A creation of veteran chef Brandon Durant, Wheelhouse's Italian burger consists of a five-ounce beef patty that is topped with zesty marinara, banana peppers and three ginormous mozzarella sticks peeking out of a brioche bun.

This isn't the only over-the-top menu item being offered at the Wheelhouse, the new 4501 Southern Hills Drive eatery co-owned by Rick Dominowski.

Best known for owning Townhouse Pizza & Lounge -- the venerable 26701 Floyd Blvd. sports pub his family purchased more than 16 years ago -- or the Townhouse's location at 100 Marie Ave., in North Sioux City, Dominowski wanted to go upscale with Wheelhouse.

"The Townhouse has a very dedicated customer base that is loyal to it," he said. "The Wheelhouse is looking to attract a younger crowd that wants good food at a reasonable price."

This is an important distinction for Dominowski, since he sees The Wheelhouse as a restaurant first, and, then, a bar.

Which is why he gave Durant free rein to create what has been described as "bar food with flair."

Want a juicy, 10-ounce hand-cut ribeye steak, some meaty beef brisket and a fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie? Well, they're all on Wheelhouse's menu. 

Surprisingly, so is a pizza selection that mirrors the choices available at the Townhouse's locations.

"Everybody loves Townhouse's pizzas," Dominowski said. "That's why we make them here as well."

But before we get to that, let's stuff our mouths with Wheelhouse's burgers.

BBQ BACON BURGER

WHAT'S IN IT: A seared beef patty, Applewood bacon, a creamy cole slaw and haystack onion strips inside a toasted brioche bun.

FIRST IMPRESSION: We've always been suckers for bacon burgers. Aesthetically, it's a piece of art. Plus the pig and the cow coming together for a common cause of a sandwich? That just hits us in our cholesterol-laden hearts. 

HOW DID IT TASTE: As good as it looks. The nice shoestring (OK, they call it "haystack") onion strips gave the burger enough heat to offset the barbecue's sweet.

OUR SCORE: 3.5 out of 5

SPANISH BURGER

WHAT'S IN IT: A burger with tortilla strips, guac, queso blanco and muy salsa, stuffed into a soft bun.

FIRST IMPRESSION: OMG, this burger boasted the colors of the Mexico. Many of the ingredient are red, green or white! Like Mexico's flag, right? But Italy's flag has a similar color combo. And so does Wales and Bulgaria. Hmm ... we refuse to eat a Spanish burger that contains the color of the Bulgarian flag because that's just ridiculous.

HOW DID IT TASTE: Alright, we ate it anyway. Guess what? we loved it. The best part was the creamy guacamole that worked well with the seared beef patty and the smooth queso.

OUR SCORE: 4 out of 5

ITALIAN BURGER

WHAT'S IN IT: Yeah, we know we spoiled the description up above. Here it is again: five-ounce patty, marinara, banana papers and three deep-fried mozzarella sticks.

FIRST IMPRESSION: The only time we ever truly liked Mark Wahlberg in a movie is when he played Dirk Diggler in "Boogie Nights." Man, that was a good movie.

HOW DID IT TASTE: Surprisingly good. The marinara moistened the meat while the banana peppers cut the greasiness of the mozzarella sticks. Our recommendation? Perhaps a patty made from an Italian sausage might provide a more appropriate flavor profile. And while we're at it, those were honkin' mozz sticks! Two might be better than three.

OUR SCORE: 3 out of 5 

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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