The Heights remains one of the city's most fertile neighborhoods for new restaurant openings, but not every concept finds success. Fresh off the news that Presidio won't reopen after being damaged by fire comes word that another of the neighborhood's restaurants closed just shy of the two-year mark.
Balls Out Burger has shuttered, CultureMap has learned. Originally opened in the summer of 2017 by Poitín owner Ian Tucker, the restaurant served New York diner-style cheeseburgers. Intended to be the antithesis to some of the more baroque combinations found on menus around town, Balls Out's burgers relied on the delicious alchemy created by a toasted bun, good beef (in this case, from 44 Farms), and gooey cheese.
Unfortunately, the product could be hit or miss, and the restaurant never seemed to build the following it needed to be successful. As one sign of its recent prospects, consider this observation from Chronicle critic Alison Cook, who seemed to be alluding to the restaurant in her recent "Burger Friday" column about Superica:
I sat in front of the place, drinking in the emptiness of the parking lot, the grimness of the graveled dining patio, the air of nothing whatsoever going on. Maybe if I wait a bit, some customers will come, I thought. I just wasn’t in the mood to be the only person for whom a burger was being cooked.
Well, nobody ever came. I drove around a while and checked back. Still tumbleweeds. And although I make a habit of charging in solo to restaurants high and low, for some odd existential reason this one time I just couldn’t do it. Reader, I bailed.
Reached for comment, Tucker provided the following statement, which strikes a more optimistic note on the concept's future:
Obviously I’m disappointed that Balls Out Burger’s brick and mortar home did not work out the way we had hoped. The restaurant business is mysterious and fickle, plain and simple, and I can only theorize as to why we didn’t draw the kind of consistent crowds needed for long-term survival, including the fact that we were a bit of a pioneer in that particular section of the Heights.
Even still, Balls Out Burger attracted legions of diehard fans that I know will also be disappointed by the Durham location closing, but rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. Not only is the concept alive and well, we technically have locations everywhere from Uptown to Downtown and all points in between thanks to the Balls Out Burger food truck, which delivers the same high quality burgers, fries, and shakes that people love, so I take solace in that.
Tucker goes on to suggest that those interested in hiring the truck for catering events contact the restaurant via its Facebook page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for the future, real estate developer Revive Development has already begun the search for a new tenant. Noting the presence of a number of high-profile bars and restaurants in the immediate area — everything from Superica and Snooze to Heights Bier Garten and Flying Fish, Revive director of leasing and marketing Monica Danna is confident the company will find a new concept that serves the neighborhood well. "It is our plan that a concept that lands here will take advantage of a strong morning side traffic, perhaps with breakfast and coffee, to serve the almost 20,000 cars a day; and to take advantage of the large patio space to serve the dense nighttime population of nearby Shady Acres," she writes in an email.
In the meantime, Balls Out fans should consider the burger at B.B. Lemon, which utilizes a similar format. Heights burger fans still have a number of options, include Bernie's Burger Bus, Hubcap Grill, and Hopdoddy. If that's not enough, the imminent arrival of The Burger Joint will soon provide another option for area residents and visitors to satisfy their carnivorous cravings.