In leading up to the 2016 Best Memphis Burger Fest, I thought it would be a good time to explore some of Memphis' "hidden" burger treasures. When I say "hidden," I don't mean that the burgers are unheralded, it's just that most of them hasn't gotten the spotlight they deserve. So, as a tiny contribution to the conversation, I've pointed out a few cheeseburgers that impressed me.
The Rock Star Jalapeño Burger at Sammy Hagar's Red Rocker Bar & Grill
It's not often that I venture into West Memphis for anything. Whenever I'm there, the last place that I consider going to is the Southland Park Gaming & Racing track. Not to be judgmental, but I believe there are better ways to spend your time than betting on dog racing or playing the slots. That said, Sammy Hagar's has built a reputation for serving great food. So, despite my misgivings about gambling, I drove over the Mississippi in the hopes of getting a good burger. Once I got there, it took a short walk through the rows of slot machines to get to Sammy Hagar's. For a sports bar, it has the typical stuff like big screen TVs and hot girls serving food and drinks. Being a loner, I sat at the bar and perused the many burger options from Red Rocker's menu. After initially choosing the bacon cheeseburger, I went to the restroom to wash up. While doing that, I thought about why would anyone reading my blog have interest in a mere bacon cheeseburger? If the point of this blog is to "find" unique food from interesting places, then writing about something ordinary would be a disappointment to my readers (including a charming young lady who allegedly smacked a despicable Downtown Memphis blogger because of his obnoxious douchebaggery; I know that mentioning this is a bit gratuitous, but I fucking hate that guy).
Anyway, once I returned to the bar, I changed my order and got the Rock Star Jalapeño Burger that has stuff in it that would make the original "King" rocker Elvis Presley proud. The burger has, in addition to lettuce, tomato, onions and a hunk of pickle (all stacked on top), it has Cajun ranch sauce, jalapeños and fried pepper jack cheese shaped in the form of a star. For anyone that likes jalapeño poppers, the "Rock Star" burger combines the best of both with the gooey cheese flowing into the seasoned beef and jalapeños, culminating in a unique and tasty experience. Surprisingly, given the cheese and sauce in the burger, the brioche bun held everything together so I didn't make a mess while eating this delicious burger. I'm not sure if the jalapeño burger will convince me to become a regular at Sammy Hagar's, but the burger is compelling enough to make me consider it whenever I'm looking for something out of the ordinary.
The Forest Burger at The Country Corner Deli (in Shelby Forest)
In preparing to write this blog post, I thought about all the great hamburgers that I've had over the years. One of the few that really stood out was the burger I got from a convenience store near Shelby Forest. If you're saying to yourself "why would Ken go out to the sticks (literally) for a burger," it's not as crazy as you think. Back several years ago, I worked for a print shop in Shelby Forest, a business that used to be on Presidents' Island before the owner decided to move it near his home. So, from having dining options like The Port and Blue Monkey, my choices for a quick lunch were limited to the Shelby Forest General Store and a convenience store at the end of Watkins Street. While the general store is a cool place to visit in terms of nostalgia, the food is just decent and its burger a bit boring. Meanwhile, the Country Corner Deli at the Shelby Forrest Corner Store served up the best burgers in Shelby Forest. I wasn't sure if the deli had the same magic that it had then, but I took a leap of way (or rather, a long drive up Watkins) to see if it still had that grilling touch. Indeed, the Country Corner hasn't lost its touch when it comes to making burgers, which are just as good as they were before. Unlike in the past (at least as far as I can remember), the deli's menu has more than one option for burgers. So, unlike in the past when I ordered a simple cheeseburger, I picked the Forest Burger that comes with Swiss cheese and sautéed green bell peppers and onions. It's not often that I get a burger like that, but I like mixing it up occasionally. I'm glad I did with the Forest Burger, for the huge beef patty was very juicy and good enough to stand on its own. Combining that with the other components in the burger (along with a bottle of peach tea Snapple) made for a good, very enjoyable lunch. Was the burger worth a trip to Shelby Forest? HELL YEAH!
SIDE NOTE: Having said that, I will slow my roll in returning to County Corner Deli. The reason for this stems from past experiences in Shelby Forest. As a black guy, I am constantly aware of my surroundings and try to conduct myself accordingly. In doing that, I don't normally go places where I stand out because I don't like drawing unwanted attention to myself. Having said that, working in Shelby Forest, an area mostly consists of rural white people, had drawn notice of law enforcement. Needless to say, I got pulled over a lot by Shelby County Sheriff's deputies for driving just a little over the speed limit. It seemed that they were more about checking me out than speed enforcement. Once, in a classic case of "Driving While Black," deputies pulled me over when I was driving under the speed limit. With experiences like that, I am reluctant to make constant trips to Shelby Forest, especially at night where things could get more tense. However, I'm anxious to return to Country Corner Deli for either another Forest Burger or its spicy Steamin' Meeman burger (partly named after Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park). In doing that, it would be nice to get fair treatment by cops regardless of where I am, be it in Shelby Forest, Memphis, Millington or anywhere else. I hope no one reading will misconstrue my words and conclude that I'm anti-police, but rather see this as a tax-paying citizen who respects law enforcement and wants it to be the best it can be.
Check out Shelby Forrest Corner Store on
The Saucer Burger at (obviously) The Flying Saucer (Cordova)
As anyone who either reads this blog or knows me personally, knows that I am a denizen of the Flying Saucer in Downtown Memphis. I started going there several years ago after a fire burned down The Blue Monkey, the first of many Downtown bars that I've gotten acquainted to. One of the first things that I ordered from the Saucer's menu was the taco burger that was basically a beef patty and veggies wrapped in a sheet of tortilla bread. It was something that I really liked and wished for its return (if its kitchen is ever expanded, that might be possible). Fortunately, Memphis has more than one "Saucer" to choose from so occasionally, I venture out to Cordova for a good beer in a laid-back suburban atmosphere. Whenever I'm there, I usually reminisce about the "taco" by getting one of the Saucer's many burgers.
My favorite burger at the Cordova Saucer is the Saucer Burger. For the most part, the burger comes with typical stuff like lettuce, tomato, mustard and onions (and a slice of pickle on top), but the difference in this Angus burger is the cheese. One can choose either American or Swiss, or for a dollar extra, get one of the Saucer's artisan cheeses. In the past, I've had the pleasure of trying some of them at the Downtown Saucer with bratwurst and various deli meats, so I knew I was in for something interesting. Helping me make my decision was Rachel, a former Saucer girl at the Downtown location who is a manager at the Cordova bar (or at least I hope so, given the Saucer's high turnover; I'll talk more about that later). Taking her advice, I chose the Red Dragon, a cheese spiced with mustard seeds and tastes like horseradish. On the burger, the Red Dragon really made the Saucer Burger delicious. Also contributing to that was the bar's kitchen cooking a near perfect (as in "medium rare") beef patty with tasty seasoning. Whenever a restaurant or bar can cook a burger like that, you know there's excellence in the kitchen. Overall, the Saucer Burger, with or without artisan cheeses, is an awesome burger that won't fail to impress.
SIDE NOTE: Okay, now that I talked about the Saucer Burger, I will now say a few things about the Saucer. By the way, this pertains to the Downtown Saucer although "regulars" at the Cordova location might be able to relate. For a long time, I was a frequent visitor to the Downtown Saucer because it was a fun place to be. The reason I and many others liked the Saucer wasn't because of the numerous (as in over two hundred) beers that the Saucer offers, but because of the ladies who served them. We all became accustomed to seeing familiar faces who brought our beers with charm that made us happy (and their short skirts definitely didn't hurt in that regard). Over time, many of the Saucer Girls left to pursue bigger endeavors and I can't fault management for not holding on to them. Nor can I fault the Saucer for occasionally firing personnel that it feels is detrimental to its business. However, speaking as a former "regular" (if that is possible), it would be nice to see some continuity as far as some of the staff is concerned. With all of its turnover, it's hard for anyone to develop a relationship with its bartenders and servers. By the way, before anyone jumps to conclusions, I am not talking about any particular server/bartender (or to put it another way, I'm not obsessing over a particular former Saucer Girl). I'm saying that as a frequent bar patron, I and many of my friends prefer going to bars that have familiar faces and cold beer, particularly the inexpensive Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) that most Downtown restaurants and bars serve, ranging from Hooters to The Majestic Grille to the Silly Goose, (where many former Saucer "regulars" go nowadays). I know that saying this might make me "persona non grata" with the Flying Saucer (just like I am with a barbecue team that needed a cooking lesson to compete in a burger contest), but I wanted to express my concerns about a place that I hope will be fun again.
NOTE: This is not the only reason why I visit the Saucer less. Even if management fixes the problem I mentioned here, there are other issues that need to be addressed.
Well, those are some of the many burgers that I've had this year. Tomorrow (August 28, 2016), I hope to get more great burgers at the 2016 Best Memphis Burger Fest that's taking place at Tiger Lane. Many teams will be competing for titles while fundraising for Memphis Paws, a nonprofit that promotes good animal ownership and provides support for animal care and rescue for animals that need it. I encourage you to go out and support this effort by giving whatever you can to any of the burger teams that are helping in this effort. Although I will visit many teams there (with the exception of one team where I'm unwelcomed), I want to give a special shout out to my friends at Squeal Street BBQ who I hope does very well at the festival. Regardless of how they do, I'm sure they and the other teams will have a lot of fun while helping a great cause.
Labels: Burgers, Commentary, Cordova, Downtown, Shelby Forest, West Memphis
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