By Angelique Gammon
“We believe in the space between…when you’re not so busy DOING that you have time for laughing out loud, small moments, and big dreams. So be yourself and enjoy the ride.” – The Grub Story.
The Grub Burger Bar story turns 5 years old in March and Aggie owner and entrepreneur Jimmy Loup has a new menu, new locations, and an even bigger definition of “the space between.” For customers, that means the space between Grub’s well-loved signature burgers is now occupied by some extraordinary new fare. New lighter options include Ahi Tuna and awesome bowls along with new savory sandwiches that still offer grubstastic options like bacon.
When Loup invited INSITE to a tasting lunch for the new menu, we attended as one gluten free and one “regular” diner. Most of Grub’s menu is already gluten free and they offer a GF bun for sandwiches and burgers. A knowledgeable owner, chef and staff make it unlikely Grub will suffer the “veto vote” in groups that include diners with special dietary needs. The vegetarian and gluten free can happily fill up next to the dedicated burger and fry connoisseur without leaving someone behind who is looking for lighter fare with flair.
That’s where the new menu really shines with flavor-packed Asian-inspired salads and bowls, an Ahi Tuna appetizer and new sandwiches like the Back Porch grilled chicken sandwich. Alongside new lighter fare options are items we’ll just describe as “No worries, we’ll stay longer at the gym” including the Chorizo Queso with a dollop of homemade guacamole and a Market special Cuban burger we were lucky enough to try before month’s end. Up next: a Market special burger with a grilled portabella mushroom burger for Lent.
The biggest challenge will be leaving space between so you have room to try all of the new menu items. #ProTip – The Chorizo Queso is dark orange because of the chorizo, not the cheese, and it’s amazing. Dip quick for first shot at Arturo’s homemade guacamole nestled in the queso. On the second visit, just order two.
On the day Loup is wowing us with a tasting lunch, among the other diners are his cross fit workout buddies…and his trainer. You suspect this is part of the inspiration for the lighter fare. Now you have enough lighter fare options for almost every day of the month. From the Thai Noodle Salad to the multiple bowl options, the new menu is ready for your every desire from those counting carbs and calories to those who really want to throw down a Bacon Love #9 burger. Everybody can go for it. #ProTip2 – Bring lots of friends so you can share. Everything.
Let’s talk more about the Thai Noodle Salad, a personal favorite of Loup’s and this taster: Rice noodles, mango, Campari tomato, avocado, cilantro, peanuts, lettuce, and a sweet chile vinaigrette with your choice of Ahi Tuna or grilled chicken. Mine came with both; I loved it with both. My vote would be to add it to the menu with half Ahi Tuna and grilled chicken and then order small containers of Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce and/or Mississippi Comeback sauce for dipping leftover chicken. Bonus: the rice noodles are gluten free but wholly filling. The portion is huge; order to share or take home leftovers for a snack. #ProTip3 – somebody at the table HAS to order Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce and Mississippi Comeback sauce so you can dip everything on the table in them. They come as sides to certain menu items but work on anything, including your fingers.
When invited, we knew what we expected to like. It wasn’t our first Grub rodeo. Now, it’s going to take large dining parties or multiple trips to revisit everything we liked. Shelbi LeMeilleur, who describes herself as a Front Porch burger regular, really liked the new Back Porch grilled chicken sandwich and the Cuban burger. I have never been drawn to Ahi Tuna as an appetizer and now can’t imagine not ordering it to get started or to add it on a bowl or salad. Favorite new bowl is a symphony of flavors in your mouth: Salmon Filet Bowl with Wild Alaskan Salmon filet, bacon, black bean and charred corn medley, lettuce, Campari tomatoes, avocado, queso fresco, sprouts and ancho lime vinaigrette.
Last #ProTip – Don’t ignore the new Brussels Sprouts side: Roasted Brussels sprouts, tossed in ancho lime vinaigrette and topped with queso fresco. My personal opinion is Brussels sprouts are nature’s perfect smart food bomb. Roasted and dressed in ancho lime vinaigrette with a smidge of queso fresco is enough to convince anyone to eat something “good for them” and love it, even Shelbi, who heretofore hated Brussels Sprouts.
Loup’s story started at the Grub Burger Bar on University Drive in College Station, but with 18 Grub locations coast-to-coast and plans to open six new locations in 2017, the story is far from ended. Grub’s corporate headquarters are local and “full of Aggies,” says Loup. The Class of ’96 Mays Business grad says market research guided the development of a new base of offerings that follow his strategy of “Keep it simple and make it extraordinary.” Customers only taste the results of buns baked fresh every hour. They don’t need to know or care that Loup and his crew decided to take apart the toasters because they rushed the buns; they installed new gears because they wanted to deliver perfectly toasted buns on burgers and sandwiches.
Grub Burger is fast, casual dining, but with a backstory. Loup defines his journey with Grub as a passion, both externally for his diners and internally in helping all the “Grubsters” he employs to be motivated and to define and develop their own personal dreams. Customers will define his journey as simply delicious.