She curled her hair, spent an hour putting on make-up and chose to wear that dress you like so very much and wrapped herself in an aura of her most expensive perfume, the least you could do is take her out to a nice meal, never mind how badly your belly is rumbling for a juicy cheeseburger. But you should realize that can have your cheeseburger and eat it too without settling for a place where her shoes stick to the floor or has the high probability that a beer will be spilled on her by the drunken lout on the next bar stool.
Some of the best burgers in town can be found at places with white linen tablecloths and well-crafted cocktails, places where the server will bring you a new fork after you’ve dropped one on the floor, one that’s likely not made out of plastic. Not only will you be able to attack a decedent burger in the lap of luxury, you’ll be able to do it without putting a hefty dent in your wallet. Besides, you’ll probably need to save all the money you can to cover your date’s dish.
Although it’s actually a fairly casual restaurant, Toups’ Meatery in Mid-City is still an elegant, yet extremely comfortable spot where you can fit in whether you’re dressed to the nine’s or slouching it in jeans and tennis shoes. But be forewarned, this is not a “burger joint.” Chef Isaac Toups has created a menu that touts everything from foie gras torchon and elaborate charcuterie boards to grilled quail and seared duck breast. So while your lunch date is doting on steamed mussels or raving about the Confit Chicken Thighs, you can turn your attention to the totally awesome Toups’ Burger with a juicy, hand-formed patty made from a perfect combination of ground beef and pork, and topped with pickled squash slices, thick-cut, smoky bacon, white cheddar and herb aioli served on buttery brioche bun (a la Susan Spicer’s Wild Flour Breads). It’ll be difficult not to gobble every last morsel on your plate, including their crispy, kettle-like potato chips, just remember to swallow before you speak and wipe your mouth afterwards.
If you’re looking for something slightly shmancier (amalgam of fancy and shmancy), cruise on over to La Petite Grocery on Magazine Street. Yes, Chef Justin Devillier has been nominated for a James Beard Award (twice) and offers white linen tablecloths in his quaint, corner-store-turned-bistro, but don’t doubt you can also score an affordable, mouth-watering burger. Dubbed the “LPG Cheeseburger,” this juicy ensemble features a heady Gruyere cheese, house pickles, onion marmalade, peppery arugula, whole grain mustard and aioli. Plus, this $16 beauty is served with Chef Devillier’s stellar, hand-cut French fries.
A bit further down Magazine, almost 20 blocks further, you’ll stumble upon Coquette, an uber-popular eatery on the corner of Washington Avenue. Reservations for their Friday lunches are pretty much mandatory and getting gussied up will likely earn approval from your date, as well as nod from the elite, Uptown ladies who lunch there on a regular basis. No one will sneer if you opt for their cheeseburger, while your date orders the cochon de lait. In fact, they might be a bit jealous. Chef Micheal Stoltzfus offers an all-beef burger topped with their own, house-cured bacon and Hook’s sharp cheddar sandwiched between pastry chef Zak Miller’s sumptuous egg bun.
Since we’re talking beef, it’s hard to find a better place for a burger than a steakhouse (or a “Meatery” for that matter). Located on Iberville Street in the French Quarter, you’ll find Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, one of the city’s most iconic, meat-centered restaurants that’s more than a half-century old. One can’t feel anything but pampered in their sophisticated dining room with warm lighting and well-cushioned chairs, but you’ll think they’ve mistaken you for a celebrity when you try the Steakhouse Bacon Cheeseburger that’s only $15! 100% USDA Prime ground beef is grilled to order and topped with thick-cut bacon, cheddar or bleu cheese (decisions, decisions), red onion jam and served with garlic aioli and fries.
Heck, after ogling any one of these supreme burgers, it’s more likely that next time, your date will order the burger before you do!
*Article originally published in the May 2015 issue of Where Y’at Magazine