This blog is devoted to highlighting restaurants of Memphis, Tennessee.

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Battle of the Downtown Memphis Sliders, Part 4

Introduction

Here I am again, with another “battle” of sliders. This time, I decided to pit two popular restaurant chains against each other. One of the “contestants” is Huey’s, a local favorite that consistently wins The Memphis Flyer’s “BOM” (Best of Memphis) award in the burger category. Personally, I've always felt that Huey’s accolades were nothing more than overhype of their burgers. Compared to places like Kooky Canuck and Sweden Kream, Huey’s doesn’t come close in my mind (or taste buds) as being the best. However, if I’m going to continue with slider comparisons, it was inevitable that Huey’s would be featured. Huey’s opponent is Hooters, a national chain known more for its Buffalo wings and the hot ladies who serve them. As far as burgers go, I have always liked everything Hooters offers. Although far from the best, I figured Hooters was very capable of competing with Huey’s. As I progressed with the “battle,” the results were somewhat surprising.



Combatant #1: Huey's

Unlike the other places I visited, Huey’s offers a set of three different sliders. Called the Little Miners “Trio,” it consists of a mushroom and Swiss, Pepper Jack and jalapeños, and bacon and cheddar sliders. With this variety, I assumed that at least one of them would be good. To sweeten the pot, barbecue and chipotle sauces were included, along with onion straws. Although my first inclination was to immediately begin dipping, I resisted the urge. I did it for the sake of keeping the comparison between the two restaurant chains as fair as possible.


I started with the mushroom and Swiss slider, which was far from being “BOM.” The best part of it was the beef patty, seasoned with a nice mix of spices with a heavy emphasis on black pepper. The mushrooms and Swiss cheese didn’t provide anything that I couldn’t get elsewhere. Overall, the slider was decent, but nothing to crow over. The bacon and cheddar slider was somewhat better. In addition to the beef patty, the bacon strips added good smoky flavor. The cheddar cheese was what it was, tying it all together for a nice slider. Last but far from the least, the Pepper Jack and jalapeño slider was the best of the trio. The jalapeños provided a spicy punch, aided by the tartness of the Pepper Jack cheese. On Huey’s beef patty, this combination works well for the slider. If I order the Little Miners “Trio” again, I will try to get three Pepper Jack/jalapeño sliders. I will likely have to pay more (only the bacon and cheddar slider are offered as a set of three at the “Trio” price), but it will be worth it.


To make this a well-rounded review, I also had Huey’s Texas Toast Burger. This sandwich wasn’t picked at random. Just about everyone I’ve talked to said it’s their favorite Huey burger. It’s the only sandwich that I will order there, because I like a lot better than anything else. The Texas Toast is loaded with jalapeños along with Pepper Jack cheese and grilled onions. If the two pieces of toast were substituted for a bun and came without grilled onions, it would be a bigger version of my favorite Huey slider. As good as that slider was, its big brother was better. With the caramelized onions coming into play, the result is a burger full of flavor. The spiciness of the jalapeños dominated, but it doesn’t interfere with the other elements that contribute to the burger. I could be wrong, but I believe the Texas Toast was cheesier that its slider counterpart. It felt that way as I ate it, one gooey bite at a time. The “toast” component of the burger was excellent. With a golden brown texture and infused with butter, it also played a big role in the goodness of the Texas Toast Burger. In all, this is a nice burger that stands out at Huey’s.
With the Texas Toast Burger, I got a side of steak fries. They had a light crunch that gave way to its interior tenderness. Although the fries weren’t salty, they had enough flavor to satisfy most. Even though I liked the steak fries, I might opt for the sweet potato waffle fries on my next visit. I recently had them with Huey’s West Coast Burger and was surprised at how well they complemented it. They are light on sweetness, having just enough to make the main dish better without overwhelming it.
After several visits to Huey’s, I’ve concluded that it makes good burgers but far from the best. However, a good marketing team (with fellow food blogger Shannon Little being a part of it) can make a huge difference in how anything is perceived. So even though its burgers aren’t the best on Second Street, good promotion will always keep Huey’s in the public eye. In that regard, “BOM” should stand for “Best Outstanding Marketing.” Even though the marketing team does a great job, it’s the product that ultimately wins me over. With regards to that, Huey’s makes a good burger but not Memphis’ best.

Website: www.hueyburger.com

Huey's on Urbanspoon



Combatant #2: Hooters

The second “combatant” in the slider battle is a restaurant chain that I’ve been a fan of for a long time. Since 1990, when I went to my first Hooters in Denver, I have always had an affinity for it. During my travels, I've seen Hooters in all four Continental U.S. time zones (couldn’t resist the obvious double entendre). In just about all of them, I’ve met great ladies (and a few guys) who have worked there. In Memphis alone, I’ve met fine Hooters Girls who have always treated me right.

SIDE NOTE: A special mention goes out to former Hooters Girl Carol. She, while tending bar at Hooters’ Mount Moriah Road location (the Downtown location's predecessor), tutored me in accounting. Without her help, I’m not sure that I would have passed Accounting 101 (or whatever the course is called). I want to thank her for that and hope she’s doing well in her new career.


Hooters' Training Burgers are a lot like Krystal's (or White Castle, for those more familiar with that burger chain). The sliders are simple, consisting of ground beef, American cheese, mustard and a slice of dill pickle within a toasted bun. The only difference between Hooters' slider and Krystal's is the ground beef. The Training Burger’s beef patty is slightly thicker and better seasoned than Krystal’s. The seasoning is probably a simple combination of salt and pepper, although it wasn’t profound on my tongue. Like Krystal’s, Hooters griddle fries its beef until it’s well done. In hindsight, I should have told my server to have my beef patties cooked medium rare. Anyway, the sliders are decent and a step above fast food. However, they are far from the best that Downtown Memphis offers. But for $7.99 (not including tax) you get four sliders and curly fries, which is a good value if you're feeding small kids.

SIDE NOTE: Another great deal is Hooters' $5.99 Monday lunch special. It consists of a cheeseburger and curly fries that is only available to dine-in customers. Compared to nearby places like Dyer's, it's a bargain.


In addition to sliders, Hooters also has a version of a Texas toast burger. Called the Texas Melt Burger, it consists of a beef patty topped with bacon, sautéed onions, barbecue sauce and a lot of American cheese. Like with the Training Burgers, the beef’s seasoning wasn’t anything beyond average. In fact, I’ve done a better job of cooking them myself despite my lack of culinary skills (an example of this is a recent effort to cook hot wings). However, the meat was palatable enough to past muster with me. Everything on the burger was adequate, for the bacon and onions added some flavor and the cheese tasted as expected. The pieces of bread containing the sandwich were toasted to a dark, almost burnt brown. Unlike Huey’s version, the toasted bread of Hooters’ burger lacked butter that could’ve made the sandwich better. The barbecue sauce did nothing for me other than make the burger messy. On the whole, Hooters Texas Melt Burger fell short of my modest expectations but it wasn’t terrible. Whenever I go there again to eat, it might be an option for me. More likely, I will probably go with wings.
The curly fries were the best part of my meal. Not that they were the best ever, but they were good enough to complement my burger. Other than its shape, the characteristics of them are similar to Huey’s steak fries. If I had to make a suggestion to the bean counters at Hooters, I would ask them to look into the feasibility of offering smaller portions of it. I really don’t see the need to only sell fries by the bowl at nearly three dollars a pop. A smaller portion of fries (similar to what's included with the Training Burgers) at a lower price would have been a better option for me. The amount of fries that I had for my burger was more than enough. After finishing the burger, I had over half a bowl of fries left. While I thought about eating them with friends Bicycle Bobby and a guy who I will call Air Guard Mike (members of Squeal Street BBQ Team; "Air Guard" isn't referring to smart ass douchebag Air Traffic Mike, who I will talk about later), I wasn’t hungry enough to eat more. So, other than the quantity, Hooters’ curly fries were okay.
Upon reflection, I can’t say that I was impressed with what I had at Hooters. After eating sliders at places like Bardog Tavern and Felicia Suzanne’s, Hooters was a bit of letdown. I had hoped the Texas Melt Burger would redeem the restaurant, but it didn’t help. When it comes to food, I will have to accept Hooters for what it is: hot food served by hot chicks.

Website: www.hooters.com

Hooters on Urbanspoon



Conclusion

After having sliders at Huey’s and Hooters, my decision was somewhat easy. With Huey’s offering three different sliders as opposed to Hooters’ single version, it had more latitude to impress. Although Huey’s Pepper Jack and jalapeño slider would have dominated the competition by itself, the other two sliders in its “Trio” also would have fared better than Hooters’ Training Burger. Like I said earlier, Huey’s doesn’t make the best burger in Memphis. As sliders go, all the restaurants featured in the earlier slider battles (except Flight) make better burgers than Huey’s. But that didn’t matter in this “battle” against a sports bar staffed by hot women with rocking bodies and great personalities. Huey’s is clearly the winner of this contest but it’s not a great accomplishment. If Hooters tweaked their burger recipes, it would be far more competitive. But burgers aren’t what Hooters is about, so I won’t hold my breath waiting for it to take the “BOM” title from Huey’s.
Hooters is what it is, and it has nothing to be ashamed of. Its target demographic (I’m guessing) is males aged 18 – 50 with incomes of $30,000 or more a year. Most of the guys that I meet are more into the girls than the food, which is a strategy that works well for the restaurant chain. As a self-proclaimed “foodie” who is over forty, my expectations for restaurants are more about culinary quality than hotties. However, there are times when I wish I could be a kid again. If I were, my attitudes about food would be entirely different. My guess is that a teenage version of me would be more than happy about the food at Hooters.

Other Matters

By the way, I want to respond to a comment made by a "fan" of this blog, Air Traffic Mike. If my grammar offends you so much, why do you read this blog? Instead of wasting time pointing out my grammatical deficiencies, you could impart your vast knowledge of the English language to the less fortunate. With all the spare time you have due to a very generous government retirement, it would be a nice way to give back to the community. To quote a comment made by Martin Sheen on the TV show The Colbert Report:

"We're called to be a voice for the voiceless and be a presence for the marginal and so, if you have capabilities and you don't have to work full time, you're required to be on the line and serve the common good."

That is great wisdom from a screen legend that I hope to emulate someday. Also ATM, if you can get a certain "professor" to join you in New Jersey, all the better. Despite your dislike of me and this blog, I will continue to write about restaurants and food that interest me, including "sliders."



LabelsBurgers, Chain Restaurants, Commentary, Downtown, Family Friendly, Multiple Locations, Wings



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1 comments:

  1. Dear Ken,

    Thank you for your review of our Little Miners Trio and Texas Toast Burger in your post “The Battle of Downtown Memphis Sliders”. We always welcome feedback from our customers, as we are continually aiming to make each experience perfect. Our Texas Toast Burger is a popular menu item, and we are happy to know you like it so much. We also appreciate your kind words about Shannon and our Marketing Department at Huey’s. They work hard to promote our brand, work with the community, and make sure all customers have a great experience.

    We continue to be honored that Memphis Flyer and Memphis Magazine readers vote our burger “Best Burger” in Memphis, and we attribute this to many factors, including the quality meat delivered fresh 6 days a week from Charlie’s Meat Market, a carefully crafted seasoning recipe, and our talented kitchen staff. While Shannon and our Marketing Department do a great job, we believe our burger’s quality is what makes it so popular. Thank you again for your feedback, and we hope you will come visit us again soon.

    Sincerely,

    Lauren Boggs McHugh
    President
    Huey's Restaurants

    ReplyDelete