There are signs, both literally and figuratively all around us (or so I am told). For the most part, I try to interpret the signs (usually overthink them) hoping that I choose well (doesn’t always work though). We all need something to help us in our decision process. For my lunch time forage in New Orleans, after having cut my Garden District and Cemetery Tour short, there were two actual signs and a bit of a miracle on Magazine street.
Walking along Magazine Street, I was in search of lunch before the conference. I didn’t quite have a plan, all I knew was that the concierge and hotel staff kept recommending restaurants and dessert options on Magazine Street so I thought it was a good place to start. I should have really written a few options/addresses down as I realized on my walk that this stretch of the street wasn’t quite teeming with options. Seeing two workers, I asked if there were any restaurants nearby and they said “there should be a few up ahead” – not quite the local perspective I was seeking but ahead I walked.
Then I saw the signs – the literal signs one on each side of the street. The first sign came into focus as I got closer and scared me into running across the street to the other sign.
I answered the sign “Yes”! I found Charcoal’s Gourmet Burger Bar on the corner of Jackson and Magazine Streets. Entering the restaurant, I was a bit confused by the steps ahead and the restaurant on the right so I approached the ground level counter to ask questions. Downstairs is the quick serve counter with seating in the back and upstairs is full service with a bar and outdoor patio.
Upstairs, the interior design is quite upscale and comfortable, a blend of comfort and style which is fitting given the menu. As it was noon on a Tuesday, there were a few tables with people but not too busy for one waitress. She quickly brought water while I perused the menu hoping for the right combination to jump out at me. Tempted (and overwhelmed) by the various burger, bun and topping combinations, I was conservative with my standard beef burger.
For the more adventurous among us (meaning you, not me) the burger choices are:
House Beef – Turkey – Veggie (red beans and brown rice) – Antelope
Kobe – Elk – Buffalo – Venison – Shrimp – Salmon
Nice not to see Chicken mentioned (in the UK a grilled chicken is a chicken burger!). For the burger purists among us, the Build Your Own Burger 7 steps is a great way to go.
After you have finally figured out which burger meat base to start with, you then need to pick which of the four types of breads made in house (House Bun, Brioche, Whole Wheat or Hawaiian Sweet) to add. If, after this, you are stumped which cheese is best, you can be forgiven as there are ten choices (yes, ten different cheeses!). After making these three crucial first steps, the other steps you would think are easier but they aren’t – each with five to ten options. Pick your basic toppings, premium toppings (including fried pickles, boar bacon and praline bacon), condiments (creole mustard, aioli, secret sauce), the right temperature and the all important chips, fries, onion rings or sweet potato tater tots. All the choices will ensure that burger lovers are repeat guests as you try to create a different combination each time in search of your perfect burger.
I will admit that I didn’t do the best with my order combination, opting for a house beef with bacon, mustard, ketchup and pickle – my simple standard burger. Playing it safe didn’t affect the tasty creation, it was a juicy burger with crisp bacon. The waitress directed me to the house made sweet potato tater tots and they were interesting – crunchy outside and mashed potato inside, a bit different from the tots I am used to.
My perfect burger would usually include a glass of wine (they had an interesting wine list), instead, I opted for lemonade (it was a work day). Served in a mason jar it was the right combination of sweet and sour on the sunny, warm and humid day.
Charcoal’s Gourmet Burger Bar opened in 2013. They have free wi-fi (password needed) which is a nice touch for diners (especially a solo diner like me to keep connected with lunchtime Twitter chats). With my meal almost done, I attempted to find a Uber car but was outside the service area. The waitress said it could be at least 1/2 hour if we called a cab (she gave me the number to call) so I started walking toward the Charles Street tramcar hoping for a bit of transit luck to get to the conference in time. As I walked along Jackson street, magically a cab appeared to whisk me away.
Charcoal’s Gourmet Burger Bar was a lucky find for me after the Garden District tour – I just happened upon it, or did I? Maybe the signs were there to draw me to my red meat happy place? Up to you to decide if you believe in signs or not, but, for me, any sign that directs me to a gourmet burger bar is a good sign I’d happily follow, no overthinking required.