The Famous Baba-Burger


Holly Whitfield, – May 2016

Ever since taco/tapas joint Babalu opened in Overton Square two years ago, I’ve been hearing about their allegedly amazing Babalu burger. It’s called the Baba Burger on the menu, and people are claiming that it’s one of the best burgers in Memphis.

While I went after Babalu’s opening to try tacos and tapas, there were several other new burger joints that opened in 2014 that I didn’t make it back around to try theirs right away. But I kept hearing about it. And hearing about it. Both online and in person. Y’all really love this Baba-Burger. These are actual quotes I’ve heard/read:

“It’s the best burger in the city.”

“It’s the best thing on their menu.”

“The Babalu burger is the best thing I’ve ever tasted!”

And so last week, I finally went back to try it. I went at about 2 p.m. to avoid a crowd – it seems like Babalu always has a long line out the door at dinner time. The dining room was barely half-full this late in the afternoon, and I sat at the bar and ordered a Babarita, a Baba-Burger, and a side of fries.

It has all the components of a trendy gourmet burger: a) a roasted vegetable, b) a cheese that isn’t American, c) bacon, and d) some kind of aioli. At $9.95 + $2 for fries, this is on par or less than the price of other souped-up burgers in Overton Square.

In this case, you get roasted tomatoes, white cheddar, bacon, and chipotle aioli, plus caramelized onions and avocado. I wasn’t surprised that the bartender reiterated what everyone else had said. “Good choice, the burger is my favorite,” she cooed after I ordered. I was a little surprised, however, that she didn’t ask what temperature to cook the meat.

I enjoyed my Babarita (a margarita with a splash of pomegranate juice) while I waited. It’s big and strong. If you’re going to pay $11.50 for a margarita, it ought to be just like this – I pretty much order it every time I go. Then, I only had to wait a few minutes before my food arrived.

I’d heard from an unofficial source that the patty was comprised of beef mixed with ground lamb, which made it “so succulent”, so I assumed this would be one of those thick, juicy patties you get at gastropubs. The actual dish looked very good, but it reminded me more of a greasy-in-a-good-way bar burger. It also explained why I wasn’t asked for a temperature – it’s not really that kind of burger.

The two strongest flavors were the bread and the chipotle aioli. The sourdough bread is super sweet; it’s basically Hawaiian bread. The generous portion of aioli gave the whole situation a strong, peppery kick. The meat – once I liberated it from the creamy conglomerate of other toppings – was tasty. I couldn’t tell if there was lamb in it or not. If you like all of those things, you’ll love this burger.

I could only finish half, but that Babarita had me feeling a little “treat yo’self” (I told you it was worth the money) and I remembered the chocolate cayenne truffles I’d had ages ago…so I decided to spring for dessert. The bartender listed off the desserts, and while I didn’t hear her mention the truffles, she did say that they had a sampler with cheesecake, spicy fudge, and bread budding. So guess what I picked.

I liked how the spicy fudge was something different, and that it was garnished with pistachio crumbs, but the standout was the bread pudding. It’s soft and sweet and the sauce was lovely. Would order again.

If you’re one of the Baba-Burger evangelists, let me insist you try some burgers from Roxie’s or Alex’s Tavern, a stuffed turkey burger from Mot & Ed’s, or a Soul Burger from Earnestine & Hazel’s. I’ll have an updated burger post coming real soon. If you haven’t yet tried this infamous Memphis burger, keep in mind that it’s a lot of people’s favorite thing ever, so it’s worth a taste. I’d love to hear your opinion. If you’re looking for something lighter, I recommend the sesame encrusted tuna (in the “small plates” section). I had it a few months ago as a snack and I was impressed with its freshness and flavor.

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