Since launching this site last month, one of the most suggested burgers has been the Soul Burger from Earnestine & Hazel’s. Two or three more pings for me to review the Soul Burger came in over the weekend, and when another arrived in my Inbox Monday night, I texted Big Tim. I told him I was ready for my first Earnestine & Hazel’s Soul Burger. He replied right away, “I’m in.” Good news! After 16 years in Memphis, I was finally going to visit Earnestine and Hazel’s on South Main and eat a famous Soul Burger.
About 12:30 pm, this past Tuesday, we hopped in Tim’s truck and rolled down Union Avenue on our way to Earnestine & Hazel’s. We parked in front of very cool empty lot separating them from a neighboring clothing store. The lot is surrounded on three sides by brick walls and maintains several remnants of whatever once stood there. It seems to be a downtown favorite for wedding and engagement photo shoots. The lot and Earnestine & Hazel’s were recently used for the filming of a FreeSol video with Justin Timberlake.
Walking into Earnestine & Hazel’s is like stepping into a scene from a B-movie zombie set, without the zombies. It’s seedy, dimly lit, dingy and unkempt. There’s randomly exposed brick all around the bar where pieces of plaster have chipped away. You can see broken blades of old fans still hanging from the original ceiling. Other than the small 27″ tube TV above the bar, the 1950’s light fixtures and the very cool jukebox, that’s rumored to be haunted, the whole place looks and feels like a worn-out page from the early 1900’s. You really can’t get a true feeling for the atmosphere of Earnestine & Hazel’s until you go there. A twitter friend says, “Describing that place is like trying to describe to someone outside the South the difference between wet/dry rub BBQ.”
There’s a lot of history at Earnestine & Hazel’s. It’s been a drugstore, a brothel and a bar. The upstairs rooms each seem to tell their own story. If you visit on a weekend night, Nate, an older gentleman working there will tell you stories of Earnestine & Hazel’s history throughout the years. Of course if you look hard enough, you just may see one of the several ghosts said to still wander both upstairs and down. Upstairs Ghost Tours are available upon request.
I ordered the Soul Burger with cheese, onion, pickle and mustard. While it was being prepared, I took a tour of the bar area and upstairs. As I mentioned above, the upstairs of Earnestine & Hazel’s is a sight to be seen. When I came back down and into the bar area, I saw my burger on the griddle sizzling away. The smell was awesome. I watched them hit it a couple of times with their own sauce from a squeeze diner-like condiment bottle. Whatever it was probably gave the burger all that “Soul” flavor. My Soul Burger was served in an oval basket with a side of Golden Flake potato chips. It was a delicious burger. They say the Soul Burger tastes best after a night out. I say it was awfully good at 12:40 in the afternoon too. The onion, which I’m glad I ordered, was grilled right next to the burger and also full of the same flavor.
The Soul Burger is pretty thin. It wasn’t overly juicy, but it had this great flavor that had a slight hint of Worcestershire. Perhaps it’s an ingredient of the Soul sauce. Whatever it was, it worked very well and tasted so good. I ordered a single and could have easily put away another one. If you’re hungry, make sure you get the double Soul Burger. I have no complaints about the burger or the bun. This was a real treat. One of my top choices.
I give the Earnestine & Hazel’s Soul Burger 4 out of 5 stars. It wasn’t my favorite Memphis burger, but it’s up there. A good burger all around and very inexpensive. Who’s up for a 2 am bite and Ghost Tour?
Earnestine & Hazel’s
531 S Main St
Memphis, TN 38103
If you have a favorite burger that you think is Memphis’ best or that I need to try and review, please drop a note in my suggestion box.