There's a commercial that airs quite often on local radio where a couple of guys are talking about where they want to go for lunch, and one of them, in a thick New Orleans accent, says, "I want a big, juicy, mouthwatering burgah, and I want it now!" Though he sounds somewhat petulant, and the ad has a tendency to grate on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard, I can't help but agree.
I realize that January seems an unlikely month to extol the beauty of a perfect burger, especially when most people are making resolutions about making this year the year they shed those extra pounds and start living a healthier lifestyle. But I don't believe any month is a bad month for a burger. You only live once, right? Therefore, I resolve, like the man in the commercial, to give into my cravings once in a while and have that “juicy burgah”—and I know just where to find it.
Recently opened on Magazine Street, Warbucks is a hip new diner by BRG Hospitality with fine dining-trained chef Todd Pulsinelli heading the grill. Among creative dishes like shrimp rings with cocktail sauce, smoked octopus and red beans, and crab fat coleslaw, you will find “This Burger,” featuring two beef patties topped with Swiss, pickled red onion, and red wine foie gras butter, all on a poppy seed bun. At $13, it's a costly burger, but not so steep that you couldn't swing a side of shoestring fries for $5 more and still walk out under budget.
Owned and operated by friends Chien Nguyen and Nhat Nguyen (not related), both of whom used to work at Namese, Fharmacy is located inside a raised black-and-gold shotgun house-turned-restaurant on Banks Street, featuring a casual, bar-like atmosphere often populated with a smattering of die-hard regulars. Their tagline is “We got the cure for your craving,” and let me tell you, they are right! With mussels, boudin balls, tacos, and meat pies, Fharmacy covers everyone's bases, especially if what you're craving happens to be a burger. Choose from six different options, like the Fharmacy Burger topped with a house giardiniera, bacon jam, and provolone or a vegan Portobello Burger with alfalfa sprouts and mixed greens. My personal favorite is the Dr. Seuss, with avocado aioli, grilled ham, Swiss, and a fried egg. All of their burgers are served on a brioche bun with fries and a pickle, with none breaching the $13 mark, though that number could jump if you decide to build your own.
In the Riverbend, you can head to Carrollton Market on Hampson Street, owned and operated by talented chef Jason Goodenough, who is regularly dazzling diners with dishes like crabmeat-stuffed Piquillo peppers and smoky pork belly confit with baked cheese grits and pepper jelly. But if you swing by for brunch on the weekend, you should definitely try his burger. Using Texas beef from 44 Farms, this juicy burger is topped with a bacon-onion jam, sharp cheddar cheese, and a fried egg on a toasted and buttered challah bun (from Gracious Bakery) and served with house-cut fries, for $16.
Just a hop and a jump away over at the end of Oak Street lies Cowbell, a gas station-turned restaurant owned and operated by California-native Chef Brack May. It's been nearly eight years that he's been in business at the edge of Orleans Parish, and among other dishes, like grilled Gulf fish tacos and his signature mac 'n' cheese, the featured item has always been his burger. Dubbed the “Locally World Famous Cowbell Burger,” this beauty reminds me of a backyard creation, with one incredibly thick and juicy patty topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, their house-made ketchup, and “agogo” sauce (roasted garlic, honey, mayo, and sambal chilis) on a toasted potato roll and served with French fries for $13.95.
Finally, though it doesn't get a lot of hype, another great burger that can be devoured at a low, low cost is found at GB's Patio Bar & Grill on Maple Street. So what if the fries are frozen and the buns are store-bought? The burger is certainly worth a try, considering the meat is lovingly ground and seasoned daily from top sirloin. For only $9, you can score a lovely six-ounce burger with lettuce, tomato, and onions, served with a huge pile of fries, and for only another $1 each, you can add blue cheese, grilled onions, bacon, mushroom, Swiss, Monterey Jack, or a mountainous pile of freshly shredded cheddar.