Tag Archives: best restaurants

Galley and Garden: Afterthought burger possibly?

3 Dec

History is littered with many great and forgotten afterthoughts – Ed Muskie, the theory of relativity, the Roebuck part of Sears. But a burger being an afterthought is, in the case of Galley and Garden in Birmingham, unnecessary.

Relatively new to the Birmingham fine-dining scene, G&G is in the old Veranda location on Highland Ave. It opened approximately one year ago and is run by Chef James Boyce, who has a menu of established, excellent restaurants – including Cotton Row in Huntsville.

The menu is varied – with emphasis on local ingredients and seafood. Reviews have generally been very positive. Service – both from reviews and in my experience – was anywhere from excellent to adequate. No issues. It’s upscale. It’s creative. And the pedigree/past helps it.

Why then was the burger I received from G&G such a disappointment? And I ask that question knowing WHY I was disappointed… but the bigger question… well, let’s save it.

Several new/old friends joined me at this lunch. The appetizers were excellent – duck confeit fries and fried oysters. Both delicious. Both presented very appealingly. I could have licked the platter of fries …

Then the entrées came. Two orders of shrimp and grits and two burgers ordered exactly alike – the G&G Burger. Nothing but generally positive reactions to the shrimp and grits. But the burger … from both of us … mmehh.

IMG_2904Underwhelming. The G&G burger (available on the lunch menu for $13) is described as: “grass-fed beef, pimento cheese, bacon, gratitude farms bibb lettuce, tomato.”

Some thoughts:

  1. The presentation of the burger was attractive (see pic). While “elegant” and “burger” don’t often share descriptive space, this one was both.
  1. Some of this may be seasonality, but the overall flavor of the burger was a bit too understated, flat. Nothing really stood out (except it was heavy on the salty side with the cheese and bacon). I’ve experienced this before with burgers wearing eau de pimento cheese … It should work. It looks like it would work (cheddar cheese and meat, with pimentos). But it just never brings its.
  1. I specifically asked – as I always do when given the opportunity – for the burger to be cooked medium. I know … it’s not the rules; some places cook all their burger to MW or above. Mine was cooked MW, as was the other burger in our party (we both requested M). But if you were going to cook it to MW, why ask? And if it was simply a mistake, it’s fairly laughable for a place that likely serves the most expensive pimento cheeseburger in town … it ain’t eatin’ at Western Sizzlin’.
  1. I don’t have confirmation – so consider this a question. But the bun on my burger looked, felt and tasted distinctly like a bun that you could get off the shelf next door at the Western Supermarket. It’s possible it was some artisan bun/brioche/roll, but it looked like a hamburger bun, felt like a bun and tasted like a bun … hence I remember it as a bun (or maybe duck confeit bun).

Overall, the burger was okay – but truly nothing spectacular. It’s neither the best nor the worst in Bham, and you can get a pimento cheeseburger several places (Jackson’s, Blackwell’s to name two).

And G&G has another burger on its bar menu – the Birmingham Burger, which is more straightforward and on a brioche bun.

So, let’s circle back to the hanging question: this G&G burger is neither primary to the menu nor a shining example of the establishment’s or chef’s abilities. Thus, why is it on the menu? Otherwise, the menu is chocked full of exceptional dishes, accompanied by a burger that really is not bad but also not especially noteworthy.

An afterthought… like this line … something that a good editor would likely have deleted.

"Galley

Yelp Review

Happiness Project: A Mexican Revolution

13 Mar

There are a couple of rules that I believe are wise to live by:

  1. Don’t go out of genre when you eat somewhere
  2. If you make a promise, you need to keep it.
  3. I cannot and should not be held responsible for anything said or done under the influence of tequila.

That last one is harder and faster than the first one. Most of my head-slapping-est experiences of the past 40 or so years – at some point along the way – included either, “let’s just do one more shot” or “can you bring me another margarita.”

But when it comes to Mexican food – or what we like to call Mexican food round these parts – margaritas and lard aren’t the only things that make them a happy place.

Some people catalogue their lives – Facebook Timeline style – by the songs they remember along the way. I can catalogue my life by the Mexican restaurants that I’ve had a relationship with over the years.

Until I was in college, Alabama was really a Mexican food wasteland. Now, you’ll find some diehards who will argue that places like El Palacio’s or El Gringos (in the various locales they were in) were exceptional. They were exceptional in the way that a crank telephone was hi-tech at the turn of the century … but I don’t see many people today hauling one of those babies around in their back pocket cause it fits better than an iPhone.

The other George Wallace

When I was in grad school at Alabama, I had a friend name George Wallace Law, III. He was in a strange, have-to-see-it-for-yourself way, a combination of Governor George Wallace and George Wallace, the comedienne. About 250 lbs., white as a sheet and with a voice that was twangy and a bit high-pitched for someone his size. George ate at La Fiesta in Tuscaloosa every day … the same food at each meal … Chicken Nachos and a sweet tea … and if he had his way, it would be served by “fast-as-Hell Ricardo.”

I tried to get him to go to other places – Pepitos on the Strip – but he was comfortable at La Fiesta. And if Mexican food has become anything in this state in the last 20 years, it is pseudo-ethnic comfort food … with an order of cheese dip.

After Emma was born, we had a Mexican restaurant of choice, Guadalajara in Hoover (closed). She would eat plain tortillas, and we always made the mistake of going on mariachi band night, which led to the rather awkward experience of having the band come over and croon the Barney theme at her (with the look of “I have your cojones, amigo, and will be expecting a tip for our fine playing”).

George Wallace ...

Damn dinosaur! Damn mariachi!

A move to East Birmingham … and more Mexican food relationships developed … Sol Azteca, another Guadalajara, Habaneros, and a lot more. There was a time, as a young man, that I looked over the checkbook and saw my small discretionary money being funneled consistently toward this taco turnpike.

And with more moves and places coming and going, the list goes on … Pablos, San Antonio Grill, Habaneros, Las Pinatas, Sabor Latino, Los Amigos, El Cazador, El Palacio …

Some of the best family and friend memories I have of the past 30 or so years come from being with others and enjoying these cheap but plentifully available meals:

  • Watching the green enchiladas do their work, to get labor started so Emma could join us in this world. Then, years later, turning to green salsa to encourage Ben to leave that wonderful place, that warm, safe place …
  • Finding a place that served white salsa in Williamsburg, Va. Never had it anywhere else … and the hombre wouldn’t fork over the recipe, either. It’s closed now … gone.
  • The, to quote Emma, “freak-ass clown” — and it was a real clown — who came to ChiChi’s in Eastwood, and made balloon animals … and probably LSD back in the kitchen.
  • Eating at El Cazador in Eastwood with the Archibalds and the Yarbroughs … and Emma breaking some large piece of pottery that was next to a fake fireplace … it was a one-time Western Sizzlin’
  • At the El Palacio’s in Irondale, when Emma and John Yarbrough were mostly engaged with trying to stuff the most gumballs possible in their mouth … They used at least $5 on those gum balls … that’s the price of a margarita, for God’s sake!
  • I went to Maine, and was denied any decent Mexican food (and by the way, I nearly cried when we ate at Cracker Barrell in Poughkeepsie, NY). The only place near Freeport — an unholy union called Pedro O’Haras! When I woke up on our way home, leaving from Hagerstown, Maryland, I planned the whole trip home around getting back in time to eat the Fajita Chicken Nachos at Pablos that night, before they closed.
  • Realizing that not all margaritas are created equal. Two of the strongest in Bham — Chuy’s and Cocina Superior. Thus, I have fuzzy memories (of which I cannot be held responsible) of being there with works friends — Valerie Ramsbacher, John Hill, Steve Welch, and others. I also remember a post-divorce trip, instigated by two other single work friends, Linda Childs and Sonya Smith, and discovering that mojitos have just as much kick. I also, at least vaguely, remember several fun dating memories in recent times … way too many margaritas at CS with Dawn Hammack, and at Chuys, enjoying the sunset on the porch with Cherie Cornelius and getting there right as happy hour started with Heidi Rowe and watching the staff fight with the door … oh, and getting the free food.
  • Then there is Betsy. She’s been eating salsa, probably in her bottle. By at least 18 months. Not so much eating the chip as using it to shovel the salsa in her mouth. We starts ’em early!

The chips and salsa are on the table, and I’m ready to order … So, enjoy, amigos … cause with me, happiness comes with order of beans and rice.

If you haven’t already, visit some of the other great people who have taken the happiness challenge … Here are links to their blogs:

On Tap Sports Bar: Zombie Apocalypse

11 Oct

When did it become cool to be a zombie? When I was a kid, being a zombie was a scary something. But today, you have zombie weddings. Scholarly studies on the spread of zombie viruses. And just about all the zombies you can want or stand in terrible straight to DVD movies.

Then, you have zombie restaurants …

On Tap Lakeview Beautimous Burger BlogHeretofore, readeth the disclaimer: I, Beautimous, have visited On Tap Sports Bar on several occasions. I do enjoy going. But they all aren’t created equal. Their beer menu is one of the best in the area – and it is a place that feature deals on micro-brews and offers many high-gravity selections.

But the night I went the place was the walking dead.

I went that night with other warriors, to the Lakeview location. First, of all the On Taps, it is the least agreeable … some by its choices and other my misfortune. It’s a re-tooled place (though I can’t remember what was there before it). And it can be a little cramped and dank inside.

Second, I had an unfortunate dating excursion there about a year ago. There was a zombie theme to that one, too, believe me (Hello! Is there a sentient being in there!).

But I digress.

When it comes to a sports bar, atmosphere is important, as must be the food.

Heretofore, I confess my sins: I believe that I allowed the zombified nature of that place to tempt me. I confess I did not love the burger with a whole heart. I failed to be an obedient knight. I rebelled against the true way. I broke my laws.

I ordered a mushroom-swiss burger – The Old Bailey Burger at On Tap.

I love a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, but for some reason, whenever I order a mushroom-swiss burger (the burger attempt at being all Brotherly-Love) it just never lives up to my expectations. The one at On Tap was decent. Meat from who-knows-where. But the Swiss overpowers the rest of the flavors in the burger, and you’re left with a Swiss cheese sandwich, with mushroom and burger juice flavor.

Overall, the food at On Tap is decent, not exceptional, but adequate for a sports bar. If you’re going to watch a game, I’d suggest the one in Hoover … better food, better service and a more spirited crowd.

In medieval times, we believed that the way to deal with our undead was to burn them at the stake; at On Tap in Lakeview, they believe the way to deal with the living is to let them burn their own stakes … i.e., it might be the one place I can think of (other than a cigar shop/bar) where people still smoke indoors. And I was assailed multiple times, by cigars no less, which is great at in its place, but it doesn’t pair well with Old Bailey.

Points are 1-10 (ten being the best)

Meat – 8.0 … Uuuhhh. Zombie eat brains. Zombie eat brains, but love them hand-patted and fresh!

Bun and fixins’ 7.5 – Zombie always order mushroom-swiss. Zombie like burger with boring taste. Zombie no need Kaiser roll or bacon.

Sides – 7.5 … Fries are like people fingers. Fresh is best. Frozen … zombie get frozen anywhere.

Service & Presentation – 7 … Zombie enjoyed service of slow waitstaff. Lulls the living. But zombie notice knights dying of thirst, hoping for last drink. Living are so cranky when nothing to drink.

Ambiance – 7 … Perfect zombie hangout. Lifeless. People drinking and smoking. Games on no one cares about.* Zombies better move fast – for a zombie; feed before everyone dies of boredom.

Bonus X – +1.5 What drink do undead drink … a zombie, of course … (Great beers and nightly specials here).

Rating – BBB+

* I’ve said how dead the place was. And this was on the night when two of the great baseball games of this century were played, with both the Braves and Red Sox choking on collective opportunity. No partisans. Zombies in the crowd; zombies on the screen.

On Tap Sports Cafe Lakeview on Urbanspoon

Bob Syke’s Barbeque: Our Hamburgian Cousin

2 Oct

Now, I know that this is a burger blog. But if you want to get people arguing in the South, and you don’t have a desire to discuss college football, just bring up who has the best barbecue. In the Birmingham area, one place usually mentioned on “best” lists is Bob Sykes Barbecue in Bessemer. For good reason …

Bob Sykes is still a family owned and run business. Van Syke’s is involved in the Bessemer community and has from time to time ventured out from the one location – to Tannehill State Park and to the now-anemic Watermark Place. But the mother-pig on Bessemer Superhighway still churns out deliciousness six days a week.* Just look for the massive pig sign out front.

* I don’t take issue with a place wanting to be closed on Sunday for religious reasons. My grandfather wouldn’t let people fish in his pond of Sunday. But it never fails, that my taste-buds yearn for forbidden fruit when it’s withheld … [Bob Sykes, Chik-fil-A].

Allow me, for a second, to chase a pig here … In general, if you are in a bind and just want a decent burger, you can find one at a GOOD barbecue place. They typically – again the good ones – take meat and the preparation of it seriously. Since they tend to get deliveries of meat to smoke daily, they have fresh stuff all the way around and make them to order.

Which brings me to the burger at Bob Sykes … First, please check any conviction that you should only get barbecue at the door, because this place has an absolutely delicious burger. And it’s not your typical one either!

The burger has a healthy dose of the smoky sauce that the place is known for. It also has a pickle on it. In a way, it’s a barbecue sandwich, but with the pork replaced by a burger patty. Oh, almost forgot to mention, that if you get it like they prep it, it will likely arrive with some chow chow (Note: I’ve been challenged about this … it could have been uppity onions, too … who knows)  hidden here and there. Same buns as the barbecue cousin gets, too.

And if you want, you can get your shot of burger deliciousness in a Booth (just not a John Wilkes one).

Look, the only real problem I have with Bob Sykes … He’s a “homer.” He supports our locally grown and more historic Buffalo Rock soda distributor. Which means, if you’re looking for a Co-Cola with your meal, you’re gonna hear, “Will a Pepsi be okay?” As a consolation, they have sweet tea … and Dr. Pepper.

Another fun point of Bob Sykes, unrelated to burgers but to atmosphere: It’s one of few remaining bbq places where you can watch the fun. Walk in, and the pork is being cooked and smoked in front of your eyes. Sure, you’ll need to explain to your seven-year old son that it’s not like home, and dad just can’t go get one, and that no matter how much he asks, you’re not going to let him use the garden hose on your grill.

Bottom line: the barbecue is first rate and so is the burger!

Points are 1-10 (ten being the best)

Meat – 9.25 … Clearly hand made and hand patted. It is was done perfectly – juicy and scorched in a couple places. Not over-seasoned. It doesn’t need it.

Bun and fixins’ 9 – I guess a better bun might deliver a better product, but this one is pretty darned good. I love the sauce and chow. I also loved the pickle.

Sides – 8.0 … This could be a bit confusing, because you could get any side that typically comes with the barbecue (baked beans, coleslaw, corn …). And while I think the sides at Bob Syke’s are good, they aren’t my favorite. The fries are decent, but – no way to explain this – get cold every time I visit. And this variety of fries doesn’t hold up well when they are lukewarm.

Service & Presentation – 7 … Adequate.

Ambiance – 8.5 … It looks like a barbecue place, a family one. I like the pit in the front. It’s fun to watch.

Bonus X – +1 … There are lots of other reasons to try Bob Sykes, if you’ve never done it before. Good desserts. Great barbecue.

Rating – AA

Bob Sykes Barbeque on Urbanspoon
http://www.facebook.com/BobSykesBBQ  

Wild Rock Grill: “The Artist Formerly Known as Locos”

18 Sep

You might call Wild Rock Grill a Prince of a Grill. You might call it a great place to have a meal.

Then again, you might be drugged frequently, forced to watch Gong Show reruns and look forward to your hunting date with Dick Cheney.

But lest I hold back … My experience at Wild Rock Grill was like the music of Prince (in case you were unaware, he’s changed his name back to a name). No, sadly, it’s not the inspired funky, rock, soulful grooves of Purple Rain or Sign of the Times. No, it’s probably from a period you don’t know much about, unless you are especially fond his purple majesty … Wikipedia politely calls it a time of increased out put; let’s call it what it is: a creative enema.

Around the year 2000, Prince got in a snit with his publisher – Warner Bros. Not that this is unusual or unusual with him. Instead of contacting
lawyers and working it out the American way, Prince (the symbol at the time) decided that the best way to be let out of his contract was to flood the universe with crappy music, producing albums quickly to hit quotas. It was a puzzling mess of uninspired schlock – album titles that no one can remember and songs as forgettable as junk mail.

Which brings me to Wild Rock Grill (in case you’re wondering, it’s the restaurant that replaced Locos on Lakeshore Pkwy) … Some places get by on reputation. Some get by on great food. Some atmosphere. If Wild Rock Grill is getting by in the burger department, it’s only through the support of people who are connoisseurs of uninspired schlock (or they could be the same people who purchased albums during Prince’s “Slave” period).

I went on a Wednesday evening. Very few people there. For a place that purports to be a sport bar and a bunch of other stuff, it was empty. To make the experience worse, “Wendy, Lisa and Sheila E.” were sitting in a booth next to us, discussing the intricacies of bladder surgery, oozy discharges and enough unsavory things that I was kind of hoping that there’d be more people to drown out there “disgust-ion.”

The service was fine, and the waitress was pleasant and attentive. It’s not her fault that when I asked about the fries, she said – without flinching –
“They are those frozen steak fries.” So, in a first for this blog, I ordered … the steamed veggies (fear not, I tried some of my kids …).

Ordering the burger was like going to a buffet, and about as inspiring. The signature burger comes with whatever you choose out of the list of stuff
you’d normally expect. Cheese is extra. Exotics, like mushrooms, are extra extra. You could dress this burger up with a $100 bill, and it would still be not be able to pay you for a hamburger today. What you’re getting is an uninspired attempt to fill out a menu at a place that has better foods there.

When it arrived at the table, I looked at the burger. It was a pre-made patty and had that “solution” taste that’s somewhere between meat, preservative, saline, melba toast and black licorice (maybe great in a wine, not so great in meat). So, I asked the waitress to tell me where they got their meat. She demurred …

At the end of the meal, which I didn’t finish (except for the veggies), I asked again, when she had yet to supply the answer. She came back, having consulted someone for talking points or whatever, “It’s doesn’t really come from anywhere; it comes on a truck. We get it from a service.”

In the end, I’d wished I’d ordered a veggie plate, or corned beef, or an additional copy of 1999. But in the end, I’m reaching for my mallet and whacking the gong on this act.

Points …

Meat – 5.5 …I don’t know, when I ask where the meat comes from, it’s not likely to make it more savory to say that it comes from a truck.

Bun and fixins’ — 6.5 … Let’s see, I could pick whatever I want on the burger from lettuce, pickles, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard and mayo. I could … wait for it … have one of two kinds of cheese. It’s not that the quality was awful here, but the lack of creativity and curiosity.

Sides – 6.0 … I wish you could get votes on this for steamed veggies, but it kind of cuts against the burger grain. But after having done this for a
while, some days, you reach a frozen fry limit. I found mine that night. Did try them … [sigh].

Service & Presentation – 7.5 … I don’t fault the wait staff for not having sufficient answers to simple questions. They only answer what they know to
say. The service itself was good, and I kind of like the simple presentation at a pub.

Ambiance – (-1) … This place receives the first negative score in the history of the beautimousburger blog. It might not be “their fault” that the conversations taking place around me were way more graphic than for polite company (had little kids with me). But that was my experience. Don’tmake the news; just report it.

Bonus X – … No points, but some of the other dishes looked more inspired and more authentic. I won’t be returning, but if you do, there might be
something there to appreciate.

Rating — BBB-

Wild Rock Grill on Urbanspoon

The Depot Deli and Grill (Helena): A Visit to the Island of Sodor

4 Sep

Burgers and burger places have a character. Ask for mushroom-swiss burger, and you’ll have an idea of what you get. Ask for some frou-frou avocado and arugula monstrosity, and you’ll have an idea of the place and the burger, too. Which makes the Depot Deli and Grill in Helena kind of like taking a trip to the Island of Sodor.

For the uninitiated, the Island of Sodor is home to many characters – Thomas, Percy, Sir Topham Hatt, and a host of steamies, diesels, cars, trucks and people – associated with Thomas and Friends, the children’s other-world where trains are kind of people, too. It’s wholesome, kid fun in which, luckily, no one get hurts. But every train has a character; each is slightly different … in a keep-kids-interested-and-force-parents-into-buying-the-latest-new-train-on-the-island-vortex.

So, when I visited a place that actually called itself a depot, I thought, “What train would this place be?” Now, to start, we could play a little game and go to some of my old reviews and assign a train to the place (if you know the show and the trains, this will be fun!):

And without considering that his name is a bit misleading for a burger place, the Depot could only be Salty. Now, let’s clear this up, straightway. The meal wasn’t salty …

Salty – and its doppelganger burger existence in the Depot Grill – is an easy-going, likable diesel. He was brought to the island by that
corpulent but enlightened despot, Topham Hatt. And Salty either entertains or drives his really useful friends nuts with the constant stories, sea shanties and an overall cheery attitude. He’s hard working, blue collar and appreciated because he’s proven himself to his quarry-mates – Bill, Ben and Mavis.

Depot Grill sits in-between train tracks and the dam/levee in old Helena. It’s all kind of throw back. Downtown Helena is a bit of an oasis in what would otherwise be yet another desert suburban bedroom community with as much fun as a nomadic clan of anesthetic-eschewing dental surgeons.

The inside is quaint, with license plates and decorated dollar bills all around the register. Outside, a large covered porch looks over the Cahaba River. It’s a nice scene. And honestly, that really makes this place. It’s hard working. It’s easy-going and fun. But it is its own unique little place in the midst of Helena-dom. Atmosphere takes this place a long way.

As for the burger, it’s much better than good. I ordered my burger Baptist – almost going all the way, but stopping just shy.

It was good, very good. It was served on a slightly sweet kaiser roll. The meat was the clear taste leader, along with the bun. It came with what you’d expect – lettuce, pickles, etc. And they offered several varieties – smaller and larger – on the menu. As testament to the burger there, I came at nearly 3 p.m. on a Saturday. It was still busy, and most everyone had ordered one of their delicious burgers.

At this point in my life, I view fries like the creators of Thomas use the Troublesome Trucks. They don’t always have a lot of character
individually. They are stock characters — the guy-in-the-red-uniform-on-Star-Trek (but no one get hurt on Thomas). Depot had crinkle fries, uninspiring maybe, but I will eat them … all of them. At least they don’t laugh maniacally like the Troublesome Trucks.

Points …

Meat — 8.0 … Like Salty, I have no idea where it came from. It just showed up after I ordered it on my plate. By all appearances, it was hand-made. By taste, it was delicious hamburger meat of unclear origin. But it was done just enough and was tasty, so I moved on.

Bun and fixins’ — 8.0 … The kaiser roll is a nice touch on a decent burger

Sides – 7.5 … The Troublesome Truck usually giggle a lot and talk nonsense. I consider frozen crinkle fries the Troublesome Trucks of the fry world; they are primarily useful as a ketchup delivery system.

Service & Presentation – 8.0 … Order at the window and pick up your food when they call your number. And get your own drinks. It makes me think that I am a very useful patron … and that I should somehow get a tip, too.

Ambiance – 9 … The porch was nice, while I’m sure that it could also be unbearable hot as it does get around here. But with fall in the air, this
place might just be a great hang-out.

Bonus X – +1 … The view is exceptional. Wanna watch the dam? Check. See people frolicking in the water? Check. Watch a train? Check. See people getting married at the wedding chapel? Check. Watch as people get pulled over for enjoying Helena at a bit too brisk a pace? Helena has it all.

Rating — A+

Depot Deli & Grill on Urbanspoon

Lyric Hot Dogs: A little Hall and Oates for your dining pleasure

27 Aug

Lyric hot dogsIt’s as if my whole reason for walking to Lyric Hot Dogs was wrong. I wanted a quick lunch — and a little adventure. Someplace I hadn’t been in all the years I have worked downtown. And in some hopeful breeze wafting through my ear, I heard something about it being national hot dog day.

Which it isn’t. Lies. All Lies.

So, here I am today, having visited an iconic hot dog stand* in Birmingham (on 3rd Ave. across from the Alabama Theater), availing myself on not just a hot dog but also giving their cheeseburger a try. And yes, I did have medicos standing by …

* Now, I do like a good hot dog, but for the most part … the most part … Birmingham’s hot dog history is more a story of successful Greek immigration to the area (follow the link to an interesting video by the Southern Food Alliance on hot dog stand history in Bham). It’s a better story than a dog, and today that story is quickly fading away as old hot dog stand** stalwarts like Pete’s and Tony’s Terrific downtown have gone the way of the bag phone. But for me, I prefer a real Chicago dog or even a Lucky Dog from Nawleans. 

** And have you considered that in the lexicon of food, you visit a hot dog stand, but you visit a burger joint, not a burger stand. I’d posit that we use those words for good reason. A stand connotes a food of individuality. Have you ever watched people eat a hot dog? They hunch over, with that nervous look. Come on now, in your mind, is it a food that you enjoy with company around you, or is your natural inclination to find a corner and devour the tube steak in a inhalation of gluttony.

Let me leave you with this, brothers and sisters: a joint is something where two or more things come together … let your mind wander on that one.

What came together at the Lyric was a hot dog that is served at a nostalgic, downtown stand. At that stand, it keeps its bastard cousin, the cheeseburger, around for grins and giggles. It’s us outsiders who see that the burger is just not as loved and not as popular as the favored son.

To keep a lyrical theme, the burger there is the culinary equivalent of Darryl Hall and John Oates. Guess who gets second billing, and for good reason. Or lets put it this way, if the burger had a bushy mustache, they’d almost favor.

The burger was a pre-made patty (so is the hot dog, which on some level I kind of appreciate). But, I kid you not, I had to open the bun and look inside to make sure that there was a patty. Upon inspection, the burger was bathed in “special sauce,” the same type of special sauce that bathes countless dogs in the city. A sauce which has its roots in Greek food – a sweet and spicy (almost barbeque quality), almost tangy sauce that is good. But in this town, there must be some ordinance that any food including the aforementioned sauce must be drenched/bathed/baptized/rolling in it.

Oh, and a pickle slice that nearly covered the entire patty. While it’ll give you an idea of the size of the patty, the pickle was too big for comfort. I was kind of intimidated.

I’d rate this burger in line with what you’d get at Milo’s, but a bit better. A bit. If you’re looking for a great burger, it ain’t here. To borrow for John Oates greatest piece, check out the  #7 song of the 80s according to VH1. I think this song speaks for how I feel.

Hot Dogs

Now, a few words from our sponsor, the noble hot dog. The Lyric is REALLY a hot dog stand. It’s a place to listen to the 700 Club and chat with others who work downtown. The hot dogs are good enough and for Birmingham, they are some of the more consistent and historic in town.

I prefer the special dog at the Lyric – no onion. That leaves it with mustard, meat sauce (which does give me pause, but if you’re hot dogging it in the first place, it’s best to check your fears and persnicketiness at the door) and that ever-present special sauce – that is special at Sneaky Petes, Jimmy’s, Gus’ and several other special locations around the city.

But sometimes, like when you’ve let yourself be convinced that its national hot dog day when it really isn’t … or you’ve been beating yourself up about goofy stuff and you just need some comfort food, then a hot dog can perk you up. It almost always makes me smile.

Ratings – I’m not going there for the burger at the Lyric. I hope you understand. It’s like kicking a puppy. If you want to go, get a hot dog.

But I will give special kudos to a very interesting website. If you want a quick primer about hot dog stands in Bham, read the history section.

Lyric Hot Dog & Grill on Urbanspoon

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