(2 votes, average: 8.00 out of 10)Register to vote.
8801 Oak Street
New Orleans, LA 70118 (map)
New Orleans. How you’ve stepped up your game. While in town to see an Andrew Bird show, a few friends and I set out to find another recently lauded burger in the awesomely named Leonidas neighborhood near the Riverbend area. Cowbell is set up in what appears to be an old service station on the corner of Oak and Eagle. On a street like Oak it takes a lot for an eatery to stand out and Cowbell was voted as New Orleans’ Best New Restaurant in 2011 by Gambit. That’s good enough for me for another Big Easy Burger Tyme.
So on one of the more lovely South Louisiana Friday evenings, we meandered our way through the narrow, poorly paved streets. Luckily, we found a spot in the Cowbell parking lot, which seems to have a maximum capacity of four cars. All of the outside seating was full and we were told that the wait would be about a 30 minutes. Time was pressing as the show started in about an hour but having peered at other diners already enjoying burgers, we quickly confirmed that it would be worth the wait. True to expectations, we were seated outside after 25.
Our server, wearing a vintage looking apron, was friendly and gladly answered our questions about duck fat fries and what ‘Agogo’ sauce is. She took our drink orders and quickly brought them out. Each burger comes with the usual toppings and fries. Anything extra, well, would be extra. I ordered mine with added american cheese, a farm egg, and bacon and onion compote. All added up this would be a $15 burger and fries. With our orders in we had time, lots of time, to chit chat and enjoy the weather and people watching. The servers remained attentive and friendly but it became a noticeably long wait. Three refills and another 25 minutes later, our burgers arrived.
Each basket was filled to the brim with the open face burger components and fries. At first glance, the vivid red of the tomatoes with the bright yellow of the melted cheese and the caramel brown of the buns made this a very appealing looking burger. Did I also mention that this burger was rather large? With a little effort I managed to fit the majority of the burger between the two potato roll halves, but only just. I took a bite and instantly was in heaven. This burger had it all. Sweet and savory onion and bacon compote. Buttery, crispy bun. Rich egg. Big beefy patty that was well seasoned. Perfectly melted cheese. Veggies with actual flavor. It was big, it was messy, and it was good! It was New Orleans incarnated in a burger. The fries were also pretty great. They were fresh cut, crisp, and tasted like they were fried in duck fat. The waitress was not able to confirm whether they were on not but they were good so I didn’t really press the issue.
It just got real. Thanks to places like The Company Burger and Cowbell, New Orleans is two for two in recent Burger Tymes. Cowbell has what I think is one of the tastiest burgers anywhere. It also is one of the priciest when you add in all of the extras. Burger & fries + drink + tip = roughly $20. That’s a lot to ask of the general burger eating public. However, on special occasions, or when I find myself craving this burger (like I am right now), I would pay that in a heartbeat. It was that good that it sticks in my memory like my 8th birthday. If in the area, and if you want a burger, and if you have the money, ring the bell.
PS – In case you were wondering, service at Cowbell did take a while, even for a Friday night, but we still made it to the show in time. All in all, a great evening.
(2 votes, average: 9.00 out of 10)Register to vote.
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The Company Burger
4600 Freret St Ste A
New Orleans, LA 70115 (map)
Louisiana is great. The food is great, people are nice, and life is a little more laid back. Having grown up in Baton Rouge and since moved away for work, I find myself always comparing things to what it would be like back home. In almost all cases I would prefer Louisiana…. all except burgers. All around this great country, there are fantastic burgers. The assumption that great food traditions should easily translate in to great burgers is not always valid. This is even true in the culinary mecca that is New Orleans. Until recently, the “Best” burger of the crescent city was the beloved, but less than impressive burger at Port of Call. Straightforward, beefy patty, with a baked potato on the side. That has been the standard for years. Recently, however, there have been some exciting burger developments. One of which is The Company Burger.
On a day trip to New Orleans over the holidays, I wanted to sample what a quick internet search has revealed as one of NOLAs new favorite burgers. South of I-10 from downtown, in the revitalized Freret area, The Company Burger sits unassumingly in the corner of something like a strip mall. The line of people waiting extended out of the door at only a quarter to noon. The menu was simple and made from locally sourced ingredients (noticed I didn’t say ‘organic’… neither do they). You can get the standard double burger or a single, both simply dressed with american cheese, red onions, and house made bread and butter pickles. The only options are; add bacon… add fried egg. Nice. If you are not feeling beef,they also have a turkey and lamb burger and a riff on a corndog made with porkbelly which I recently learned comes from a friend of mine’s farm. As with all pondering, my thoughts of burger eutopia was soon disrupted, and it was our turn to order.
I love love love simple menus. I ordered the ‘Company Burger’, added a fried egg, and ‘Company Fries’. Simple. Lot’s of drink options and I went with bottled, mexican Coke. My wife opted for the turkey burger and a glass of water… After exchanging awkward looks with the cashier, I paid and I found us some great seats at the counter overlooking the burger prep / kitchen. It was awesome. In front of us was an orderly yet fast paced crew churning out burger after perfect looking burger. Each station operator knew their tasks; season, grill, and top the patties with cheese, toast the buns, fries, pickles and onions… and when they came together to assemble the burgers, each had the look of a surgeon in the operating room. Precision. I watched as this process repeated itself over and over again. It was mesmerizing. At the end of the counter, a guy was forming the meat patties from freshly ground balls of meat. Next to him was a complete set of Nathan Myhrvold’s opus to gastronomy, Modernist Cuisine. Suddenly, all of the attention to detail began to make sense.
The wait was not short but this was due to the long queue of orders ahead of mine. Plus, I was enjoying myself. Our order came up and the anticipation couldn’t be greater. Even my wife’s turkey burger looked great! I picked it up and took my first bite and simultaneously my taste buds sang while hot egg yolk shot from the perfectly cooked over medium egg on to my arm. This was only disappointing in the sense that some of the egg yolk went to waste. Classic. That is the best way I can describe the taste. No gimmicks. No pork belly or doughnut buns or even ketchup or mustard needed here. There was a mayo bar with house made this or that but I didn’t even bother. The cheese was perfectly melted over the patties which were seasoned with the right amount of salt and crusty sear. The fresh baked bun was great. It held it’s texture and was buttered and toasted well. The house made bread and butter pickles were excellent too. They lent just the right amount of sweetness to counter the savory components, while the red onions had just enough bite. My wife said her turkey burger was also really good. After eating mine, I believed her. The fries, while great and hand cut and double fried, were dramatically overshadowed… but isn’t that how it should be?
In case you couldn’t tell, I loved this burger. It was great! Not just great for New Orleans or Louisiana, great for anywhere! And I couldn’t have been happier! Whenever you hear about Louisiana in the news, on travel shows, or even when talking to new acquaintances, it seems as if the rest of the country is under the impression that we should all still be in a post-Katrina shock. But the truth is people are resilient and life moves forward. The Company Burger is a perfect example of that. Finding the best of what is available and turning it in to something special. Nothing fancy. Not complicated. Not gimmicky. Simple and for everyone. To me, that is what being from Louisiana is all about.
(2 votes, average: 5.50 out of 10)Register to vote.
Port of Call
838 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70116
The Christmas holidays are a wonderful time. It’s a time for both my wife and I to head back to Baton Rouge, LA and spend time with family and friends. Being that this was also the first Burger Tyme Christmas holiday I thought it to be extremely appropriate to add yet another Louisiana burger joint to the list. For years I’ve had friends tell me how great Port of Call in New Orleans is. This was also confirmed by being the only burger joint in Louisiana to make the book Hamburger America. It was also voted Gambit Weekly Best Burger in 2008 by local New Orleaneans. So with much free time and a few willing burger tymers, we made our way down to New Orleans on probably one of the coldest days in South Louisiana history. It was about 30F which is about as cold as it gets. When we arrived in the French Quarter we parked by beautiful Jackson Square and the St Louis Cathedral. The cold weather actually made it quite pleasant as usually bad smells in the French Quarter are usually compounded by the heat and humidity. We made our way past many world renowned restaurants, past art shops, and past a few other unknown burger places, to Dauphine and Esplanade, about half a block just North of Bourbon St to Port of Call. Like many other shops and restaurants in this eclectic and misunderstood part of New Orleans, Port of Call is inconspicuously situated in an old house with a sign hanging out front. I had heard tale that this place was kind of a dive but it was actually nicer than I expected. Something that surprised my was how every table was full inside even though they did not even look open from the outside. We made our way in and it was very dark inside at 1pm. After our eyes adjusted we were directed to take a seat. As we sat I looked around at what everyone else was having. Other than the many fruity drinks they offer, everyone was having the burger. That’s why we were here too.
The menu states :
“All our burgers are half pound ground fresh daily, and come with baked potato with butter.”
This seemed like a very promising start. Fresh beef, a baked potato instead of fries, a soft drink cup that I get to take home!!! I went ahead and placed my order for the cheeseburger which comes in at a hard to swallow $10.75 soft drink not included. But I’m willing to pay extra for burger perfection. The wait was not too long and we were able to fill our time listening to the bartender (who coincidentally spoke like a pirate, although I don’t think it was intentional) give parenting tips to his coworkers. When our burgers arrived there were mixed emotions running through my mind. The first thing I noticed was the cheese. The unmelted, shredded cheddar cheese on top of the patty. My eye was then drawn to the very uninspiring bun. It was at best a regular seeded bun from the grocery store with little if any toasting. This is OK at this point. The veggies served on the side were very plain. A whole slice of an onion, a leaf of iceberg lettuce, and a slice of tomato. The condiments were on the table for your use including mayonnaise (doesn’t this need to be refrigerated?). I assembled my burger and took a bite. It was juicy. The meat tasted fresh and of good quality but that is about all I can say good about it. The meat lacked almost any kind of seasoning. Almost everything about this burger was pretty unimpressive… Well, except for the baked potato. I actually really liked it in place of french fries. But even it was just basic butter, bacon bits, sour cream, and chives.
In spite of all of these objections running through my mind I ate the burger rather quickly. I have to give credit to the fresh and high quality of the meat used. The other ingredients, however, could definitely stand to step up their game. As I was talking to a friend in Baton Rouge about this burger his comment was that I was the first person he had heard say bad things about this burger. No doubt, Port of Call has it’s fans. They have been making the same burger there for almost 50 years. That being said (and it pains me to say this about a Louisiana Burger), I think there are better burger out there in the world and possibly New Orleans has a better one to offer. For a total of about $15 I would recommend trying some of the other excellent cuisine the French Quarter and getting some beignets and hot chocolate at Cafe du Monde while the weather is still cold.