Monkey Burger may be a silly name for a restaurant, but wait until you try the food.
These simians make a seriously good burger.
Co-owner Roy Schaefer, who was the managing founder of the now-closed Burger City downtown, says the name was meant to be an attention-grabber.
"Monkeys are a hip and trendy thing right now," he says. "We thought it fit the vibe we were going after."
Monkey Burger's concept is a simple one. You get a burger and your choice of either french fries or homemade potato chips for less than $9.50.
Sides, such as sweet potato fries and roasted corn on the cob, cost $2.75.
There are also salads.
Monkey Burger's head chef, Matthew Stricker, has skillfully created the gourmet topping combinations found on each of the 12 burgers. Stricker previously worked as executive chef at Cuvee World Bistro and McClintock's at Saguaro Ranch, and still serves drinks and food a couple of nights a week at The Dish.
At Monkey Burger - in the Plaza at Williams Centre, at Broadway and Craycroft Road - Stricker takes the ordinary hamburger and turns it into a piece of gourmet art.
Stricker says the fresh produce used is equally important as the presentation.
"When people order a gourmet burger, they want to see and taste something different," Stricker said. "Here, all the products are done right, from the buns to the fresh produce. The freshness speaks for itself."
The vibrant, sophisticated graffiti-style art on the walls was painted by local artist Rocky Martinez, whose murals decorate downtown. It's the first thing that catches your eye.
There are burgers with wings, as well as kissing mayonnaise and ketchup bottles.
Servers wear black T-shirts with "Place tail here" written on the back.
We sat at a table toward the back, but we were quickly told that we needed to first order at the front counter.
Returning to our table, we settled down in the funky yet surprisingly comfortable chairs. The thick, black, bungee-like tubes that run across the seats and backs of the chairs are just another fun touch in the décor.
It was a little disappointing to hear the kitchen was out of spinach for the Vegas Baby! burger, which also comes topped with merlot onions and Gruyère cheese.
The Chef Mattie's Monkey burger was a delicious substitute. The combination of roasted poblano peppers, sautéed mushrooms and onions, lettuce, tomato, bacon, cheddar and Swiss cheese was sensational.
Piled high with grilled eggplant, portabello, roasted red peppers and grilled onions, the VegHead dripped mushroom juices and basil Boursin cheese down my dining partner's arm. The only way to conquer the beast was with a fork and knife.
The housemade potato chips served on the side were thin and crispy. A lot of homemade chips are overly oily, but not these evenly seasoned bites.
The True Blue burger towered above its competitors. The whopping sandwich - a fat patty of Angus beef embraced with sumptuous blue cheese, caramelized onions, romaine lettuce and grilled tomatoes - stood almost tall enough to topple from the plate. The taste: exquisite. The handling characteristics: not so much.
A way-above-average bun - from Viro's Bakery in Tucson - more than made up for the so-so golden fries served with the burger.
We ordered two sides, and while the sweet potato fries were bland, the perfectly sliced fried pickles hit the spot.
• Where: 5350 E. Broadway.
• Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.
• More info: 514-9797; www.monkeyburger restaurant.com
• True Blue Burger: $8.50
• Chef Mattie's Burger: $9.50
• VegHead: $6.50
• Sweet potato fries: $2.75
• Fried pickles: $2.75
Total (before tax and tip): $30
Tiffany Kimmell is a University of Arizona student apprenticing at the Star. Contact her at email@example.com