To Emulate or Not to Emulate (Mooyah Burgers & Fries)

12 Oct

The answer in the case of Mooyah Burgers & Fries, a concept brought to you by Rick Hicks (founder of the Dallas-based Tin Star upscale fast food chain) and Todd Istre (Houston restauranteur), is to emulate.

Mooyah’s setup is eerily similar to that of In-N-Out Burger, a California based chain that gets plenty of national exposure for topping Paris Hilton’s diet among countless other celebrities’.  DFW residents won’t be able to visit an In-N-Out Burger unless they journey west to California, Nevada, or Arizona, but they can eat almost like their favorite celebutante at Mooyah in west Plano. 

mooyah1.JPG 

Let’s start with the burger places’ menus.  Mooyah’s slogan, as prominently displayed in the the restaurant, is “Just burgers. Just fries. Just better.”

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Well it’s not strictly just burgers and fries, Mooyah also serves grilled cheese sandwiches and three flavors of milkshakes.  Compare that to In-N-Out’s menu of just burgers, fries, and milkshakes, and the similarities start to become apparent.  In-N-Out’s Double Double burger with two patties is Mooyah’s Mooyah Burger.  Similarly, In-N-Out’s Hamburger with a single patty is Mooyah’s Mooyah Junior.  Incidentally, does this naming convention (In-N-Out’s designation of the single patty burger as being the standard and Mooyah’s insinuation of the double patty burger as being the standard) imply anything about the difference in portion size expectations in California and Texas? 

Secondly, both burger places seem to place extra importance on freshness.

Compare In-N-Out’s dedication to freshness:

“Our hamburgers are made from fresh, 100% pure beef. They are free of additives, fillers and preservatives of any kind, and we buy only chucks, the front ribs and shoulder…We even bake our buns using old-fashioned, slow-rising sponge dough…Customers may observe french fries being made from hand-diced, fresh, whole potatoes. And the shakes are made from real ice cream.”

To that of Mooyah’s:

“Fresh baked buns daily (our buns make the difference).  100% fresh lean American beef (never frozen; no additives, fillers, or preservatives).  Fresh-cut potatoes (in house, everyday)…Thick and frosty shakes (100% pure ice cream)”

Lastly, there’s the patty thickness issue.  Basically, burger patties originate from two schools of thought.  There are thick, home-style patties, the ones seen most often at your standard casual dining restaurants like Applebee’s.  Then there are thin, fast food restaurant style patties a la McDonald’s or Wendy’s.  The fast food style patties are more uniform in thickness since they are pre-cut and frozen whereas the homestyle patties have more incongruity to their thickness due to the nature of the ground beef patties being hand formed.  Both Mooyah and In-N-Out borrow concepts from both schools of thought.  They both serve thin but fresh, never frozen, ground beef. 

It is semi-upscale, quasi-fast food.  For a weekday lunch, I had a Mooyah Junior ($2.75) with cheese, grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms, and jalapenos.  These are just a few topping choices off of Mooyah’s huge list, of which only cheese and bacon are each 50 cents extra, all others are free.   My companion had a classic Mooyah burger ($3.95) with just bacon and cheese.

Mooyah burger with bacon and cheese:

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The overall texture, seasoning, and thickness of the patty was enjoyable.  However, because Mooyah packages the burgers wrapped in foil no matter if it’s a dine-in or to-go order, the bun gets soggy from the patty and the toppings.  I could tell from the top half of my bun that it had been buttered and lightly toasted on the grill, but the bottom half of bun had no hope of staying intact with all the moisture (grease and whatever else) from the patty and the various cooked toppings.  My companion complained that the burger was too greasy.  I can’t say if it’s actually too greasy or just felt like it because of the soggy bun issue.

We also split a regular order of fries ($1.85), which were thick cut, crispy on the outside, and nicely seasoned.  I noticed Mooyah had malt vinegar alongside the ketchup for those who enjoy eating these fries east coast style.

Overall, Mooyah served up some excellent quasi-fast food for the price.  It’s nice to have an option when you need the speediness of a fast food restaurant combined with the quality ingredients of a sit down restaurant.  If someone else’s business model has been giantly successful in other regions, why not borrow the concept and bring it to an area where there’s a market?  Mooyah has opened a second location in Uptown and one in Addison will be open in November.

Rating: 3 / 5

Mooyah Burgers & Fries
6400 W Plano Pkwy
Plano, TX 75093

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8 Responses to “To Emulate or Not to Emulate (Mooyah Burgers & Fries)”

  1. Hayley 10/13/2007 at 8:57 am #

    I know things change, but my friend Allison (vegetarian) said that when she ate at an In-and-Out burger she had a grilled cheese, but that was a few years ago. But I might be going to LA to visit her in November, so I can give you an update, cause I plan on eating at one!

  2. Dave G 10/14/2007 at 4:59 pm #

    In-N-Out will always serve you a grilled cheese, but it is one of the “hidden” items not on the menu. I’m curious how Mooyah’s sauce compares to I-n-O, and whether they can prepare things “animal style”. Didn’t know they have one in Uptown, so I might try to check it out! Thanks for the report, Donna.

  3. foodczar 10/15/2007 at 11:35 am #

    Got a brief, but funny story to relate. Sorry, Donna, it’s really related to In N Out and not Mooyah, but I can’t resist. A few years ago, there was a “traffic report” after the Oscars telecast. Seems the drive-thru of the local In N Out on Hollywood Blvd was jammed with limos from celebrities trying to grab a burger on the way home! So much for the “Hollywood Diet”!!!

  4. donnaaries 01/01/2008 at 9:37 pm #

    Went back to Mooyah today for a quick bite. The soggy bun issue has improved, even though the foil wrapping method remains the same. Not sure what methods are being used to improve the soggy bun issue, but it sure does taste better.

  5. Fatcap 01/01/2008 at 11:51 pm #

    I still don’t get the whole Mooyah fascination. I’ve now tried it 3 times. Mooyah burgers are wholly inferior to In-n-Out. Buns have been soggy every time. Patty and cheese have been low on taste, the meat especially in dire need of some seasoning (yeah, I know what you all are thinking–“just add your own salt”–whatever. Adding salt to cooked stuff doesn’t produce the same result as before cooking). Fries are just OK. There’s at least a dozen other places in Dallas where I’d rather have a burger.

    • Lydia 04/20/2012 at 9:00 pm #

      I just saw this message and sorry but In n out to me was very dissapointing..Burgers were nothing compared to Mooyahs..It wasn’t even close. The fries at Mooyah are delicious, the ones at In n out didn’t have any flavor what so ever..They were dry flavorless just BLAH!! Sorry but Mooyah by far is 100x better than Mooyah 🙂

  6. donnaaries 01/02/2008 at 7:10 am #

    Mooyah is successful because it knows its market. The West Plano location, for example, has no competitors in the quasi-fast food burger segment. There is a general sense of stigmatism about taking your family out for fast food, so the affluent families with young children fill up places like Mooyah where the promise of freshly baked buns and non-frozen meat somehow justify the unhealthy nature of the food. In other words, a place like Mooyah makes it “ok” for the Type A supermom to eat a burger and feed it to her kids without getting dirty looks.

    The West Plano location also gets tons of weekday lunch business. White-collar office workers in the corporate park development less than a mile away need truly fast weekday lunch options. They need to be in and out in less than an hour but don’t want to resort to fast food, again due to that same yuppie prejudice against fast food. It’s part of the reason why Tin Star, less than a mile down the street, is also so successful.

    From a pure food perspective, Mooyah is not groundbreaking by any means. I haven’t experienced the lack-of-salt-in-patty problem, but then again, the two times I’ve been, I’ve always had BBQ sauce on the burger.

    There are better (though few in the same price range) options in town. But for the average family, a quasi-fast food burger is not something you would travel across town for. I’m not sure about the other Mooyah locations, but the West Plano one has this market cornered.

  7. Fatcap 01/02/2008 at 8:51 am #

    I agree with you, Donna, that Mooyah’s is successful, for whatever reason–at the Uptown location, the (same) owners even replaced a Tin Star with a Mooyah’s. I haven’t tried that store; my lunches have been at the West Plano location. Service is friendly, but the food, as I’ve written, blows–my opinion as a consumer. What I don’t get is foodies raving about the place. Within close driving distance to the W. Plano Mooyah’s, I can hit The Counter, Red’s, Scotty P’s, Purple Cow, even Snuffer’s and Fuddruckers for an almost equally quick lunch, and I’m willing to pay a couple dollars more for better food. In Uptown, I’d rather walk a few steps down the street to Jake’s or even Idle Rich for a way better burger, similar prices, almost equally quick service. And I get more choices.

    I guess it irks me that, for example, the amateurs now overrunning Censorship Central (aka Chowhound) buy it to that whole “just burgers; just fries; just better” crap. Call me a snob (as if I cared), but, in my book, it’s a fine line between being a food snob and a foodie, and a discriminating palate adjusts for scenarios and situations but doesn’t take days off and never tolerates bad food.

    Keep up the passion, D.

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