The Refinery Burgers & Whiskey, sounds like a dream come true. If only it were. I met a few friends there for dinner and drinks about a month or so ago. I had heard that the burgers were fantastic, as had one of my friends, so we popped in to catch up and get our burger on. The place is pretty cool, but, I am sorta put off by the tables with little metal troughs built into the center. Good concept for mud bugs, or for icing down all your beers, not a good concept when you want to put the chips and queso in the middle of the table to share.
Ambiance is great, the space is open and has an upscale industrial feel. The restrooms have chalkboard paint stalls, which are loaded with chalky bathroom writings. I find this a great concept, but, the stalls are somewhat narrow, so, if you are packing some junk in your trunk and wearing black, you may have pastel smudges on your pants or skirt when you leave. This is, of course, for women who got big butts, and cannot lie.
Service was slow and disorganized. Our waitress took quite some time to notice that I joined the party. Once I got a beer menu and ordered a pint, it took about ten to fifteen minutes to get my beer. This would have been just fine, had they been crowded, but, alas that was not the case. We had a decent wait time for everything we needed or wanted. By decent, I mean, not exactly prompt service. And no, I do not expect waitstaff to dart around manically to be as fast as possible. Just don't sidetrack into a conversation with your coworkers when you should be doing your job. That's all I ask. LOOK, a squirrel...yeah, like that.
We ordered chips and queso for the table, and it was lukewarm and rather flavorless. The chips were nice, however. I won't swear they were house made, but, they seemed to be. For $2.95, I suppose one cannot expect magic. The soon-to-be-husband of my friend ordered mayo to dip his fries in (he's not a ketchup guy) and we all had burgers. I chose the Red Adair, which is a bacon cheeseburger (sharp cheddar, jalapenos and applewood bacon) and chose the pretzel bun. The other bun choice is the "sheila" which is a sweet bun. When our burgers arrived, some sooner, some later...they had no condiments. Ketchup and mustard are on the table in six-pack holders, along with salt and pepper and a glass which normally contains knives. We requested mayo, and that took over 5 minutes to receive. Burger. Now. Cold. (And dry, and just not "all that"). Then...no weapons to cut them in half....another few minutes.
Overall, the burgers have potential, however, mine was dry-ish, even cooked medium. The cheese was very thin sliced (think the "lower calorie" grocery store bought kind) and the bacon was also thin. The cheese on my burger was slightly wilted from a wee touch of warmth, not melted. Sigh. Really? There was a nice amount of jalapeno, giving the burger a bit of heat. The fries were passable, but, not crisp and not hot and freshly fried and of the frozen variety. My initial response was "eh, if someone insists, I won't balk at returning - however, there are far better options for burgers in this town". Then, the bill arrived.
We were billed fifty cents each for two 2 oz plastic condiment cups with about a tablespoon of mayonnaise in each. We got one extra container for free - I won't be back just so I don't get hit with that charge, in case someone notes I skated without paying my fiddy cents. Was it ridiculous? Not especially, until you start doing the math for a quart jar at the store, much less the cost of a restaurant-sized container of the stuff. Had it been made in house, or flavored exotically, I would not have been so offended. Well, yes, I would have. The burger I had was $10, and the fries $2.95. That clinches it for me, not going back. If you are going to bill yourself as a burger joint, don't charge for condiments, especially those that are prepackaged. A "basket" option, you know bundled services, slighly less than full on a la carte, would be nice.
Lastly, two of us used credit cards - one of us had their card run twice, and one, not at all. So, E, I owe you $42 for my share of the meal. We divide the bill by number of people, we don't bust out calculators. The money all works out over many outings.
Bottom Line: There needs to be some improvement, for the price, both in service and in quality. You can't sling a proverbial dead cat in the Montrose/Mid-Town area of Houston without hitting a decent burger joint. Let's see your A game Refinery. Red Adair pioneered Well Blowout Firefighting, honor his name with some habanero or other such mayonnaise, or hot mustard, at the very least, a super juicy, hot off the fire, patty with thick bacon and melted sharp cheese. The pretzel bun was tender and worked well, ya got that going for ya.
P.S. I see you serve a Fried Bologna Sandwich, old school white bread and mayo. You just well may have taunted me into a second trip. Growing up, I just loved them, now, I won't buy a whole package of bologna for one sandwich. Put the potted meat product in the blue tin with the bright yellow lettering, made famous in WWII, and practically revered in Hawaii, on the menu, in a sandwich, and I will be back.