Great Burgers, Mediocre Barbecue

About two or three years ago, I ran into a friend while heading to my favorite bar, The Flying Saucer. After talking about this and that for a few minutes, my friend recommended Westy's One-Eyed Bacon Cheeseburger with pepper jack cheese. Actually, he said "get the One-Eyed Jack Burger," which is a lot easier to say. It didn't take me long in making my way to Westy's (located in Downtown Memphis' Pinch Neighborhood), where I had one of the best burgers in Memphis.

Thanks to the generosity of my family on my latest birthday, I finally got a decent camera. The Kodak EasyShare C1530 is capable of taking 3216 x 4288 pictures at 14 megapixels. Although it is not a professional-grade camera, it's a lot better than what I had.
The reason why I love Westy's burgers is a simplistic one. While the other components of the "Jack Burger" are really good, the ground beef is what makes it great. The meat is chargrilled to order without any special seasonings to jazz it up. My guess is that Westy's uses a little salt and black pepper and nothing else, which doesn't matter as long as it tastes great. In the "One-Eyed Jack Burger," the meat comes with mild pepper jack cheese, a fried egg and bacon that's tender, chewy and full of smoked flavor. All of it, along with lettuce, tomato, pickles and a bun (an in-house baked onion roll) makes for one of the best burgers in Memphis.

SIDE NOTE: While Westy's does a good job in making hamburgers, the restaurant isn't always perfect. For example, my boss (who sprung for the ribs that I will talk about later) got Westy's Helluva Burger that she wanted cooked "well done." Despite taking the request, she got her burger a little undercooked. She eventually came around to liking the cheeseburger, but wasn't completely satisfied. So while Westy's gets it right most of the time (like when I order burgers cooked "medium rare"), it is prone to making mistakes.

Burgers aren't the only thing that Westy's makes. The bar/restaurant has an extensive menu that has everything from rice bowls and soups to steaks and pasta. Among the more intriguing items on the menu is the barbecue ribs. When I saw it, I was skeptical if Westy's could pull it off. With the restaurant having a huge variety of food, I wasn't sure if the kitchen staff had the time, equipment (such as a barbecue smoker/pit) and expertise to do ribs right. Fortunately, I got a risk-free opportunity at work to try Westy's ribs. The experience didn't turn out well.

The Westy's ribs, unlike its burgers, are underwhelming. The meat isn't as tender as I and most people like, and lacks the smokiness that comes from hours of roasting in a barbecue grill/pit. Most of the ribs' flavor comes from the barbecue sauce that is the typical sweet tomato paste stuff that anyone can buy in a grocery store. To borrow a term from fellow blogger Memphis Que, the ribs are nothing more than "fast food barbecue" that are a step below Tops Bar-B-Q. As much as I hate to say it, but the ribs met my expectations in a bad way. However, given that Memphis is disputably the BBQ capital of the world, I know that I don't have to rely on Westy's for good barbecue. As long as the burgers are great, I'll continue being a patron of the place.

The sides that came with the ribs don't tickle my fancy, either. While the tater tots are merely okay, the coleslaw is too creamy for me. It seems that it uses a lot of mayonnaise to make it, which in turn overwhelms everything else in it. For the slaw I had, I threw it away after a couple of bites and focused on the rest of my lunch. Combined with mediocre barbecue, the coleslaw doesn't come close to genuine barbecue establishments in terms of satisfaction.

For dessert, I decided to get a variation of one of Westy's signature dishes. As a step up from Jake's Original Hot Fudge Pie, the Ultimate Hot Fudge Pie is (according to the menu) a brownie cake "drizzled with raspberry and roasted pecans, buried under French vanilla ice cream and topped with whipped cream and strawberry." That seems like a humongous dessert, but it didn't appear that way when I initially got it delivered. Not wanting to write about something that wasn't complete, I will wait until I make another visit to Westy's.

With the contrasts of reactions to two of Westy's many entrées, it seems to me that the restaurant/bar can't do everything well. However, it has done a relatively decent job of providing good meals for me in the past so I'll try not to be too critical of it. In my opinion, I believe that it is difficult to employ a "jack of all trades" strategy that provides consistent quality in food or anything else. That said, Westy's manages to make great cheeseburgers (although my boss will disagree) that will keep me coming back.

Appreciate Your Friends

Before I end this review, I want to refer back to the guy who introduced me to Westy's "One-Eyed Jack Burger." Since his recommendation (which is ironic given that he dissuaded me from starting this blog), I've decided to focused on building and strengthening friendships with those that mean a lot to me. Given the drama that I've allowed myself to get embroiled in over the past several years (such as scrapping with a certain blogger that I will no longer acknowledge), I've decided to focus on those who have been supportive despite my faults. If it weren't for them, I don't know where I would be emotionally. Going into 2014 and beyond, I hope to strengthen those relationships by being a better friend (and less of a pain in the ass). By "friend," I don't mean with people who I merely socialize with, but on relationships based on mutual respect. I know that I'll never be a "cool guy" to most (including the "One-Eyed Jack" guy), so I appreciate those who befriend me in spite of that. For this, I'm grateful.

The composite of photos was taken at my sixth (and likely last) "plate party" at The Flying Saucer on October 16, 2013. The photo on the right was taken by Kelly, our Saucer Girl for the party. Kelly is a friend who has been good to me over the past few years. I wish her nothing but the best as she embarks on her new career as an EMT.

Website: www.westysmemphis.com

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