The old fashioned diner burger at Doves
  • Myles Gebert
  • The old-fashioned diner burger at Dove’s

When Dove’s Luncheonette opened last year, I was somewhat surprised to find that the alleged “luncheonette” from One Off Hospitality, located next to Big Star, has a menu that consists mainly of Mexican dishes. It wasn’t what the cassette tape of 60s soul numbers that had been distributed to local food writers had led me to expect. Mind you, One Off is the group who has a Mediterranean restaurant (Avec) that looks like a Swedish sauna, so a certain amount of cultural fusion was to be expected. But still, the one old-school comfort-food dish on the menu—chicken-fried chicken—stood out for being surrounded by pozole and tamales.

So I was there with my son last week, and after we looked through the menu we were told that they had a special: a burger. A burger? As in actual-diner-food burger? My son ordered it, I took a bite. It’s a heck of a good burger, if a bit unconventional in design. He ate the rest of the burger; I got down to the bottom of the story.

It’s a hunk of ground Slagel beef on toasted sourdough pullman loaf from Publican Quality Bread, buttered and then topped with aioli, Grafton one-year cheddar, smoked banana peppers, and chiles in olive oil “to give it a little smoky taste of Texas,” says Dove’s chef Dennis Bernard, a veteran of Vie and the Publican. “We did it kind of like a patty melt crossed with a chile burger”—he means one with chiles on it, not a bowl of chili on it—”because a patty melt seemed like it went with the concept of us being like a diner. And there’s regular burgers all over the neighborhood.” It’s available Monday through Friday, and comes on its own, no fries. “I’m in a burger world, I’m not a fry guy,” Bernard explains, somewhat cryptically.

So how did the menu end up more Mexican than American-vintage-dinerish? Tex-Mex is the specific direction that Dove’s took as a southernish diner, Bernard says, “so we’d have a familial relation to Big Star, though it’s Tex-Mex flavors—it’s not beans and rice with every plate. It’s Mexican soul food.” Nevertheless, he thinks the menu may tip in a more southerly direction in the future. “Mostly we just make what I want to eat, and hopefully others will too,” he says. “We just have fun; there aren’t any boundaries.” He throws out lamb pastrami as something that may turn up on the menu soon, which sounds neither Tex nor Mex.

In any case, the change of the seasons will bring some evolution to the menu, Bernard says. “I’m looking forward to spring and summer. We opened at the worst possible time, with cold weather and the Blue Line closing.” I point out that they’ve been plenty full anyway, and to which he says, “People think we’re always packed. I hear them say they can’t get in, but we have 42 seats. Twenty people come in and we look full. Tell people we’re open for dinner—no one knows that because, you know, ‘luncheonette.'”