Best Burger in The Neighborhood (for a time)
I rarely use the word "incredible" to describe something, but that's the first word that came to mind when I bit into Cave's cheeseburger. It is a huge burger featuring a half-pound of beef infused with a secret combination of herbs and seasonings. Cave's cooks the ground beef "well done" to a juicy tenderness, although I'm sure that the restaurant can accommodate anyone's cooking preference. Along with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions (which I omitted), mustard and mayo, Cave's cheeseburger is a culinary masterpiece.
UPDATE: When I said the burger was "juicy," I didn't mean that it was overly greasy. What I was trying to say was that the meat had enough grease and "juice" to render a silky texture. In other words, the meat wasn't overcooked. For me, biting into the beef was like chewing on buttery cornbread. I know this is a terrible analogy but it's the best that I can do. I'm sorry if I misled anyone into believing that Cave's burger was overly greasy. When it comes to describing things, I'm not always accurate.
Alex's Tavern's Greek Burger. Not that the two burgers taste alike, but both have unique seasonings that captivate the eater. In place of using higher quality beef (20% fat or less), good seasoning can make a huge difference in a burger. Like Alex's, Cave's has perfectly followed this recipe to success.
When done right, a cheap, well seasoned burger can hold its own with those from great restaurants. At $7.10 (which used to be the price for all of Cave's plate dinners; it has a little more expensive since then), Cave's cheeseburger is both cheaper and better than a burger I had at the Beauty Shop several years ago. Although the bland decor inside Cave's is directly opposite of the chic eatery, it doesn't matter when eating an incredible burger.
Speaking of other restaurants, Cave's cheeseburger is, in my opinion, the best in Midtown Memphis' Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood. This includes notable burgers from places such as Alex's Tavern and Cafe Eclectic (although I haven't had its Pub Burger). I hope the word gets out about this awesome burger by other media. To that end, I challenge Seth Agranov of the blog Best Memphis Burger to try Cave's cheeseburger. If he doesn't feel it is worthy of a rating of at least four stars, I will buy his burger. I am confident that he and anyone else will love Cave’s cheeseburger.
The burger comes with a soda and steak fries. Cave's cook its fries to a golden brown, yielding a crispy crust and a soft potato texture in its core. Lightly salted (which is completely opposite of Cave's turnip greens), the steak fries are good on its own and are a great complement to the cheeseburger.
As for the other items on Cave's menu, everything that I've had so far was good but not on par with the cheeseburger. Except for that, just about everything on Cave's menu is prepared ahead of time and preserved in heated counter tops. The one item that stands out negatively is the turnip greens. The greens have TOO MUCH SALT in it and might be unhealthy for some people. Fellow Vollintine-Evergreen resident and blogger Craig of Memphis Que said the turnip greens have "a strong vinegar bite and nice spicy kick.” While most of his reviews are accurate, I will respectfully disagree with his take on the turnip greens. I won't say more about this because I don't want to kill the cheeseburger's buzz, but I couldn't write this review without mentioning it.
I Got Some Tail
I recently (April 2014) had the ox tails at Cave's which were really good. Well seasoned, it was roast beef around large chunks of bone cartilage. Fortunately, it was so tender that it literally fell off the bones and into the gravy as I ate it. It eventually turned into a delicious beef stew (which included chopped potatoes) that was better than anything that I could get from a grocery store. Along with Mac 'n Cheese and Cave's overly seasoned turnip greens (I forgot how salty it is), the first taste of ox tail turned out great. At over $12 (if my memory is correct), I'm not sure if I'll get a lot of this, but I will keep Cave's in mind whenever I'm craving exotic Soul Food in my 'hood.
The Barbecue Is Good, Too
Recently (March 2, 2014), I went back to Cave's for barbecue ribs that were quite good. As you might have guessed from the photo above, I got the meaty BBQ beef ribs with macaroni and cheese and cabbage. Everything, from the slightly sweet barbecue sauce to the moderately tender texture of the meat, was done right. The ribs also had a decent amount of "smoke" that should satisfy most. Putting aside that the ribs were of beef as opposed to pork (also offered by Cave's), I believe the barbecue can hold its own with most of Memphis' barbecue restaurants. For those living in or near the Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood, it's worth checking out.
In closing, I want to say that the service at Cave's is excellent. I'm not saying this because of the obvious, but for a great gesture on the part of the owner. On the day that I ordered my cheeseburger, I was trying to catch a bus. To expedite my order, I called it in, assuming that it would be ready in about ten minutes. Unfortunately, it took over twenty minutes to prepare the order. As I walked out of Cave's with the meal that I wanted to eat there, my bus passed by. At that point, the owner (Cave) could have said this: "tough shit, bon appétit!" However, Cave took pity on me by offering to catch the bus via his pick-up truck. That was a very nice gesture that he didn't have to do, and it really got me out of a pinch. I want to express my gratitude for his deed as well as bolstering the neighborhood with his restaurant. I look forward to having many meals there in the future.
UPDATE: Since posting this, Seth tried the burger and gave it four stars in his review. I'm glad he took the time to try this great burger. I'm also happy that I didn't have to pay for it. Also, I have reassessed my neighborhood burgers, concluding that Cafe Eclectic serves the best, followed by Alex's Tavern. Although the uniqueness of Cave's fennel-tasting burgers wowed me initially, the quality of Cafe Eclectic's ground beef reminded me of the standards that a hamburger should meet. Still, I really like Cave's burgers (it's #19 on my best burger list) and encourage others to try it. :)
Labels: Barbecue, Burgers, Midtown, Soul Food
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