While I’ve updated the list (see my new Top Ten), this is my original list of Chattanooga’s Top FIVE burgers – according to Chattavore, anyway!
*****Please note that this post has been edited since the original publishing. Based on the fact that Tremont Tavern started grinding their own beef for burgers after I ate there, I decided that I had not really tried one of their burgers. See below for details!*****
*****Also, while I couldn’t find a link, Tubby’s failed a restaurant inspection in late 2013 or early 2014. Again, I couldn’t find the link but apparently they passed a re-inspection with an 89? I told you it was a dive. Anyway, just didn’t want to catch any flak about this. UPDATE: Tubby’s closed in 2014 or 2015.*****
I’m not sure when it happened.
When I was younger, sure….I liked burgers. They weren’t something that made me want to turn cartwheels, though. At some point in my adult life, though…something changed.
If I had to choose my “top” food, burgers would definitely be in the running…along with popcorn. And maybe pasta with alfredo sauce (have I really not written about that yet?).
Anyway, last week’s jaunt to Sofa King Juicy Burger really got my readers talking about Chattanooga burgers. The consensus is definitely this: a good burger is not about hype. As Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation said, “It’s a hamburger made out of meat on a bun with nothing. Add ketchup if you want, I couldn’t care less.” A good burger doesn’t need a lot of frufru-ness. It just needs to be good. And here are my top five “goooooood” burgers (my requirements, by the way, were that (a) the burger must be beef; (b) the restaurant must be local; and (c) the burger must be on the menu every day, not a special).
5. Tubby’s Real Burgers
My husband likes to say that when you walk into Tubby’s you’re initially afraid that you’re going to get hepatitis. It might not be as bad as all that, but it’s definitely a dive, pretty run down, which is funny since this location was built to replace the tiny hole in the wall location where Tubby’s was when I first started eating at Tubby’s while working at Monkey Business on the North Shore in 1999.
I used to order the chicken fingers when I went there because Tubby’s honey mustard is awesome, but after Philip had their burger on our review visit, I started ordering either the cheeseburger or the bacon cheeseburger. This is a ten-napkin cheeseburger. It’s (a) gigantic; and (b) super, super drippy. No frills, just burger goodness. And since Philip and I can eat there for less that $15, it’s definitely a bargain.
Tubby’s Real Burgers is located at 710 Cherokee Boulevard, Chattanooga, TN 37405. You can call them at 423-265-0069.
4. Southern Burger Company
I’m not sure if Southern Burger was the first food truck in Chattanooga or if Famous Nater’s was….but Southern Burger was the first one that I heard about. Because I’d been hearing about the food truck trend for a while on some Food Network and Cooking Channel shows, I remember jumping up and down with excitement (well, at least inside my head) when I heard about it. You know what, though? I’ve never, never had a burger from the Southern Burger truck. I never went there until they opened their Warehouse Row food court location.
Southern Burger offers several specialty burgers or a build-your-own option. The burgers consist of a thin patty, cooked perfectly to obtain crispy edges but retaining just a slight bit of pinkness in the middle. Now that’s talent. They’re served on a slightly sweet Bread Basket bun, which I love because it seems like everyone else uses Niedlov’s (not that there’s anything wrong with that-I love Niedlov’s!). Philip likes to order the Jalapeño burger, with bacon jam and jalapeño slices, and I like the classic burger with cheddar subbed for American cheese and their stellar bacon jam added to it. Yum. This makes me want to go to Southern Burger right now and have a burger with bacon jam.
Southern Burger has two locations: Warehouse Row, 111o Market Street, FC-5, Chattanooga, TN 37402 (423-825-4919) and their new Ooltewah location at 9453 Bradmore Lane, Ooltewah, TN 37363. Follow the truck on Facebook and Twitter. You can also find their website at http://www.southernburgerco.com.
I first heard of Merv’s (review coming Sunday!) when I was student-teaching and my cooperating teacher told me that the best burger around was at Merv’s on Mountain Creek Road. Back then, it was a bar and I heard that it was a little bit shady. In fact, one of our friends told us that while he liked their burgers, he wouldn’t want his wife to go there without him. Philip and I lived on Mountain Creek Road for our first year of marriage and we never even considered going in there. We’d been thinking about it a lot lately but thought it was still a bar and thus we would have to dodge cigarette smoke…but it turns out that Merv’s has a kids’ menu so no cigarette smoke (you must be 21 or older to go to Merv’s after 9 p.m., though). We had to go to Merv’s before I could write this list since about a thousand people had told us they had the best burgers in town.
We went with a friend and each of us ordered a bacon cheeseburger (with American cheese). We shared a gigantic basket of fries, but you’ll get to hear more about that on Sunday. The burgers were large and, like the Tubby’s burger, very drippy, served on just a basic sesame seed bun. The bacon was crisp and everything was perfectly cooked. Obviously you can see by their spot on this list that Merv’s did not qualify as my top burger….but as soon as I took the first bite I knew they belonged somewhere on my top five list. It’s a great burger, and if it’s been a while since you’ve been in, the atmosphere is definitely not a scary bar atmosphere (though I’ve heard some say that they liked it better back then!).
Merv’s is located at 713 Mountain Creek Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405. You can call them at 423-877-0221. Check out their website: http://www.mervsofchatt.com/Mervs_Restaurant_Chattanooga_TN.html.
2. The Terminal
I don’t think that it’s any secret that Terminal BrewHouse is probably my favorite restaurant. I love their pot roast nachos and their West by God salad with sliced steak and French fries….but my favorite is their burger. (A few commentors on Facebook have gotten a little torn up about me choosing the Terminal when I made the statement that they were my favorite restaurant….feeling like I was playing favorites. Let me clarify: the burger was definitely the menu item that solidified their status as my favorite…before Chattavore ever existed.)
The Terminal serves a bison burger, a black bean burger, and a “Philosopher’s burger” with ground lamb. Philip loves the bison burger, but I can’t bring myself to order anything but the plain old beef burger. Not that it’s plain old anything. I like mine with Gouda cheese and bacon, a half-pound of beef that I ask them to cook medium-well, served on a Niedlov’s bun with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion (that I have removed, of course), mayo, and mustard. Perfection. Drippy but not too much so, with a delicious grilled flavor. Love it love it love it.
The Terminal BrewHouse is located at No.6 14th Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408 (right next door to the Chattanooga Choo Choo). They can be contacted at 423-752-8090. Check out their website and their Facebook page.
1. Tremont Tavern
I knew that I had to try Tremont Tavern after a friend whose burger opinion I trust very much told me that they had one of his favorite burgers. While burgers are not the only item on the menu at Tremont, they are definitely the “specialty” of this tiny neighborhood haunt in North Chattanooga.
After considering a Chuck Fisher burger (with guacamole), I decided that my obsession with pimento cheese warranted a pimento burger, with homemade pimento cheese (one of my favorite things) and bread and butter pickles on a Niedlov’s bun. Philip decided on a jalapeno jack burger, with fresh jalapeno, bacon, ancho cilantro dressing, pepperjack cheese, green leaf lettuce, sliced tomato, and red onion. The ingredients were very fresh, the pimento cheese homemade, and the meat perfectly caramelized on the outside while not too done in the center (perfect temperature). The meat was juicy enough to make the bun bottom a little soggy, which is a very good thing. Since my review of Tremont, they have started cutting and grinding their own meat and hand-pattying their burgers fresh every morning. You had me at grinding your own meat, Tremont Tavern. I wonder if they would be number one on my list now, and I will be in very soon to check it out. I promise.
I returned to Tremont on 6/20/13. I was not disappointed. I will post a full rundown of this visit as my regular Sunday review (Tremont, you are one of the few restaurants that has gotten a “revisit review”!) but just to give you some detail, I tried the Gouda burger (on a friend’s recommendation), Philip got the Dirty Gomez (50% beef, 50% housemade chorizo), and our friend Brian (who also accompanied us to Merv’s) had the jalapeño Jack. We were all raving over our burgers and I had to go wash my hands when I finished my Gouda burger. That’s a sign of a good burger, folks. And yes, I ate the whole thing. I think it is disrespectful to a great burger to leave any on the plate….thank God I still have a quick metabolism! We talked to the owner, Dustin, for several minutes about the meat-grinding process. Basically they use a whole shoulder clod, cut away the nasty stuff that people don’t want to eat (which is one of the little details that really sets their meat apart….factory ground meat just has that stuff ground right on into it), grind the meat and the fat separately, and then weigh the meat and fat and make an 80/20 mix (80/20 is widely accepted as the best ratio for burgers). I think this really sets their burgers apart. The meat is so much fresher than most places, and it gives them a claim to fame that most other restaurants don’t have. I, for one, am sold.
Some honorable mentions include the “This Bacon is the Jam Burger” from The Honest Pint, which I would love more if it was made with cheddar rather than blue cheese, and the Blue Ribbon Café burger, which was not eligible for the list because it’s a special, only available on Friday, and Dub’s Place in Red Bank. It should also be noted that I didn’t include Southern Star’s burger, which used to be a special but is now on the regular menu. I had it years ago and loved it….but I’ll have to try it again to make sure my feelings are still the same. I have also been told that a burger list from someone who has not tried a Zarzour’s burger is basically not valid. Perhaps I’ll have to do a “Top Ten” burgers list eventually!
In preparation for this list, I decided to poll Chattavore’s Twitter and Facebook followers on their favorites. Urban Stack won by one vote, with Tremont Tavern coming in second, and Terminal and Merv’s one vote behind Tremont for third. Also garnering multiple votes were Tubby’s, Blacksmith’s Bistro, and Kevin Brown’s Burgers in Ooltewah, which apparently I must try very soon.