My mouth watered, and my fingers trembled. My $5.00 gourmet burger glistened with beefy beefness as my tastebuds stood at attention. Beefy beefness. For only $5.00. What a concept! I picked up my prize and chomped happily away as I sighed happily. It’s the unusually low temporary price and everything else I crave during the annual Nashville Burger Week.
Five dollar burgers. Normally, I’d shrug and mindlessly accept this as the latest 2 burgers for $5.00 deal at any number of subpar fast food restaurants. But that’s not the case here! No, this is the greatest Nashvillian event since the CONCACAF Gold Cup came to Nashville…or the Let Freedom Sing celebration ended in the best fireworks display in the nation! (So, in other words, one week beforehand. Hey, Nashville has a wealth of activities ongoing weekly!)
Soccer and Independence Day aside, food culture exploration is one of my favorite activities. There’s something astonishingly appealing about discovering rich food culture in the comfort of your own backyard. And I’m not just talking about travel expense that can be saved for another day. In it’s basest form, how does a week-long meat treasure hunt sound to you? Nashville’s Burger Week is one of those veritable American cuisine celebrations demonstrating how Korean cuisine can kick a slider to an 11 or how Italian influence can make a melt sophisticated enough for Rome while keeping enough of the American core intact for Uncle Sam.
It’s a culturally eclectically electric mix that only a boho melting pot like Nashville can deliver. I can almost sense your mouth watering! I know mine is. How do you take best advantage of this week full of inexpensive griddle creations? I recommend eight key rules of the road.
Nashville Burger Week Rules & Advice
Rules? Rules?! We don’t need no stinkin’ rules! Okay, yes we do. Here are some of the best words of wisdom I can offer about how to plan and behave.
- Timing Might Just Be Everything – Make sure you review the operating hours for restaurants with burgers you want to try. Some restaurants aren’t open all week. Other restaurants are only participating during certain times even though they are open for longer periods. And some restaurants aren’t restaurants at all; they’re food trucks! Nashville has a major food truck scene, and those food trucks are open at different times during different days at different locations! Plan ahead so you know the best times for visits.
- Be That Special Kind of Southern Fried Kindness – Don’t scoff. This event is very popular because it’s…well, awesome. Nashville Burger Week contributes to the entrenched and growing foodie culture at appetizing prices! Naturally, that draws large crowds. So you may need to wait to eat. Or the restaurant may run out of ingredients/burgers. If that happens, put on your big girl panties (or big boy skivvies) and deal politely. A full seven days of cheap burgers means you have more than one opportunity to snag delectable burgers. Take advantage of that, and keep the chill vibes rolling.
- Have a Backup Burger Joint In Mind – Did your restaurant de jour run out of burgers? Bummer. However, if you have time, you may be able to select another restaurant nearby! For example, the 2017 Nashville Burger Week contains five restaurants in the Music Row/Vanderbilt area. If one runs out, run to the next (and hurry before someone else has the same brilliant idea!). You’ll find close backup options for most of the participating restaurants. For 2017, only around 4-5 restaurants out of 33 were more isolated from the rest.
- Love & Buy More Than Just Burgers – Let’s face it–gourmet burgers contain ingredients that aren’t cheap. Korean BBQ Pork, jalapeño green tomato jam, deep fried Sriracha onions, and bison meat are prime representatives of the crazily enticing elements you’ll see on each restaurant’s specialty burger. Let’s see you profitably combine those things into a $5.00 burger. What? You can’t? Neither can these restaurants with their additional overhead costs. Do the restaurants a “flavor” and pony up a little extra moolah for a menu-priced side and drink to make it a meal. Heck, go for some greens if it’ll help you be a bit healthier. Whatever is your additional pleasure, make it happen.
- Speaking of Food Love, Give Tip Love Too – Tip? Yep. These are burgers discounted by 50-67%. Just because your burger costs less doesn’t mean the staff and waiters are working less. (They’re actually working much harder due to the popularity of Nashville Burger Week!!) So tip on full price plus your side and drink. That ought to be 20% or more; let them know how much you love them!
- “Share” the Love! – Share? Yes, share! Nashville Burger Week shares it’s foodie love with you so share your love for IT on social media! Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all up for grabs! Obviously, I have YouTube covered so show me some love over there so we can video broadcast how awesome this city’s burgers are!
- “Collect ’em All” – If burgers are one of your favorite foods, try a variety all week! And if you don’t have time to visit all the restaurants (over 30 in 7 days?!), visit the ones you missed during the rest of the year! And ask for the Nashville Burger Week special even if they aren’t on the menu. Just ask, “Hey, maestro! Gimme one’a’those Burger Week specials, could ya?”
- Keep Updated Via The Official Website – Yes, there is a site for Nashville Burger Week, and you may have been there first. With participating restaurants, locations, and operating hours, it’s a great source for information.
Which Burgers Should You Try?
Uh. Whichever you want. Duh. They all have a variety of different ingredients so you can let your taste buds be your guide. Here are my laundry list of Burger Week experiences starting from the absolute top…Day 1.
Day 1 – Mangia Nashville: Nashville Hot Sausage Burger
Mangia Nashville now ranks high on my greatest hit list of restaurants in Nashville, Tennessee. As an Italian restaurant, it came out with an impressive opening heavyweight punch with its Nashville Hot Sausage Burger. With a hot sausage patty, homemade Calabrian hot sauce, and zucchini pickles nestled between a roasted garlic black carbon focaccia bun, my taste buds were tantalized from first bite. If you’re familiar with Nashville Hot Chicken, this won’t blow you away. I remember my only experience with NHC, and I sweated profusely from the heat. Not so here, folks. Just enjoy a fresh-tasting pepper sauce with a small splash of fruity undertones and a backdoor kick to keep you moving! The innovative pickles pipe in an impressive tang and leave you wondering where groceries are hiding zucchini pickles in their shelves. And the burger patty of hot sausage adds crumbling, succulent goodness.
Verdict? Yum. (Is there really any other positive verdict for food?)
Here’s the meal lineup that left me plump and satisfied for under $20.00:
- Nashville Hot Sausage Burger
- Blood Orange San Pellegrino
- White Bean Hummus with house chips and house focaccia bread
Day 2 – Decker & Dyer Social Lounge: Black Hawk Farms Burger
The Decker & Dyer Social Lounge is found inside The Westin Nashville in the SoBro neighborhood of downtown Nashville. The burger hosts a staunch topping lineup of crispy potato strings, bacon, pepper jack, lettuce, and jalapeño aioli. That combination packs a great taste which is not overpoweringly spicy, instead lending flavors a’plenty to the burger. As a side, I selected a cheesy medley of tri-color cauliflower (purple, green, white) which was well-flavored and a great accompaniment for those wanting a vegetable with their burger. That was plenty of food to eat, and the waiters and waitresses were polite and social (a great combination). Those meal components and the well-lit ambiance were all satisfying components of a great meal. I will state that the one thing I didn’t particularly like was the superb acoustics which amplified the sound of a large group of chatty pharmaceutical professionals. Apparently, you can’t hear others when the restaurant hosts musicians which isn’t good for socializing; however, the ambiance overrides that qualm for me.
After the meal, things turned south when I decided to view the Westin Nashville’s rooftop lounge. Upon arriving at the top floor, I was informed that the hotel has a “no camera” policy. I would need to leave my camera with them (not check the camera; leave it). The fact that I was onsite essentially doing free promotion for the business didn’t matter. I received a nonchalant, unfeeling shrug of the shoulders to that fact. I left very unimpressed with the rooftop aspect of the business and especially the final nonverbal response to me. Couple that with the standard Nashville parking prices ($14 for 2 hours in nearby lot) and the fact that the J.W. Marriott hotel under construction next door has left the area rather messy, and I probably won’t be back. There are many rooftops in Nashville with great views which are not difficult with which to work. Those rooftops will soon include the J.W. Marriott hotel which will (from what I understand) be a taller next door building that partially obscures the Westin Nashville’s views when complete.
Verdict? Solid burger/restaurant. For me, construction and bureaucracy make the hotel not worth the out-of-the-way visit to SoBro. If you happen to be in the area, feel free to visit the social lounge; just avoid the rooftop.
Here’s the meal lineup for under $20.00:
- Black Hawk Farms Burger
- Tri-Color Cauliflower Gratin
Day 3 – Hoss’ Loaded Burgers: Red, White, & Blue Burger
Our food truck entry to Nashville Burger Week is from Hoss’ Loaded Burgers, one of the premiere trucks floating around Nashville. I don’t frequent food trucks much (tracking them down near me is a hassle), but I decided to seek out Hoss’ for this event. Fifteen miles away from home, I located their workmanlike truck. Their burgers are “loaded” via a Jucy Lucy-style preparation, and melted cheese in the middle of almost anything is a winner in my book. The Nashville Burger Week special was the Red, White, & Blue Burger (representing hot sauce, buttermilk ranch, and blue cheese stuffing); and I ordered a side of Parmesan fries to complete the meal. If you order your burger well done like me, you won’t need to do so here. It was perfectly cooked with no pink meat to be found. Incredibly flavorful with a rich smokiness, the flavor profile completes itself with counterbalancing sauces and a slightly sour but rich kick from the cheese. The burger was impressive enough that it could be dangerous to my waistline in the future if they setup a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Verdict? You won’t regret ordering a smokey, grilled burger here! But maybe just wait until it’s at an event you are also attending.
Here’s the meal lineup for under $10.00:
- Red, White, & Blue Burger
- Parmesan Fries
Day 4 – Embers Ski Lodge: Blackberry BBQ & Bacon Burger
Who loves blackberries? Who loves BBQ? Who loves bacon? It’s a Triple-B meal; and it is delish at Embers Ski Lodge, one of the unique and fun restaurant options in the trendy 12 South district of Nashville. And Embers Ski Lodge delivered during Nashville Burger week with a savory sandwich that conquered one of my food dislikes–onions. With a heavy assortment of blackberry BBQ sauce, Sriracha deep fried onions, cheddar, and bacon, this burger is a strong contender for one of the best burgers in the city. Succulent, well-cooked, savory. There are a lot of positive adjectives I could use to describe this burger. The best would be skillfully-crafted simply due to the fact that the flavors blend so well together. I was immediately impressed how Embers made me like onions; that takes a high level of skill. If you don’t believe that, ask my mother. This burger skips ahead and becomes one of the top options in my Nashville burger experience!
Coupled with the burger was steak rangoon which was great but not my favorite side of the Nashville Burger Week selections. With a blend of steak, BBQ sauce, and cream cheese deep fried in a wonton to be dipped in a side of spicy sauce, it was a solid accompaniment. It’s worth a try when you come, especially if you like crab rangoon, BBQ, and steak.
Verdict? You need to try this burger. Need. (Even you fellow onion-haters.)
Here’s the meal lineup for under $10.00:
- Blackberry BBQ & Bacon Burger
- Steak Rangoon
Day 5 – Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint: The Danny Laruso
Burger Day 5, and I’m still alive. I’m sure my cholesterol is sky high but so are my taste buds. That makes things equal and perfectly fine, right?
Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint keeps the good times rolling by featuring a Nashville Burger Week option from it’s regular menu–the Danny Laruso. Sweet and savory, the Wagyu beef burger pairs perfectly with cream cheese and a jalapeño jelly designed for sugar and spice. (It’s everything nice.) The heat kick is minimal, and the sweetness will leave you wanting another burger. I met a new fan (hi, Dori!) who recommended the Cowboy for next time. If the Danny Laruso is any indication, it will deliver all the best goods straight to your burgeoning tummy. The chefs at this place, I swear, aim to kill you with a delicious coronary.
Equally delicious are the sweet potato fries paired with an onion-garlic aioli which I devoured a shade too quickly. (Oh if there had only been more…! Noticing a pattern of wanting more yet?) The fries are crispy, hot, fresh, and crinkle cut and satisfy your Southern fried potato needs.
I didn’t try the beer (not a beer drinker), but the restaurant seems to have an extensive selection. Save room for that and a $1.00 deep fried Oreo (you know, to satisfy your carnival cravings)!
Verdict? One of the best burgers, and now a go-to spot for me!
Here’s the meal lineup for under $15.00:
- Danny Laruso Burger
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Deep Fried Oreo
Day 6 – The Slider House: “Two Sliders”
Two Sliders–a minimalist burger name for two diminutive sliders that pack tons of flavor in two small packages. With spicy mustard, white BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, pepper jack cheese, and candied bacon on a pretzel bun, this restaurant included enough ingredients to aim for a top competitive slot against the other burger week restaurants. The tanginess of the white BBQ sauce shines in combination with the spicy mustard, and the pint-sized patties are meaty and juicy. Unfortunately, The Slider House had no pretzel buns when I sampled their special. From what I heard, those only added greatness to the plate.
I coupled my sliders with–finally–finding my perfect jam of sweet potato fries and sauce. I had a place in Nashville that served that perfect combination for me in fries and honey mustard; they stopped selling them, and my heart broke asunder. The Slider House puts this Southern staple back in my wheelhouse with a sturdy fry and tang-a-rific “horsey” sauce.
Verdict? The sliders were close to some of the great burgers I tried, and they are worth the visit. However, they don’t represent the top burger of the week. The fries though…WOW!
Here’s the meal lineup for under $15.00:
- White BBQ & Spicy Mustard Sliders
- Sweet Potato Fries
Conclusions (coming soon…!)
Have you had any Nashville Burger Week experiences? Or Nashville Burger experiences? Comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Until next time…toodles!