Burgers are back on the Square with attitude and a gourmet twist.
After 18 months of development, Lone Star Attitude Burger Co. is opening Monday, offering gourmet burgers, craft beer and Texas music education that contrasts with the iconic Denton County Independent Burger Company that had occupied the same space with its no-frills, build-your-own burger joint.
The owners stumbled into the business by accident, when now-owner John “Sparky” Pearson was in New York with his family, and received a call from his friend back home in Denton to tell him that after more than 30 years, the Independent Hamburger Company was looking to close.
A Denton native and real estate investor and developer, Pearson said he saw the potential and decided to buy the business.
“I kept thinking, ‘What a shame. What if this turns into something stupid? Something nobody will like, or only three people will visit?’” he said. “So I talked to one of our now-partners, and we approached the owner and bought the business and everything he had.”
The concept for the restaurant was easy. Pearson had already partnered with singer Jon Christopher Davis with the trademark “Lone Star Attitude” and the two decided to apply it to a burger joint. Davis wrote the song “Lone Star Attitude” in 2004 and began to sell T-shirts using the trademarked name, which is now used for a western wear store inside Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and is the name of Davis’ latest band.
The two decided to use LSA Burger as an avenue to tell the story of Texas music and a place where musicians can go to share their music.
Inside, there’s a large painting of Jesus seated between Texas musicians, including Willie Nelson and Janis Joplin — a take on the Last Supper where the musicians are dining on hamburgers and fries with Jesus. On the landing between the first and second floors, there is a shrine to Nelson. The whole wall leading to the restroom is the University of North Texas Wall of Fame — pictures of famous recording artists who got their start at UNT.
“I’m pretty shocked with how it turned out. For me, this is really cool,” Davis said. “It’s like walking into the history of Texas music. ... It’s like a shrine to this incredible, rich, deep history.”
The restaurant also serves as a place to facilitate the creation of Texas music and will feature live acts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Playing at LSA Burger is different than most restaurants though, Davis said. The stage is prewired, staff will help musicians set up, and the sound system and equipment quality is top-of-the-line — musicians just bring their instruments and plug in.
“A lot of time when musicians play, they are tolerated — never celebrated,” Davis said. “I wanted to create an environment where these artists feel loved and respected.”
The stage is in the back corner of the rooftop bar, purposefully to have a view of the courthouse, he said.
“At night — that backdrop with the iconic courthouse is like being on the set of Austin City Limits or something — it’s just got this really cool vibe to it,” he said. “Everyone’s going to want to play on it.”
Pearson, Davis and their other business partners are handling the development and music side of the business, but for restaurant management and food, they needed help.
“None of this would matter if the food was bad,” Pearson said.
Jason Hoffman, a UNT grad and experienced chef, created the menu and serves as the restaurant’s head chef. He opened the Houston’s restaurant in New York City, was executive chef of Hibiscus in Dallas and created the burger menu for Rave Cinemas dine-in concept. After his first meeting with Pearson, he was hired.
“We spent hours working on every detail of the menu,” he said. “I wanted it to be affordable, extremely high-quality and something that would appeal to a large [audience].”
The buns are made at a local bakery, the meat for the burgers is ground fresh just for the restaurant — and it’s good, Hoffman said.
“We’re going above and beyond for a burger restaurant,” Hoffman said. “Very purposefully, we made the menu small and precise so we could execute it at a high level.”
The mission behind the restaurant is beyond what they offer customers, but is also to help the city, Pearson said. There was resistance from the city and some negative chatter while the renovation was underway, mainly because the restaurant added a rooftop bar and deck — the first on the downtown Square.
“It was funny — people were jumping to conclusions, thinking we were flying in from L.A. and wanted to create this rooftop,” Pearson said. “We are not evil — this is a labor of love and taking care of our Square. ... My dream was to start a business on the Square that will be here 50 years from now.”
Now, he hopes the spot becomes a place where residents take their out-of-town guests to see and also a regular lunch spot.
“When they want to show off something cool and unique in Denton, this will be the place where they get the view, the feel, the atmosphere and the music,” Pearson said.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.