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The Company Burger
4600 Freret St Ste A
New Orleans, LA 70115 (map)
Company Man –
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.
Sold My Soul to the Company Store –
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?
The Wrap It Up –
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.