Sometimes, life imitates art. But can a burger imitate a city? In Chattanooga, it can. Chattanooga and the city’s Urban Stack on W 13th Street (near the Chattanoogan Hotel) were somewhat random selections (one as a grown-up/kid-free getaway and the other as a place to eat while there), but there was an unmistakable symmetry to the whole experience.
What kept striking me, as I cleaned my plate at the burger joint, was the relationship between the burger and the city experience, itself. At every corner in Chattanooga, there was something unexpected … from sculpture, to food, to Patrick at the Chattanoogan explaining how he’d nearly “run over a Wookie” or the couple we met who’d come together after not seeing each other for 20 years.
Delightful. My city expectations were turned on their ear, and I was rewarded with much more. My serendipitous visit to Urban Stack produced similar, tasty results.
Urban Stack’s building is swank-wank — cool, exposed beams, plants all around, hip. In the heart of Chattanooga, the outdoor seating is fun, covered and a great place to hang out. Unless you read their info, you probably wouldn’t know that the building was at one time, a railroad baggage facility (it’s not far from the Choo Choo).
Given my last, disappointing experience, I decided to keep it simple, safe: the Bacon Cheeseburger, their way. They asked how to cook the meat (and then did it, which is a plus). Nice and pinky, certified Angus and high quality beef that tasted like they put some effort into it.
The bun was local made and brioche-esque (awesome), a hint of sweet and not heavy. I was taken aback by the flavor explosion … The meat, with the bun … then add their chipotle ketchup (which borders on a barbecue sauce, but not so much that it’s annoying) and house sauce.
The balsamic onions were the bomb … and I don’t even LIKE the onion. And the pickles were clearly homemade, but I’ll admit to being mesmerized and not asking if they made them or if they buy them… in either case, I could have eaten them, without the meal.
Top that with some of the best bacon you can get – Benton’s, for my foodie noodle-heads – and it’s one of the best burgers I’ve had. Or to put it another way, this nothing-fancy burger, loaded just with its own goodness was fancy enough, just being its own unique bacon-burger self.
But wait, there was more … if you wanted, you could get … a lamb burger, turkey, chicken and a host of other “out there” burgers … or the 100% grass feed, served on plates that have only been touched by left hands and brought to you exclusively by people with the letter “J” in their name …
The fries were absolutely perfect, especially for hand-cut ones. Not greasy, cooked enough to be, primarily, crispy and not floppy. Who wants a floppy fry? These were some of the best hand-cut fries I’ve ever been served. Many crispy ones.
To just keep the unexpected coming, I had a hot wing, and wow! The Grilled Chicken Wings (Smoking Hot U.S. Style) were absolutely fabulous. A ring of fire that’d make Johnny Cash smile and deep smoky flavor. These were as good as Saw’s in Birmingham, and that’s saying a lot. And for a first ever in my reviews, here’s extra credit, honors and benefits for an awesome bourbon selection.
And the burger experience was almost exactly like the “unexpected” visit to Chattanooga, itself. Such a cool town, with so many new, and unique places and so much history – all wrapped together? Who would have expected to have the Heart Ball in the same hotel, on the same weekend as Con Nooga?
It’s fun to stumble into things … like a great city, or folks dressed to the nines for a ball, or watching people – in evening gowns and tuxes take photos with a bearded man in a Sailor Moon costume … It’s wonderful … unexpected … and somehow, like Urban Stack, it works.
* And special cudos to Heidi Rowe, for coming up with the trip to Chattanooga and surprising me with it. Awesome!