A quick note: I’m kind of taking a vacation … over the next couple of days, I’ll be reviewing some locations that are day trips away from our fair city of Birmingham. Enjoy! Beautimous …
If you picked up Rotier’s and moved it to Birmingham, it would immediately become one of the best burger joints in the city. But you’d need to bring along the building … Oh yeah, and all the decorations in it … and the connections they have to get fresh, ground meat. And the veggies. And probably two-dozen regulars who’ve grown up eating their burgers and fried okra.
The point of this being, Rotier’s is a great burger joint – one that finds its way to many best burger in Nashville lists. It would be GOOD burger joint in Birmingham, not because the quality is so vastly different between geographies, but because the bacon on this proverbial burger is that it’s classic Nashville, in a non-tourist, home-town way.
Around for some nearly 40 years, it’s a classic Southern diner, in that it features, probably as it did 40 years ago, traditional Southern cuisine with things like a great burger thrown. On the day I went, my colleague eschewed the burger (a decision she swears she will not do again) and had the all-Southern meal of fried okra, fresh tomato slices and cottage cheese. She could have had black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, and probably mac and cheese.
But the place has a reputation, deservedly so, for its burger. According to the staff, the meat is brought in fresh daily, hand patted and sourced locally.
Now, most of the time – let’s call it in the “modern burger” era – when you take a first bite of a burger, what do you taste? Bun? Special sauce? Regret?
I’ll tell you what you DON’T often taste … the meat. Between overloading it with other stuff, the namesake of the sandwich ends up with second billing to greasy, salty, condiment-y, everything-else-but-the-meat taste.
Not at Rotier’s. They offer a couple burger varieties, but their calling card burger is one that’s served on French bread. And the first bite becomes a moment of appreciation for the difference that fresh meat, freshly cooked, makes on a burger of any type. The meat was flat-out delicious, by burger standards and pretty much any standards.
And like its hometown, it was a burger with a unique character. I asked specifically about onions – by now, you know about the love/hate relationship I have with the onion – to asked for them to be left off, only to find that the Rotier’s burger, in its natural state, is a onion-free zone.
Given that, I asked for it to be brought however they made them normally. It came with almost no condiments (surprise), not even on the side. It did have a tiny bit of mustard.
But Wow! And for those of us who care (and I do!), this great burger costs less than $7.
So, in a way, I’m jealous of our honky-tonking friends to the North in the South that they have this place. But it’s also kind of refreshing that you can leave downtown Nashville and all the goofiness, and tourist trappings, and chain restaurants and go toward Belmont (near Centennial Park, 2413 Elliston Place) and find a joint, hole-in-the-wall that has a great rep and a great burger.
Meat – 9.25 … I’d give it more, but I’m afraid that might mean that the world would tilt off its axis or what it might mean for my future to give out such easy grades? … It didn’t provide me with a winning lottery number. See, always room for improvement.
Bun and fixins’ – 8 … The French bread is a great twist. A bit crunchy and doesn’t overshadow the meat. I also like the minimalist approach to the burger’s sauciness. I’d prefer to get my sauciness elsewhere, thank you.
Sides – 7 … “I’m sorry. Were you speaking to me? I was so busy chatting up the burger. Here, just write your address on this greasy cocktail napkin, and I’ll friend you on Facebook.”
Presentation and service – 8 … The food was out quickly and with a smile. The waitress and cook also were happy to chat about their food and where it came from. Nice people and homey atmosphere. Warning! I’ve heard it can be difficult to get a seat some days.
Ambiance – 8.5 … It looks like a burger joint. Feels like one, too. Beer signs. Local pics. Plus, Margaret (above) is so darned cute behind the counter.
Bonus X – Well, I probably should have had a piece of pie. It gives me something to strive for in the future.