobby. We didn’t really understand what they were talking about, but we took their word for it. But, they said it had been fixed by this time. Kickstand deserves a 5 for coming up with a concept and executing it completely.
Atmosphere: 4—The restaurant seems small and cozy, and overall it’s a nice place to hang out with friends. But we had to deduct a point for the TVs—especially the ones in the booths in the bar area.
Beer Selection: 4—We were very impressed with the beer selection. They had a lot on draft, and a lot of local beers (such as our favorite Old Mecklenburg), and some cool specials.