Chow Town

Haven’t heard of Tay’s Burger Shack? You’re missing out on grass-fed burgers

A single combo at Tay’s Burger Shack runs $7.99. The Homerun (four patties) combo is $15.39.
A single combo at Tay’s Burger Shack runs $7.99. The Homerun (four patties) combo is $15.39.

Fast-food burger joints rarely feature grass-fed beef because it is more expensive and harder to source than conventional beef.

But Kent Harrison, owner of Tay’s Burger Shack in North Kansas City, figured offering a better burger was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“The taste is so earthy, and it’s so good,” he said. “It was the way things tasted before hamburgers got all messed up” with hormones and antibiotics fed to factory-farmed cattle.

But there’s next-to-no preaching going on at Tay’s: no chalkboards with farmers’ names and no mission statements. Harrison, who also owns Jersey Boyz Deli & Subs at 315 Armour Road, opened his burger shack at 1019 Armour Road in December 2014, and he has been flying under the radar with word-of-mouth publicity.

I decided to check out the burgers when I saw Josh Eans, chef of Happy Gillis Cafe & Hangout/Columbus Park Ramen Shop, posting about it: “Two nights in a row. I think I have a problem.”

Eans, who recently moved his family up north and now eats at Tay’s on average once a week, said in a text message: “I like that they use grass fed beef, make their own fries and the food is priced well.”

His usual order: a double or triple, no lettuce, no tomato, grilled onions and grilled jalapenos, then he “douses” it all with yellow mustard and Sriracha mayo. Oh, and fries — extra crispy, please.

Eans is also a fan because the burger shack stays open until 1 a.m. some nights.

My GPS led me to a tan metal-sided building with a cow banner and two yard signs that could be seen by motorists: “Help Wanted” and “Organic Grass Fed Beef.”

As I stepped inside, a server at the counter greeted me warmly and walked me through the menu board — a fairly straightforward list of burgers. And Nathan’s hot dogs.

The single burger is $4.30 and the Homerun (four patties, which Eans’ 11-year-old son “crushed” one night) is $11.90.

I went for a single but made it a combo with fries and a fountain drink for $7.99.

The burgers come dressed with cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato and pickle chips. You can add other toppings, including raw onion, sauteed onion, jalapeno, mushrooms or bacon. Everything is cooked to order and served in a red plastic basket lined with checkered waxed paper. The lacy, griddled patties are inserted into a soft bun made at a local wholesale bakery.

When I asked Harrison to share where he gets grass-fed beef, he told me the name of the Missouri farmers (they’re legit and supply Whole Foods) but asked me not to reveal it: “My suppliers are my niche, my recipe,” he explained.

My single came with a generous helping of hand-cut fries. The sizzling fries were dusted with a fiery pepperoncini seasoning blend. The seasoning was definitely on the hot side when I visited, and I found it detracted from the burger’s milder flavor.

Harrison said he has backed off the spice in recent weeks because he wants kids to like the fries, too. “We don’t want it to out-muscle the burger.”

Heat seekers can get even more bang with condiments at the table: house-made Sriracha ketchup and a Sriracha mayo.

Tay’s Burger Shack is named for Harrison’s 18-year-old daughter, Taylor. The interior has a diner ambiance with dark wood paneling, and booths and tables to seat 40. Customers order at the counter and can eat inside or, on nice days, head out to one of the picnic tables in the parking lot.

The concept is “clean and easy” without many variations so that food can be served fast to customers who usually have only 30 minutes for lunch.

“The longer the line, the faster we are,” he said. “We count how many there are in the line and drop the burgers.”

Eans’ and wife Abbey-Jo’s main criticism: They want napkins that don’t disintegrate.

Harrison agreed the recycled paper napkins are not optimal — “look at them and they almost degrade,” he said — but they don’t make a better napkin for his diner-style upright napkin dispensers.

A woman, obviously a fan, who saw me taking a photo of the exterior of Tay’s asked if it was my first time, then told me the restaurant was expanding to a new location. (The restaurant posted that it was looking for a second location in January.)

When I asked Harrison about it he said, “We definitely want to grow this concept,” but he has yet to find the next location.

Besides, Harrison really hasn’t had a grand opening for his first Tay’s yet.

“It’s still evolving into its own awesomeness,” he said.

Jill Wendholt Silva is The Star’s James Beard award-winning food editor. Reach her on Facebook, @jillwsilva on Instagram and @kcstarfood on Twitter.

If you go

Tay’s Burger Shack is at 1019 Armour Road in North Kansas City. It’s open 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.