When you walk into the Burger House on Mockingbird Lane, it’s apparent you’re not in the usual “fast food” joint. With its clean interior, video games and TV sets broadcasting sporting events, the “House” is a cozy place to enjoy a burger, beer, homemade milkshake and its exclusive Jack’s Famous Fries (named for creator Jack Koustoubardis).
The Burger House certainly is several steps up from the plastic seated, in-and-out places. At the same time, it’s a welcome shift from the casual bar and grill scene.
Still, some people may lump the family restaurant into the “fast food” category, which often leaves its management perplexed.
“I don’t think of this as ‘fast food’,” says manager Chris Canellos, whose father co-owns the restaurant.
“There’s a sign on the drive-through menu that says your food is prepared when you order it, so it may take a little longer than other places.
“On the flipside, it’s definitely going to taste a lot better. We’re considered ‘fast food’ in the scheme of things, but we don’t look at it that way.”
It’s this kind of attitude that has made the Mockingbird Burger House a popular hangout. Then again, Canellos, 35, and his partner, Angelo Chantilis Jr., 27, have plenty of experience in the burger biz.
Their fathers, Steve Canellos and Angelo Chantilis Sr., are owners of the long-running Burger House on Hillcrest, just a short walk away from SMU. As teens, Chris and Angelo Jr. worked for their fathers at the Hillcrest location and at some of their other restaurant ventures.
Several years ago, Chris also helped start a Burger House location on Northwest Highway near Bachman Lake. While the Northwest Highway location was eventually sold to an outside party, the elder Canellos and Angelo Sr. wanted to expand their small but popular chain.
East Dallas seemed a natural spot, and Chris Canellos was a logical candidate for the new location’s manager.
In October 1996, Chris opened the doors of the Mockingbird Burger House. Angelo Jr. (a trained chef by this point) jumped on board a year later.
Although their fathers are the official owners, both retain complete autonomy over the Mockingbird location’s operations.
Thus far, the restaurant has been embraced as a neighborhood favorite. Weekends are particularly popular as area soccer and softball teams often make their way there for post-game festivities.
There’s little doubt the community has quickly taken to the subtle charm of the Burger House’s atmosphere, yet the food remains the real selling point.
But after all these years making and selling hamburgers, one has to wonder how many burgers either manager eats on a weekly basis?
“You can have them a million different ways,” says Angelo Jr., who admits to having a hamburger every day. “You have them with mustard and ketchup one day and mayonnaise and lettuce the next.
“The possibilities are endless, so it’s always like a new meal for me.”
Actually, the menu possibilities aren’t endless for the Burger House and that’s not a bad thing. Considering the quick acceptance of the Mockingbird store and the lore of the Hillcrest location, Chris and Angelo Jr. are confident that tradition is the key to their present and future success.
“We never look at somebody else’s menu and say: ‘Man, we should be doing that,’” Chris says. “We’re not competition-driven. We never think about what the other guy’s doing.
“We know we’ll stay successful because of what we’re doing right now. That’s what’s worked for all these years, so why try to change a good thing?”