RSS Feed

Category Archives: Burgers

FIVE

FIVE opened in the spring (I believe) of 2011 and remains one of Tuscaloosa’s newest restaurants. Its premise is simple enough: the menu gives you 5 appetizers, 5 entrees, 5 signature drinks, 5 white wines, and 5 red wines to choose from. This system is slightly complicated by their 5 brunch entrees on Sundays and a daily special each night.

I heard about FIVE a while back, but it’s pricier than my usual dinner spots, so it took me a while to finally make it there. To give you an idea of the menu’s options, the drinks include old fashioneds, strawberry lemonades (with rum), and a pineapple-jalapeño margarita that I really wish I’d tried. My strawberry lemonade was good but nothing too impressive. They also have a small selection of beer but only in bottles.

The appetizers—or “snacks,” as they’re listed on the menu—included baked avocado, Asian chicken, and gyoza. Our table ordered the avocado and Asian chicken, and despite being a dollar cheaper, the chicken was the larger and more filling, I think, of the two dishes. The chicken was fried popcorn-style and drizzled with a ginger sauce that struck a nice balance between tangy and sweet. I don’t like avocado (I know, I’m missing out), so I didn’t try the other appetizer on the table, but it was stuffed with bacon and topped with a spicy sauce that by all reports was appropriately named.

FIVE’s 5 entrees are a cheeseburger, panéed chicken, a bone-in pork chop, a ribeye, and fried shrimp. Each entrée comes with a small salad (mixed greens with a little feta, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, and a vinaigrette dressing) and is paired with a particular side. Our waitress intimated, however, that switching out the sides wasn’t a big deal, so don’t make your decision based on which side you want.

My pork chop was, honestly, pretty average. It wasn’t close to being bad, but it was perhaps a bit dry and just too plain. When your menu is limited to 5 specially-crafted entrees (and you’re charging an average of $18 for each one), I expect each one of them to be something special—something I can’t get anywhere else. I’ve had better pork chops for a few bucks cheaper down the road at Carmelo. On the plus side, the pork chop came with Bahamian mac & cheese, which was probably the best thing about dinner. I don’t know that I’ve ever had Bahamian mac & cheese before so I don’t know what it’s usually like, but this was baked and served as a carefully-cut square from a casserole dish. The baked consistency was perfect, and the layers of flavors—I’m guessing a combination of sweet and hot peppers—came through and mixed with the cheese and noodles beautifully. (I forgot to take pictures of the entrees, so you’re just getting ones of the appetizers. Sorry!)

My fellow diners ordered the fried shrimp and ribeye entrees, both of which came with fries (the cheeseburger does as well). They had been to the restaurant before and both seemed to enjoy their food thoroughly, but I’m a little thrown still by the lack of side options (and french fries, although I’m sure they’re good, strike me again as being too basic for the premise of the restaurant and its prices). Since you can apparently exchange them for the mac & cheese or the garlic mash that comes with the panéed chicken, I guess it’s not that big of a deal, but a few more side options (maybe two more—you know, to make 5?) would be a nice addition. The nightly specials I mentioned earlier include red beans and rice on Monday nights, and at $12, it’s the cheapest entrée they have (the nightly cheeseburger is $13). Lobster ravioli is available for $20 on Wednesday, while Saturday offers a surf and turf (filet and crab) combination for $30.

Our service was good. We showed up at 6:30 on a Saturday night and were seated immediately and were well taken care of for the rest of the evening. Our waitress was friendly, especially when one member of our party randomly asked her what her favorite movie was (I’m not sure I trust her taste in films though).  When she brought our checks, she also brought a plate of (delicious) sugar cookies—one for each of us. I didn’t realize until then that the menu includes no desserts, which seemed strange. Given that the night was already a bit of a splurge, I would have probably shelled out a little more money for a nice cheesecake or some bread pudding.

Overall, my first experience at FIVE was enjoyable but not one that I’m dying to repeat (and if I do, I’m trying that panéed chicken). I’m glad Tuscaloosa has another nice restaurant option downtown, and a lot of people seem to really love it. For my taste and pocketbook, however, I can get a nice atmosphere and food that I like better for the same price or cheaper at a few other places in town (Carmelo and DePalma’s immediately spring to mind, and I’ll also be trying Epiphany soon).

[natalie]

FIVE is located at 2324 6th Street in downtown Tuscaloosa, a block east of the Bama Theatre (next to the Shirt Shop).

Monday-Wednesday: 5pm-11pm
Thursday-Saturday: 5pm-til
Sunday: 11am-3pm (brunch) & 5pm-9pm (dinner)

Innisfree Irish Pub

If you live in Tuscaloosa, chances are you’ve at least seen Tuscaloosa’s version of an Irish Pub, Innisfree. Until a few years ago, it was nestled right in the middle of downtown (where the Grey Lady is now) between The Shirt Shop and Epiphany Café. Now, it resides in a new home on University between Hooligan’s and the new federal building. The move from Greensboro Ave gave Innisfree two things: more than double the space they had before and closer proximity to campus (and student drinking). If you’ve driven by on a Thursday-Saturday night, you’ve probably noticed the throngs of students (and limo cabs) covering the parking lot and outdoor patio area. While I certainly understand and appreciate that the move was a profitable one, as a crotchety graduate student who’d rather drink alone than with (or near) a rowdy group, I miss the smaller, older, quieter crowd from the pub’s downtown days. That’s just me though.

I’ve never been in an actual Irish pub and can’t offer comparisons between Innisfree and the real thing. From what I can tell, proper Irish pubs are looking more and more like our re-creations of them as they attempt to conform to the expectations of the tourists they want to draw in, so perhaps comparisons are a moot point anyway. Based on my experience with “Irish” pubs stateside, the process of naming them appears to be pretty simple. You either name it after a stereotypically Irish-sounding name (preferably one that starts with a “Mc” or an “O”—McGuire’s, Pat O’Brien’s, and Silky O’Sullivan’s come to mind) OR name it Innisfree (which the resident Irishman of the English department tells me is pronounced “Inn-ish-free”—now you know; spread the word).

Although I swear I’ve seen an Innisfree (say it with me: “Inn-ish-free”) in just about every city I’ve been to, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa are the only locations for this particular joint. Innisfree refers both to a fictional Irish village made famous by the 1952 John Wayne Film “The Quiet Man” and to an actual but uninhabited island in a large lake. The pub appears to have had the latter in mind, as W.B. Yeats’ “Walden”-esque poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” is printed on the back of the menu.

The menu, sticking to the literary theme, offers a variety of burgers named after 20th-century Irish authors: the aforementioned W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, and George (Bernard) Shaw. There’s also a TS burger, which I can only assume is named for a contemporary of these authors, T.S. Eliot, but as Eliot was born in St. Louis and lived most of his life in London, I’m yet to figure out his Irish connection. In addition to burgers, Innisfree carries a fairly standard array of “pub grub:” fish and chips, wraps, fries, messy chips (their version of barbecue nachos), and a decent bread pudding. They also have a daily meat-and-three (vegetables) lunch special that’s not on their regular menu. Update: I recently had the fried fish with green beans, mac and cheese, and sweet potato fries, and was rather pleased with my meal. Nothing terribly special, but really good nonetheless.

As far as the quality of the food goes, it’s good, though perhaps not quite good enough for the price. The burger I had was tasty enough (it had a bit of a charred taste, which I don’t really care for but some people like) but far from one of the best in town (see Hooligan’s, The Oasis, and Rama Jama’s). The burgers come with fries (I get sweet potato fries, which are good but nothing special) and costs about $9. My favorite thing to order is the messy fries, which are actually an appetizer. They run about $8-9 as well, but it’s enough food for two people to make a meal of. Kettle-style chips covered in pulled pork, a sweet barbecue sauce, melted cheddar cheese, jalapenos, and sour cream. They’ve very different from Big Bad Wolves or Bryant-Denny Dreamland barbecue nachos, but if you’re having withdrawals in the off-season, Innisfree’s version is quite good and will certainly hold you over.

Speaking of the off-season, one thing about Innisfree that makes me smile every time I go in is a digital countdown clock above the bar. The last time I went in, it was steadily counting down from 193 days 1 hour 48 minutes and 47 seconds with a poster above it that reads: “YOU KNOW WHAT THIS IS.” And it’s true. I do know: it’s the countdown to kickoff 2012.  The rest of the walls in Innisfree are covered with all kinds of Irish kitsch, proverbs, and paraphernalia: signs that read “God created liquor to keep the Irish from conquering the world” and “Beer: So much more than a breakfast drink!”; a chalkboard countdown to St. Patrick’s day, Boston Celtics stickers and jerseys, and lots of Guinness logos and signs.

The bar keeps a good variety of beers on tap, and as far as I can tell they don’t rotate: Sam Adams seasonal, Sam Adams Boston Lager, Smithwick’s (pronounced “Smittick’s”), Newcastle, Harp, Bass, Magic Hat #9, Guinness, Stella Artois, Blue Moon, Sweetwater Blue, and Sweetwater 420. The liquor selection is also pretty extensive. The place itself is quite large with at least three different rooms (I’ve honestly not even seen the entire building), a large outdoor patio, and plenty of large tables, booths, and bars at which to sit. There are large flat-screen TVs on just about every wall (three hang over the main bar) and dart boards. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a pool table in some part of the bar I haven’t ventured into yet. The music (which I think is a Pandora station) entertains me more than anything at Innisfree: ‘90s nostalgia abounds. It’s always (at least in the afternoons when I tend to stop by) some combination of Counting Crows, Three Doors Down, and Nine Days (remember that band? Yeah, me either).

Finally, multiple posters inside advertise a weekly “Bloody Mary (or Irish Mary—not sure what the difference is) Bar” Sundays from 12-4. It’s apparently something like a buffet setup where you create your own Bloody/Irish Mary.  I’ve not tried it yet because, honestly, if I need a Bloody Mary on a Sunday, I’m not going to be in any condition to drive to Innisfree to make it. Still, it’s a neat idea.

As I said, I’m not one for crowds, so I tend to avoid Innisfree during party hours. It’s on my way home from campus though, and at 2:00 when I haven’t had lunch yet and a lot of other places are closed, it’s a nice, quiet spot to stop for a beer and some messy chips. If I’m feeling particularly productive, I can settle into a booth and get some lesson planning done before heading home for the day (where I’ll inevitably take a nap instead of working). It’s far from my favorite restaurant in town, but let’s be honest, Innisfree is a pub. It isn’t trying to be the a great restaurant. And I do think it’s one of Tuscaloosa’s better bars. It’s a good space and atmosphere that gives the kids the good time they’re looking for at night and gives me exactly what I need to relax in the afternoon.

[natalie]

Innisfree is located at 1925 University Blvd, halfway between downtown and the Strip (between Hooligan’s and the new federal building).

Monday-Thursday: 11am–1:45 am
Friday: 11am–2:45 am
Saturday: 12 pm–1:45 am
Sunday: 12pm-9:45pm

Good Times Restaurant and Nightclub

I stumbled upon Good Times Restaurant and Nightclub on accident. There’s a nondescript white building a couple of blocks past Stillman College that used to be home to Prime Choice lounge (and before that, a meat and three called Madear’s); driving past it, there was one of those plastic Pepsi-sponsored banners that read “Good Times. Now open! New owners, new restaurant!” If you see a new, locally-owned restaurant with a “now open!” sign outside, why not stop in?

When you walk through the door you’ll notice the menu, register, and actual pictures of the food to the right. You’ll be greeted by Shonda Witherspoon, the owner and driving force behind Good Times. She’s very warm and inviting. She talked me through the menu and it became clear very quickly that she’s proud of the food she’s serving. Shonda definitely makes you want to eat at Good Times.

Food is made to-order, so while waiting for my order I sipped on the house sweet tea. Shonda told me that this was “real country sweet tea,” and was quick to point out that she’s not serving it from a large metal container like most places do because she doesn’t like the way that the metal affects the taste. It’s a lovely glass of sweet tea, instantly one of my favorites in Tusclaoosa. It’s very sugary, yes (presumably that’s what makes it “real country sweet tea”), but it also has a nice extra kick of tea leaves flavor as you swallow that cuts through the sweetness.

Waiting for your food to cook also gives you time to appreciate the unique atmosphere that Good Times has. It’s a dimly-lit place, owing to the fact this it become a legitimate nightclub at night (an ages 25+ only nightclub, which is a genius idea). The red tablecloth dining tables are spread out amongst the bar area. Sit down where ever you’d like and your food will be brought out to you. People come in and out, dining in or picking up to-go orders, as R&B plays from the cable TV radio station. You are in full view of the club’s dancefloor – a slightly raised stage in the middle of the place that is surrounded by a white picket fence. In a back corner are a couple of tables of stuff for sale: purses, throwback caps, pairs of Air Jordans. The vibe of Good Times reminds me of places in residential areas of major cities (I got thrown back to the places I’m used to in Kansas City, where I’m from) mixed with an distinctly downhome flair.

Good Times keeps the menu simple: burgers, fried fish, shrimp, chicken tenders, wings. Stuff that works good as bar food and as a comforting lunch option. The shrimp and whiting strips are fried up very nicely with a no-frills approach to seasoning; Good Times isn’t trying to rock the boat here. Squirt on some pungent house hot sauce and get to eatin’. The wings might be the finest thing on the menu. Shonda recommended her “Sweet Fire” flavor – her specialty sauce because, so she’ll tell you, the name reflects her personality. I don’t see a reason to order wings that don’t have the tasty sweet fire sauce on them: it has a base flavor very similar to the hot sauce, but it’s balanced by a lot of sweetness. It almost tastes like an Asian wing sauce; there’s honey and orange flavors helping to tame the undercurrents of heat.

Good Times features the standard assortment of side dishes. I really enjoyed the simple, medium-cut French fries. But the fried okra is the star of the sides as far as I can tell. It’s served up in the usual style of battered slices. The batter doesn’t coat the entire slice, though. This helps the okra to still taste like okra, only more savory (so many places overwhelm the taste of the okra with their batter). This might just be my favorite fried okra in the city.

I should mention that the prices at Good Times are very fair. There’s a special each day that makes things even more affordable. You certainly get the most out of your money here. If you’re traveling out that way past Stillman, don’t hesitate to drop in to Good Times. Solid, comforting food served in one of the most unique atmospheres in Tuscaloosa.

[barry]

Good Times is located on 1735 Culver Road, two blocks past Stillman College.

Monday-Thursday: 11am-7pm
Friday-Saturday: 11am-8pm

Wright’s Restaurant

Pop quiz: make a list of all of the Tuscaloosa/Northport restaurants that you would consider to be “institutions” – the stalwart places that have been around forever and will always be around. Everyone’s list will contain the big names like City Café, The Waysider, and Dreamland. There are other places that would qualify too, but students don’t know about them. Places like Catfish Heaven or Mr. Bills – absolute bulwarks of their communities – rarely see a single UA student enter their doors. My goal with writing reviews for Druid City Eats is to draw some meager attention towards these kinds of places, places that are below student radar, that are pre-internet, that don’t have Facebook pages or people Yelping about them.

Here’s a great example of what I mean: if a Tuscaloosa meat-and-three has been around for nearly 50 years, wouldn’t you expect it to feature prominently on a list of T-Town institutions? Wright’s Restaurant in Alberta City fits that description, but it seems like no one on campus knows about it.

Wright’s Restaurant is a simple breakfast and lunch joint. It’s a single room with walls painted yellow, various religious signage hung on the walls. There’s only about 12 booths/tables in the whole place, with a few more stools at the counter by the kitchen. It’s always pretty packed, yet I’ve never once seen a single student eating there. Wright’s serves a working-class customer base, as well as lots of elderly consumers. The waitresses are attentive and legitimately nice. The whole experience looks and feels a lot like it must have back when Wright’s first opened nearly half a century ago. But all of that downhome atmosphere would be for nothing if the food wasn’t up to snuff, and the steady stream of customers at Wright’s suggests that the food is indeed a drawing point.

Let’s start with breakfast, because Wright’s serves what just might be my favorite breakfast in Tuscaloosa. Nothing flashy, no real reason why it stands out apart from simple execution. They have various meats available each day, ranging from ham to smoked sausage links to red hots. Their bacon is pretty darn good, perhaps owing to Wright’s bacon cook taking each strip off the griddle a bit early and then dunking them into a deep fryer for about 40 seconds. This method results in a crispy strip of bacon that isn’t also dry and overcooked. The pancakes are legit, the omelets look pretty good, and well, the most that I can say is that everything is cooked correctly. Breakfast foods get real sketchy real quick when under- or overcooked, and Wright’s super-efficient crew of three cooks doesn’t seem to make mistakes.

The biscuits are plenty good also, better than The Waysider’s for me. They do have biscuits & gravy on the menu, but last time I went for breakfast the gravy ran out before I got there, which disappointed a B&G fanatic like myself, but it speaks to the quality of Wright’s Restaurant: they don’t use prefabricated gravy. They make their gravy in-house each day. They make their pancake batter in-house. It’s reassuring and a sign of good things.

Lunch is less successful – about the quality of City Café — but well worth the price. Because the price is almost nothing – each lunch special costs under $5. Each day the meat-and-three menu changes. When I went on a Wednesday it was meatloaf, chicken pot pie, or a fried pork chop. Chicken & dressing is on Thursday, country fried steak is on Friday, and I won’t say any more in hopes that you’ll go find out their daily menu on your own. Wright’s also has a menu of constant lunch favorites: you can get catfish strips each day (which I have yet to try here), and their cheeseburger looks pretty legit.

While Wright’s has a small assortment of in-house pies available all the time, there’s also a special dessert for each day of the week (Monday has cherry dump cake, Wednesday has pineapple pudding, etc.).

If you’ve ever driven out on University Ave and into Alberta City, you know how utterly devastated that neighborhood was by the April 27th, 2011 tornado. At Leland Shopping Center, where Wright’s is located, essentially every other business still has particle board over its windows. When every other place closed up shop because of damage or location, Wright’s Restaurant remained in business. It’s been open for nearly 50 years and it wasn’t about to let that tornado shut it down. It is, after all, an institution.

[barry]

Wright’s Restaurant is located in Alberta City at Leland Shopping Center (University Ave & 25th Ave, by Leland Lanes bowling alley, right before the Piggly Wiggly).

Monday-Friday: 5:00am-11:15am (Breakfast), 11:30am-3:00pm (Lunch)
Saturday: 5:00am-11:30am (Breakfast only)
Sunday: closed

The Oasis

One of the most recognizable lines in the discography of country music superstar Garth Brooks goes, “Think I’ll slip on down to The Oasis/Oh, I’ve got friends in low places.” Drive over to The Oasis, far down on University Ave, and you’ll be forgiven for thinking that Brooks was talking about the dive bar in Cottondale, AL. It’s a real salt-of-the-earth type townie bar – all wood paneling and domestic lager and back rooms and smoky haze. The jukebox pumps out classic rock and 90’s country, and there’s irony-free karaoke. There’s even a signed photograph of Garth Brooks eating there hung right by the door, so it isn’t surprising to hear the local urban legend that Brooks was singing about this place.

Here’s another thing that locals say about The Oasis: they say it has the best burger in Tuscaloosa.

Indeed this little shack of a bar that sits on a lot more pothole than pavement has a few tables and a few crimson booths and a kitchen that serves up various fried and grilled things. I don’t really remember what kinds of entrees were on the menu except for the burgers. The burgers are the reason to make the drive.

Only order the double cheeseburger if you’re really hungry. The burgers at The Oasis are bigger than they look, and they look intimidatingly large to begin with. They come out on buns the size of paper plates, and these bad boys aren’t cut in half to help you out or anything.

The burgers are cooked medium well: no pink left (unfortunately) but not at all dried out. These patties are plenty juicy, dripping with fat & meat juice. The bottom bun very quickly becomes soaked through with grease (which is fine; nearly all good sandwiches have structural integrity issues). There isn’t anything magical or revelatory about the burgers here: they’re just the product of an 80/20 burger mix (that’s 80% lean beef and 20% fat–the optimal blend for burgers) and a grill that’s seen years and years of seasoning cooked into it.

The fried stuff is worth ordering too. The Oasis has simple, no-frills French fries and onion rings that don’t need to do anything special. The chili cheese fries are as basic as basic can be: the already-good fries topped with Hormel chili from a can and sprinkled with cheddar cheese… which is then melted when the plate is put in a microwave.

The burgers go down even easier because of the atmosphere. There’s nary a student in sight–just townfolk, people looking to unwind after a long day. It’s a bar, so there’s lots of laughing and smoke and sounds of pool balls clacking against one another. The jukebox at The Oasis is a near-endless source of excitement. It’s the kind of juke box (and the kind of customers choosing the songs) that will play both George Strait’s “Adalida” and Nickleback’s “Burn It to the Ground” (the WWE Monday Night Raw theme song), and no one gives it a second thought. At one point during my recent visit there was an expertly curated three-song stretch of 90’s country: Alan Jackson’s “Midnight in Montgomery” (a poor man’s “The Thunder Rolls”) followed by Clint Black’s underrated “Like the Rain” followed by Garth Brook’s “The Thunder Rolls.”

If you’re looking for a good burger or you’re looking for a real down-home Tuscaloosa spot unblemished by the courting of student dining dollars, then make the drive down University Ave to The Oasis. There’s no pressure on first timers. After all, no one there is big on social graces.

[barry]

The Oasis is located at 6720 University Blvd E, Cottondale, AL (it’s on the left-hand side of University coming from Tuscaloosa proper. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of place, but it’ll pop up right as you get into Cottondale).

Monday: 7pm-8pm
Tuesday-Saturday: 10am-10pm
Sunday: 2pm-3pm

Mugshots Grill and Bar

Mugshots is my favorite burger place in Tuscaloosa.  It is located downtown and is a good place to go for lunch if you are looking for somewhere close to campus that is not on the Strip.  It is also a good place to go before catching a show at the Bama Theatre or a wine tasting at Carpe Vino.  Note that if you visit Mugshots at a “peak” hour (lunch or dinner) or during a home football game weekend, you will likely have to wait a little while for a seat.  As the crowd might indicate, however, it is worth the wait.

When you first walk into Mugshots, you will note the “sports bar” like atmosphere with jersey’s and, because we are in Tuscaloosa, all things Crimson Tide on the walls.  You will see ESPN on televisions scattered throughout the restaurant, which is located in an old building that still houses much of its original character (like the brick walls, which hold not only sports memorabilia but also the “mugshots” of customers sent in from around the country and the world).

Mugshots is the home of the burger, serving up everything from the standard to the gourmet (peanut butter burger anyone?) including the three patty, six bacon strip, behemoth: the Mugshot (eat your meal, including beer battered fries, an onion ring, and a hand-battered pickle, in 12 minutes or less and it’s free!).  If burgers aren’t your thing, there is still plenty for you to eat: from sandwiches, to pastas, to Mugshot specialties like grilled Ahi Tuna, and much more.

I make a visit to Mugshots every time I have visitors from out of town, and it is yet to disappoint them.  Being a vegetarian, my natural burger choice is Brady’s Black Bean Burger.  I should note that I did not ask if the black bean burger can be substituted for the beef patty in their other burgers, but I don’t see why this would be a problem.  The black bean burger, like all Mugshot’s burgers, is huge.  Add to it a very large “side” of beer-battered fries or onion rings (it’s hard to choose) and you’ve got a very filling meal.  I can never finish the whole plate and on this trip, my dining companion, who ordered the Katie’s Kickin’ Chicken Basket appetizer, couldn’t finish theirs either. My advice if you plan on eating at Mugshots: come hungry or plan to take food home.

The black bean burger itself is handmade and better (and thicker) than most black bean burgers I’ve had before.  It is certainly better than any of the frozen brands available.  The burger sits on a large sourdough bun, which is a good thing because these patties are hard to contain.  The black bean burger includes a combination of items that at first seem odd, but the red onions and mayo create an interesting blend with the mildness of the burger.  Add pickle, tomato, lettuce, sautéed mushrooms and Swiss and cheddar cheeses, and you get a burger in which every bite is filled with different flavor combinations—none of which are disappointing.

Mugshots has so many interesting selections, you should never be disappointed.  The staff is always kind but, if they’re busy, you might have to wait longer than usual and it is sometimes a good idea to remind your waiter or waitress that you’re still there.  Prices are good, especially considering the large portions you receive.  Mugshots has other locations (though it remains exclusive to AL, MS, and LA), of course, but if you’re in Tuscaloosa, you have to try it.  Especially that peanut butter burger…

[amanda stevens]

Mugshot’s is located at 511 Greensboro Ave, just south University and across from Chuck’s Fish.

Monday-Saturday: 11am-2am
Sunday: 11am-12am

Flip Burger

Words that come to mind when I think of Flip Burger: Playful. Modern. Fried Lemon. Icanfinallyeataburgerthattasteslikeaburger. What, that last one wasn’t a word?

Flip Burger is a little out of the way for Tuscaloosans, but if you’re hanging around the airport or getting your Mac fixed at The Summit, it would be worth your while to stop in. The atmosphere is a sort of casual upscale funk—you don’t necessarily need to dress up, but the hostesses might make you feel underdressed by comparison. Don’t worry too much about people looking at you, though, because there is so much to look at inside Flip Burger. A graffiti design on the super high ceiling, a giant center table for sharing, and secluded leather booths will keep your eyes busy until your food gets there.

As the name might suggest, Flip Burger is based on the classic burger joint concept. The creative director of the restaurant’s three locations is Richard Blais, though—remember that guy from Top Chef who made everything out of foam? Yeah, that’s him. Accordingly, the menu boasts items like a country fried chicken burger (with curried pickles, shaved lettuce, and sriracha), a raw tuna tartare burger (with mango sphere, avocado puree, soy jellies, marinated vegetables, wasabi mayo, and sesame crispies), and a lamburger (pictured above–with coriander, tzaziki, goat cheese, arugula, tomato, red onion, and marinated vegetables). There is a separate section for beef burgers, with classic toppings alongside less traditional offerings like frisée, red wine jam, seared truffle aioli, and smoked mayo. For vegetarians and other denominations thereof, the fauxlafel and blackened shrimp burgers are both good options, along with a plethora of fried and not-fried sides.

The milkshakes deserve their own paragraph: nutella and burnt marshmallow (pictured above), apple pie, Krispy Kreme, key lime, strawberry shortcake (also pictured), and cap’n crunch with peanut butter foam. Yeah, you heard those right. According to a friend, the Krispy Kreme milkshake really tastes exactly like a glazed donut.

I went for the blackened shrimp burger, and I wasn’t disappointed. As a non-meat-eater, my burger options at restaurants are usually frozen, or mushy, or full of breadcrumbs, so it was wonderful to be able to eat a burger that actually acted like a burger. The patty was mostly shrimp, with hardly any extra filler, topped with a slice of deep-fried lemon. I wish that the bun had been a little bigger, or a little less flimsy, as it soaked up all the delicious juices from the burger and spent most of its time falling apart. I was initially suspicious of the fried lemon, but in the end it was one of my favorite parts of the meal. I also started with a strawberry shortcake milkshake, thinking that I would regret it and be unable to finish my dinner, but the milkshakes are of reasonable size, and I’m really glad that I got one. I’m not usually a milkshake fan, but this one was delicious, with a little pound cake and fresh strawberries.

Flip Burger also serves wine, beer, and mixed drinks, along with vintage sodas (made with cane sugar). Burgers range from $7 for the country fried chicken to $23 for the d+lux, with most burgers under $11. Milkshakes range from $4.50 to $5.50. You’ll have to order fries separately, at $3.50 per serving (and slightly over-salted). If you’re coming with a large group, as we did, be forewarned that Flip Burger doesn’t take reservations. They will, however, do their best to accommodate you—we arrived with a party of 20, and only had to wait 30 minutes, though we couldn’t all sit at the same table. So if you’re looking for food that’s upscale but not hugely overpriced, check out Flip Burger, and make sure to look up at that amazing ceiling.

[laura]

Flip Burger is located at The Summit shopping center in Birmingham, just off I-459 at the Mountain Brook/Hwy 280 exit. If you’re familiar with the layout of the Summit, Flip Burger is nestled in the left-most and front-most block of shops along with White House/Black Market, Anthropologie, and Chuy’s (delicious) Tex-Mex restaurant.

Sunday-Thursday: 11am-9:30pm
Friday-Saturday: 11am-10:30pm