NOTE: As of November 20, 2021, I'm classifying Bleu as "closed" because it's been months since I last seen it open. Despite signs posted that list its operating hours, I have yet to see anyone dine there. I'm not sure if Bleu is a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's sad to see the restaurant closed. I hope it comes back soon.

UPDATE: A new restaurant will be opening soon at the Westin Hotel by University of Memphis' basketball coach and NBA legend Penny Hardaway. Called Penny's Nitty Gritty, it's intended to be an upscale Southern restaurant. I'm mentioning this because the space that it's moving into in the Westin is probably where Bleu used to be, given it was directly across from the FedExForum. It seems that Bleu is gone for good but will never be forgotten.

B.Y.O.B. (Burger Yearning On Birthday)

For the week of my birthday (September 24), I decided to fulfill a longtime desire. I finally got around to having lunch at Bleu, the upscale restaurant inside The Westin Hotel in Downtown Memphis. The restaurant faces Third St. and FedExForum's box office, where I've worked for the past two years. The upscale eatery specializes in Modern American cuisine, but my visit centered on its version of a classic. My meal of choice was the Build Your Own (BYO) Sandwich. The sandwich can come in a variety of ways with regards to meat, bun and various toppings. My emphasis was on Bleu's cheeseburger, hailed as one of the best in town by many media sources such as the blog Best Memphis Burger. I wanted to see if the hype about it was true, so I had lunch there two days after my birthday.

During my visit to Bleu, I decided to make the most of it. For my burger, I got my 100% Angus Beef cooked medium rare and garnished with all of my favorite toppings: roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, aged cheddar, chipotle mayo (which technically isn't a topping) and avocado. For the bun, I went with the Kaiser roll because it was the most "burger" compatible among my choices of bread. To go with my burger, I got fries and a glass of Stella Artois.

After waiting a little over ten minutes, my burger arrived. What I’m about to say is an old and tired cliché, but the burger was a thing of beauty. From an appearance standpoint, everything looked perfect. The inside of the ground beef was medium pink, an indicator of it being medium rare. All of the toppings looked fresh as though it came straight from the farm. Even the huge Kaiser roll looked impressive, which along with everything else, made me anxious to tear into the burger.

From the first bite, I enjoyed every bit of my BYO Burger. The ground beef was lean, tender and perfectly seasoned with what I believe was a mix of salt and black pepper. The meat itself was definitely medium rare, judging from the taste of it. Collectively, all the toppings were excellent. I'm particularly glad that I chose avocado, because its soft texture and nutty butter flavor serves as a vegetable fat (even though it’s a fruit) that blends well into the meat. The fattiness of the avocado and the leanness of the beef make for a great combination of richness and flavor. With the other perfectly prepared toppings and a freshly baked Kaiser roll, I had a burger that tasted better than any other that I've had in Memphis.

The fries, although not on par with my burger's quality, were decent. They were somewhat soft and seasoned with salt, resulting in a taste that was satisfying yet not better than average. However, the fries were good enough to complement my cheeseburger in a positive way.

The only thing that kept my lunch from being perfect was the beer. Although I ordered a glass of Stella Artois, the beer didn't taste anything like it. It had a sour, slightly sweet taste that might have been the result of a "contaminated" tap line. I felt like I was drinking a mix of Stella and Bud Light. With The Westin being an upscale hotel, I expected better from its premiere restaurant. Even though my beer was a disappointment, it wasn't bad enough to offset the joy I got from my delicious cheeseburger.

Speaking of my burger (again), I have concluded that Bleu makes the best burger in Memphis. I'm not saying this because of the way that Bleu prepared my burger. Rather, it's more about the concept of the BYO Burger with regards to versatility. Because of the many combinations that can comprise the burger, a person can get a different and unique BYO on every visit to Bleu. With the ingredients prepared by a first class chef, the quality will be consistent no matter how many ways the burger gets made. This versatility makes the Bleu BYO Burger (using my friend Seth's catchphrase) my best Memphis burger for the foreseeable future (sorry Sweden Kream).

As a delayed birthday gift to myself, I don't think I could have done a lot better than Bleu. Next year, I might splurge a bit by having dinner there. I've heard great things about its Modern American menu, which makes me eager to visit again. When I do, I hope the experience equals the satisfaction I got from my cheeseburger. If it does, it will be a great day.


Bleu on Urbanspoon

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