Few states have such a representative food as Texas does with beef, so it’s no wonder that the state’s burger game is on point.
Quietly sliding in at the upper echelons of burgerdom comes The Royale from Apheleia Restaurant Group (the company behind Oak, El Bolero, and Pakpao Thai). They chose Plano for the initial concept, intending to make it family-friendly.
The menu highlights upscale ingredients, which may be the influence of John Tesar, who consulted Apheleia on menu design. Since his tenure at the Mansion Restaurant, he has always seemed to have been able to make luxury ingredients sing.
The signature Royale ($11.50) is a 7-ounce Black Angus beef patty with tomato, Cheddar, lettuce, Applewood-smoked bacon, and truffle aïoli. It has the formidable size required of upscale burgers. The fluffy brioche bun contributes notes of sweetness, and Black Angus beef reliably ensures a rich vein of umami, iron, and earthiness in the backbone of the flavors. The truffle notes, from truffle oil, are a matter of taste, but I love 'em. Kudos to The Royale for using Cheddar rather than the ubiquitous yellow goo that passes as cheese in so many burger joints.
Just outside of mainstream, the salmon burger is an Atlantic salmon patty with shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato, and roasted lemon vinaigrette on a cracked wheat bun. If you like fish burgers, this will impress you. However, it is a grilled salmon patty, not the crudo varietal exemplified by the heavenly ahi tuna burger at Chop House Burger. A side of tartar sauce for taste and a little more moistness would help.
Sides are enormous — maybe for the parents wanting to keep their children happy. Each seems to come with a different sauce that Tesar developed to be different enough to be unique to The Royale but familiar enough to not scare off the little ones. Thus, the tater tots come with chipotle ketchup. Massive onion rings, coated with a Shiner Bock beer batter and served with chipotle aïoli, are slung on a stake and are effectively a meal themselves. The fries are stouter than the popular bootlace variety.
Beverages are a treat, maybe better than any burger place in town. There are more than a dozen craft beers plus eight on draft. Local brews as well as established national craft brands are included. Cocktails are as ambitious as in many bars, and the wine list includes some high-end producers, both on tap and a few by the bottle. Terrazas Malbec is a winner with any of the beef burgers, and Toad Hollow Chardonnay works with the salmon burger. The only omission? No Texas wines are available (an unfortunate omission given the state's strength in burger-friendly tempranillo).
Additionally, The Royale's shakes are excellent — not as good as Chop House Burger’s but in the premier league. The banana and the salted caramel examples are especially recommended. All can be spiked if you so desire.
The Royale does all this in a setting of comfortable seats at tables with lots of room.