One of the key missions of the Coastal Emperor is to find good burgers in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry. This is a quest that has not yielded very encouraging results. Savannah at least is not a city well-known for burgers. There are adequate burgers to be had in town, for sure, but nothing that is going to pop up on any national lists (and honestly, most of the time I'd prefer a Five Guys to some of the other oft-lauded local options). Perhaps I've been spoiled by my exile in Atlanta, a city that has at least two nationally recognized "bests." I have grown to love, above all burger styles, the chef-y obsession that is the classic double stack and in Atlanta/Chicago/New York/Charleston there are a virtual bevy of options all competing for love and affection like middle children. In Savannah, I've yet to find a single native-born contender. We have to drive to Charleston to really scratch that itch.
Thus, I anticipated the so-called Savannah Buds and Burgers Week with mixed interest and incredulity. I don't know if they've done this event before, but the basic idea was that certain restaurants would create a special burger for that week, charge 8 bucks for it, and at the end everyone who ate them (or didn't eat them) could vote on a "winner." None of the familiar burger places participated, so that meant no Green Truck Pub, and some restaurants I'd never even heard of were on the list. Also Fish Tails was an option, but there was no way I was going out to a seafood place in Richmond Hill to try a burger (though in all fairness had I found myself out that way for kayaking purposes I'd probably have given it a shot.) You can see the full list on the website linked above. The "buds" part of the week is obviously Budweiser, but I don't know why because at least two places that participated don't even serve alcohol.
We managed to try three of the burgers, focusing in on what seemed the most unique or interesting of creations being offered. We started with Coastal Emperor favorite Sly's Sliders and Fries. I was impressed by how Sly's did not deviate from their mission of making amazing sliders, but at the same time wanted to get the most value into that 8$ as possible. The result was the "Blues Brothers."
The "brothers" were of course two slider burgers, and the "blues" was a delicious Gorgonzola sauce. The sliders were completed with arugula and pickled red onions and then a big side of fries. Having two brothers was convenient for the wife and me to both have our own. Had I gotten the special all to myself, it would have indeed been filling and a great value.
As with everything at Sly's, the sliders were very tasty and well crafted...if not particularly creative. They were a solid effort, and one I would order again if they were a menu regular to go along with my usual boardwalk and mustard tiger. We of course couldn't limited ourselves to just the special, so here is a gratuitous shot of a Kaiser Dog.
After we had paid our respects at Sly's, and voted for them immediately out of loyalty, we moved on to something a little more out-there. The 5 Spot is already on our list of places in Savannah to get a decent burger and the special they were running was something called the "Chimi-burger", which was the unholy marriage of a burger and a chimichanga (kind of like a Taco Bell stunt.)
I have to come right out and say that I don't think this thing qualifies as a "burger." Sure it used a burger patty, but that is really only part of the equation. I think for a sandwich to truly qualify, you have to be able to pick it up and eat it with your hands. This thing was drowning in queso and definitely not something you should pick up. I did of course, for science, and immediately regretted it. The "chimi-burger" was a knife and fork job all the way.
Taste-wise, it was delicious. How could it not be, smothered in all that cheese? True to the chimichanga that gave the burger its name, it was wrapped up in a tortilla and deep fried. Inside with the patty was a collection of peppers and onions. Overall it had the basic flavor profile of some really cheesy fajitas from a tex-mex place (I kept thinking about Jalapenos the whole time.) I appreciated the effort, and I was certainly full afterwards...bloated even.
The "chimi-burger" was different, but the most truley radical burger that was featured during the week was offered up at Tondee's Tavern down on Bay. I had never eaten at Tondee's, though I had somebody once extol to me the virtue of their ribs and dessert. Despite having no context for the food of the tavern whatsoever, when the wife and I saw the picture on the website of what they were (rather crassly) calling the "Pole Dancer", we knew we had to try it. Allow me show you why:
Contained in that insane stack of stuff there was indeed a burger, two actually. Between the brioche buns there was also a fried egg, ham, onion rings, mac and cheese, american cheese, lettuce, tomato, and of course that pickle spear on top. Dripping over everything was also a "special sauce" but it was kind of lost in the ingredient cacophony. I felt like at any moment the Mayor of Flavortown himself was going to appear and try to fist bump it.
It was a tall stack, but I was able to compress it down and saw it in twain, thoroughly impressing the girl who was tending the bar. She claimed I was the first she had seen to manage the feat. I had to get it into quarters before I could actually eat it. You'd think that all that stuff on there (mac and cheese? really) would be for the stunt, and you'd probably be right. What you might not expect is how amazing it all was. Every bit of the burger worked harmoniously and I was blown away by how deliciously it came together. It definitely skewed more towards the flavor territory of a higher-end fast food burger, but I love a good Wendy's double stack so I was beyond pleased. Out of the three burgers we sampled during the week, this tower of meaty madness was far and away my favorite. One day I hope to recreate the experience in my own burger laboratory (i.e. the kitchen of my apartment.) If you're wondering, no, I did not eat the whole thing and then immediately die of a heart attack. The wife and I split it, and were still each stuffed to the gills afterwards.
The "winner" of the week wasn't one of the three burgers/sliders/tex-mex mutants that we tried but rather the super boring and predictable pimento cheese burger at Moss and Oak. You can't see the vote tallies, but I imagine they did a good job of hyping their sando to the River Street tourists since that particular establishment is located in the Hyatt. Who cares though? Because the only winner that matters is the one that won the heart of the Coastal Emperor. So congratulations, Tondee's Tavern. Your prize is my respect. You're welcome.