Getting Your Burger Fix in Nashville
My guest poster today is my friend and fellow Nashville food blogger, Erin of Erin’s Food Files. Before I launched my own blog, I found Erin’s, and one day spent hours reading through her archives of old posts. During that time, I learned a lot about her and found that we had many things in common, including growing up in small Kentucky towns, attending the same college, and understanding the proper way to eat sorghum and butter on a biscuit.
Say hello to Erin!
I’m so thrilled to be guest posting for Beth, but even more thrilled for her & the new addition to her family. He’s just as cute as can be!
I decided to take this guest posting opportunity to post something different than I normally post over at my blog. When I first started Erin’s Food Files, I specifically chose the name to give myself freedom to write about restaurants, food events, recipes, etc. I quickly realized I just didn’t have the time to keep up with more than just recipes, which is why I was glad when Beth came on to the blogging scene not too long after me. She’s much better at writing up restaurants & events! But that doesn’t mean I don’t talk about restaurants. If you’ve ever conversed with me in person, you know I love to talk about restaurants. I LOVE it when out of towners, or even local friends, ask for restaurant suggestions. I try to tailor my suggestions to people’s personalities & interests, as well as budget & occasion.
My husband Nathan & I enjoy trying out new spots as soon as they open. One thing I know for sure about Nathan is, if there’s a burger on the menu, he’s very likely to order that. The man loves his burgers. Because of this, we’ve eaten quite a variety of burgers around town, both upscale & casual. We haven’t tried every burger, but we have some definite favorites. I’m gonna give you a list of great places to get a burger in town.
(Most photos were taken with my iPhone, so please excuse the quality of the pictures!)
atmosphere: casual beer garden
The Pharmacy is one of the newest spots in town. Because we’re big fans of Holland House, we’d been eyeing The Pharmacy for months before it opened. It’s right around the corner from Holland House, and the same people, TC Hospitality, are behind it. We went the week they opened, and sat on the covered patio. Luckily we were warmed by heaters, and I can imagine this will be a hopping spot come warmer weather. I’m an incredibly indecisive diner, and was torn between many options on their menu. They have a Falafel burger, with a chickpea patty, topped with many things, including my favorite local goat cheese, Noble Springs. Their Mission City Burger has guacamole & crema fresca among other toppings.
Another notable option is the Farm Burger, with country ham, bacon, a farm egg, and maple mustard. I about fell out of my chair when I saw that. Finally, at the last minute after conversing with the waiter, I decided to scale it back and get the basic Pharmacy burger, which is their standard burger & toppings. Nathan ordered The Cheese Burger, which has yellow cheddar, swiss, & muenster cheese as well as tomato and garlic aioli. We both opted for the crispy fries, and they were delicious, but later learned from Chris Chamberlin of the Nashville Scene that the tots are where it’s at. (His review here.) I really enjoyed my burger, and I found it was the perfect serving size for me. Not to sound like Goldielocks, but I appreciated it wasn’t too big or too small. One of the most notable things about my burger though was the bun. The buns are specially made by Provence for The Pharmacy and were spot on.
Rest assured that Nathan & I will return here many times. I’ve heard from my other “foodie friends” (as Nathan refers to my food blog & twitter friends), that the brats at The Pharmacy are great too. Seeing as I am growing a human and refraining from ordering beer, I was especially pleased to discover their list of handcrafted sodas. Like Beth, I was born and raised in Kentucky, so when I saw Kentucky Mint I had to order it. It was refreshing and delicious, and I can’t wait to try out all their other options.
One of the reasons Nathan had been eyeing this place for so long was because he’s a craft beer nut, and loves a good beer list. He was really pleased with the beer selection. So if craft beers, burgers, & brats are your thing, and you’re looking for a casual spot to hang out with friends, or even a place to take your toddler (we saw a LOT of toddlers & babies there at 6pm on a Wednesday night), check out The Pharmacy.
Gabby’s is a spot that took me a long time to make it to. When it first opened, it was lunch only. Luckily they are now open until 7:30 on Fridays, as well as lunch on Saturdays. Once Nathan & I made it over there, he was smitten upon first smell. Gabby’s is fairly small, with tables & a bar, as well as the line where they cook your food. You order at the counter, then find a seat.
You won’t come to Gabby’s and find exotic burger toppings. The burger options are your standard cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon, etc. But what makes Gabby’s burgers extra special, is that they are committed to grass fed beef. You may think you’re indulging in a greasy burger, but it actually has one third of the fat of a regular burger, and 100 less calories per patty. My suggestion for your side item, GET THE SWEET POTATO FRIES! Last time we were there the sweet potato fries were the best I’d had in my entire life. They were spot-on delicious. Now, I will say on one previous visit I got some fries that were near burnt, but every other time they’ve been delicious. They’re hand cut, definitely not frozen off a truck. Gabby’s is not to be missed!
atmosphere: upscale yet casual, hipster cool
There was a lot of hype before Burger Up even officially opened. Lots of “foodies” like myself were anticipating this new addition to 12th South, by the owner of Frothy Monkey. We went within a week of opening, and have been back many times since. My favorites include the Marathon Burger (vegetarian with quinoa & black beans!), the Turkey Burger (with avocado & caramelized red onions), the Bison Burger (with white cheddar, fried red onions & jalapeño). Nathan has had the Woodstock burger every.single.time we’ve been. The man is a creature of habit. But with Benton’s bacon, TN Sweetwater white cheddar, & Jack Daniel’s maple ketchup, it’s his ideal burger, so why stray?
Like Gabby’s, Burger Up is committed to grass fed local beef. They source as many ingredients locally as they can, as you can see in the Woodstock Burger. They’re more than just burgers though. I’m amazed at the people who can pass up a burger and order a salad, but I see people do it all the time. But with the wide variety of fresh & inventive ingredients in their salads, I guess it’s not too hard. Their sides include truffle fries, sweet potato fries, a vidalia onion tower, and steamed spinach. I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever ordered sweet potato fries, because I’m pretty much addicted to them. I’ve had delicious sweet potato fries from Burger Up, and once limp fries. Same with Gabby’s, it seems with sweet potato fries, every once in a while there’s an off night. I forgive, because when they’re good, they’re GOOD. I’ve heard from from friends who’ve had the truffle fries that they’re delicious.
And don’t forget appetizers! I can attest to the amazingness of the fried mac & cheese, as well as the fried pickles. Of course, you’re going to need something to wash it all down, and you’re in luck with Burger Up because they have a fully stocked bar with hand crafted artisan cocktails. My mouth is watering right now remembering the refreshing Presbyterian I had there on one occasion. Nathan loves that they have one of his favorite high gravity beers, Chimay White, so if you’re into beer, they’ve got you covered.
Much of the seating at Burger Up is “family-style” tables, but Nathan & I have often snagged seats at the bar, as well as a 2 top table by the window (perfect if you are obsessed with photographing your food, like me).
(photo credit: Vivek’s Epicurean Adventures)
Unless you’re in on the “secret”, you’re probably wondering why I’m including a coffee shop on my burger list. Well, thanks to a recent article in the Tennessean I feel more & more people are going to know about one of my favorite places to eat. Anything you order off the regular menu will be delicious, but I’ve long since been ordering strictly off the chalkboard of specials. Chef John Stephenson creates a menu of thought-out, often locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. This menu changes (find out on their blog), but almost always includes the Local Burger.
Now, I’ll say that Nathan is pretty basic when it comes to his burgers. He prefers them sans lettuce, tomato, onion. But he orders the Local Burger without removing a single ingredient, and loves it exactly as Chef John intended it to taste. The Local Burger is: locally sourced, grass fed beef and lamb, farmhouse cheddar, caramelized fennel, fried onion, fig aioli, lettuce, pickle, feta, & parsley. You can get fries, chips, or a salad with it, and he always gets the fries. Luckily we have a clause in our marriage contract that says I always get a bite of his food. So while I love to try whatever new or interesting thing I see on the menu, I know I can satisfy my burger craving with a bite of his delicious burger. And I get to steal some of his fries.
The only downside to dining at Fido, is there have been times I’ve been a bit frustrated with seating. Most people still see it as a “coffeeshop” during the week nights especially, which means I’ll see 4 top tables occupied by one person and their books and laptop, study groups, and the like. Just be prepared you might have to wait for a table. Luckily, it’s less like this on the weekend. The great thing about Fido is, their menu will satisfy pretty much anyone! They also serve beer & wine, as long as you drink it inside.
atmosphere: fast food
(photo credit: bizjournal.com)
Five Guys is where Nathan often goes to pick up a cheeseburger to-go. That’s not to say I’ve never been though. I most certainly have, and I’ve had a burger too. Their standard burger comes stacked with not one but two patties. It’s piled with as many of their standard toppings as you want. I opt for the Little Cheeseburger, while Nathan often gets the Cheeseburger or Bacon Cheeseburger. Most importantly we’ll split an order of Cajun Fries. The Cajun Fries are SO addictive & delicious. Their regular fries are good too, but we love the cajun seasoning. Their fries are perfect size, not too thin, not too thick.
One thing you need to know about Five Guys, is you’re gonna want to grab way more napkins than you think you’ll need, and then you’ll probably end up needing more! This burger is messy & delicious. No frills here, just way better than your average fast food burger. Oh, and one more thing, there’s a big bin of peanuts to snack on!
atmosphere: fast casual, located in Murfreesboro
We got an invite to a preview of this new burger chain location south of Nashville. If you know me, you know I don’t even venture out far from my perimeter. I don’t even go as far as Brentwood. But with a quick glance at the Smashburger menu, I knew this place was worth a trip down. Plus, they have locations in parts of Kentucky where we have lots of friends & family. The folks at Smashburger brought out dish after dish and made sure we sampled as much as we wanted. We were highly impressed with the burgers! I thought the patty size was perfect, and the burger was juicy & seasoned perfectly. The menu offers tons of topping variations, and the option to build your own.
They also have healthy salads (way better than you’d expect from “fast food”), chicken sandwiches, & more, but this post is about the BURGERS, so I’ll get back to that. They have a regional burger menu item at each location, and the Murfreesboro one had the “Tennessee” with Jack Daniels BBQ sauce. I opted for the “Spicy Baja” sans jalapeños. It was topped with guacamole. I loved the buns here as well. I consider them an important component to a burger, and are sometimes overlooked. Also, the Sweet Potato Smashfries are tossed with rosemary, olive oil, & garlic. That’s definitely not something you’d expect to find from fast food! Nathan ordered the French Fries which were russet potatoes cut shoestring size, and seasoned with sea salt. Both were exceptional.
We also sampled their Fried Pickles, Haystack Onions, and Veggie Frites. The Veggie Frites, consisting of carrot sticks, asparagus, & green beans, are again, nothing you’d expect from fast food. They are NOT battered, merely quickly fried. They retain their crunch & a ton of flavor, without being overly greasy. Smashburger also offers Häagen-Dazs milkshakes, and I loved that there were perfectly portioned, and NOT oversized. They hope to expand into the Nashville market next, and we really hope it’s soon!
(*Disclosure* I was invited to sample all the food for free, was not compensated, and under no obligation to post about them. I was simply highly impressed with their food, and wanted to share my opinion. All opinions are entirely my own.)
Other Notable Burgers:
atmosphere: casual bar & bistro
Jackson’s is a place we’ve been going to for a long time. Their menu appeals to any kind of eater and includes: salads, paninis, wraps, pasta, and more. As far as burgers go, Nathan has never been disappointed by the Bacon Cheeseburger, and I’ve enjoyed the Bison Burger. At Jackson’s I skip the fries and opt for a side salad. The food is always great, and the drinks have never let me down either. They have Happy Hour specials, and Sundays are half priced bottles of wine. It’s easy to see why we like it there!
atmosphere: neighborhood spot
Mad Donna’s is another restaurant we frequent when dining with others, or even just the two of us. The menu varies widely, but has a great burger selection. I love that they use Provence buns too. I’ve never ordered a beef burger there, but I have had their black bean burger and found it delicious! I’m pretty sure every single time we’ve been, Nathan has ordered a burger. I’m also pretty sure I’ve taken a bite every single time. We always opt for sweet potato fries over regular fries, and they have daily drink specials too!
atmosphere: neighborhood hangout
PM is one of Arnold Myint’s restaurants. It’s located next to Belmont University, and the menu is Asian inspired. A lot of people will go here for sushi, or shared plates with friends. We went because we heard the burger was great. True to the rumor, it did not disappoint. To vibe with the Asian theme it has wasabi mayo on it.
atmosphere: food truck
Riffs Caribbean Burger
Riffs Food Truck is definitely our #1 choice when it comes to food trucks in Nashville. We’ll go to an event with a gathering of trucks, and despite all the options, we nearly always opt for Riffs. We’ve gotten to know BJ & Carlos personally, and not only are they awesome guys, their food is PHENOMENAL! I have never had food from them that didn’t blow me away. After Nathan’s first bite of this burger he said “Ok, this might be my favorite burger I’ve ever had in Nashville.” Yeah… it’s that good. Seeing as they operate from a mobile truck, they rotate their menu frequently. So if you see these guys out and this burger is on the menu, get it.
That’s it for my wrap up of our experiences & opinions on Nashville’s burger scene. Are you ready to run out and grab a burger?
Well, I’ve got one more to tell you about, but it’s not from a restaurant. It’s from my own kitchen! Head on over to my blog to check out this Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar Burger on Pretzel Roll Buns. It’s on par with the best burgers you can buy in Nashville, and I made it with local beef, bacon, & cheddar on homemade buns!