Merv’s is a dive bar located in Red Bank, Tennessee that claims to serve the best burgers in Tennessee. Here’s what I thought.
Boy, I found out on Friday just how passionate people are about burgers. For starters, my “Chattanooga’s Top 5 Burgers According to Chattavore” post garnered me my biggest blog day thus far (and that’s in 2 years of writing this blog!). Second, I definitely stirred a few people up on Facebook. They did not agree with my opinion. That’s the beauty of blogging, though. I can write my opinion, you can write yours. Maybe I’ll change my mind, maybe not. No matter, really. Burgers are…a good thing.
The reason I start with that is because since I was student teaching in the fall of 2000 I have been hearing about the awesome burgers at Merv’s. My cooperating teacher was actually the first to tell me, and I have heard it from many, many since. The restaurant claims, in fact, to serve not just Chattanooga’s best burger but Tennessee’s best burger. As I mentioned in Friday’s post, Philip and I lived in an apartment complex on Mountain Creek Road for the first year that we were married and we never made it to Merv’s. That was a different time for me, though, and if I wanted a burger I probably went to the Burger King just a little bit farther down Mountain Creek. For shame.
My excuse for not going sometime between moving away from Mountain Creek Road in 2001 and now? I thought Merv’s was a bar and thus a smoky environment. I guess that at some point in the past this probably was the case, but (maybe because of the smoking ban that rendered the under-21 crowd unable to enter a smoking-allowed-establishment) Merv’s may be a “bar” (as in they serve beer and have darts and pool) but it is not a smoky joint. Look, they have a kids’ menu. You’re safe. I knew that if I was going to write about my opinion about Chattanooga’s top burgers, I was going to have to check out Merv’s first, so Philip and I invited one of his friends to have dinner with us at Merv’s.
First impressions? The parking lot kind of sucks. All of the spaces were full when we got there and there were actually two cars that had created their own spaces at the end. We could have made another space by the telephone pole but instead we parked kind of caddy-cornered across the street in the parking lot of the former Food Lion. I’m all about far-away parking. It’s exercise you don’t really have to think about. There are booths and tables inside, plus a bar (of course) and televisions playing various sports channels. It’s a pretty big place, sparsely decorated, with a jukebox and a crowd of people who are obviously regulars. I actually saw the servers hug a couple of people as they were leaving. One server took our drink order, but then she ended up behind the bar (and eventually in the kitchen, I think) and another very friendly girl whose name I regret I didn’t get brought our drinks out.
The menu consisted of several fried appetizers, several sandwiches (including a BLT with eight-that’s right, eight-strips of bacon), plate dinners, salads, and, of course, the burgers. I really wanted to try the fried pickles (which a friend had told me were good) but at $6.95 they cost as much as the burgers, so no…..There really was no question about what we were going to have. We went for burgers, and burgers we would have. We asked the server for recommendations about the burgers, and she recommended the bacon cheeseburger hands down. That’s what all three of us ordered (mine without onions, of course). We considered the onion rings, but since she told us that they were frozen, not homemade like the fries are, we decided to go with fries instead. She promised the large basket would be plenty for all three of us. Just as an aside…they also make homemade chips….but have bags of Lay’s and other packaged chips on a shelf behind the bar. Why someone would buy bagged chips when homemade are available is beyond me. Anyway….
It took maybe a little longer than we expected for the burgers to come out, but not really a long time. No big deal. They came out with a cup of ketchup on the side of each. The burgers were large but not the biggest I’ve seen and served on a standard sesame seed bun. Nothing fancy here. They were topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mayo, mustard, and ketchup. The burgers were cooked through without being overdone, juicy and just verging on greasy but not overwhelmingly so. While I consider a Tubby’s burger a 10-napkin burger, this was more of a 4-napkin burger….but that’s not a bad thing, because sometimes it can get a little ridiculous. The bun was grilled, giving it a crunchy edge, which I liked but Philip thought that was the only problem (but he just doesn’t like grilled bread or buns)-so if you don’t like grilled bread/buns, be sure to ask them not to grill yours. She wasn’t lying about the basket of fries being large….it was a large basket of fries and between me and two grown men we still had at least one or two servings left in the basket when we were done. I liked the fries, which had the skin left on. They were cooked well but not overly crisp, which is just how I like my skin-on fries. I did not feel that they were very greasy. I did, however, think they could have used a little more salt.
Merv’s is a dive, but it’s not scary or shady at all. The burgers are great. I’d be interested to try some of their other menu items but I seriously doubt I could ever bring myself to order anything else. The prices are about average. The beer list leaves something to be desired if you aren’t into cheap beer…they did have Sam Adams, Yuengling, Killian’s, and Shock Top….but other than that it was your standards…Bud, High Life, etc. We split the fries with our friend and the total for Philip’s and my meal was around $17 before tip. Not a bad price, since we were just discussing the other day that unless we go to a fast food place we generally expect to pay at least $30 once the tip is factored in. If you are looking for a good burger and fries at a decent price in the Red Bank/Signal Mountain Road area, Merv’s is a great choice (and let’s be honest, if Sofa King wants their food to be competitive with Merv’s and Tubby’s that close by, they need to step up their game)!
Merv’s is located at 713 Mountain Creek Road, Chattanooga (Red Bank), TN 37405. You can call them at 423-877-0221. They have a website (which is really just a menu with contact info and a map): http://www.mervsofchatt.com/Mervs_Restaurant_Chattanooga_TN.html. There are links on the website to Facebook and Twitter, but the Facebook link just takes you to the homepage and they only have one tweet…so right now I would really bother with the social media.
Update 2/14: Merv’s flooded not too terribly long after this post went up last summer. They were closed for remodeling for a very long time, with rumors floating around that they were permanently closed (I saw this on Urbanspoon, of all places!). Good news! The rumors were false. As of last week, Merv’s is reopened for business!
Eric Kaulfuss says