This past friday was a crazy day for me. Not only was I was leaving for a weekend trip with the family and some friends, but I was under the gun to finish up several projects that day at work. Normally I like days where I get so busy that the morning just seems to fly by. This day however was a total blitz of one IT crisis after another, adding even more pressure to meet my other deadlines. When I finally stopped to take a breath, it was already 12:30 and I had a handful of errands to run on my lunch hour. After zipping all over Midtown, I realized I hadn’t eaten yet and was getting hungrier by the minute. That’s when I noticed a couple prime parking spaces at Tops Bar-B-Q on Union Ave.
The funny thing about Tops is I’ve worked around the corner from the Union Ave. location for almost three years and never stepped foot in the door. Two guys at my office swear by the Tops cheeseburger. Confirming that, I’ve had several suggestions made on this site and to me via Twitter that Tops makes a pretty awesome burger. Done. I decided to run in grab a burger and head back to the office.
On days when the wind is not blowing very hard, the aroma of Tops Bar-B-Q is a staple outside of my office. It’s a great smell, one that’s only rivaled by the smell of Bryant’s Breakfast when I drop my kids off at their school on Summer Ave. Tops has been around for just about 60 years and claims to still smoke their BBQ the same was they always have, using hardwood, charcoal, and green hickory wood. I don’t know if they’re a contender in the quest for the best Memphis BBQ, but with all the mentions I’ve received, I was pretty confident I’d be having a burger that was one of Memphis’ best.
I ordered a the single 1/4 lb. cheeseburger combo with everything on it, or “All the Way” as woman who took my order called out to the grill guy. From the counter, I watched them griddle fry my burger from start to finish. Tops uses a fairly thin preformed 1/4 lb. patty, and other than a generous dousing of salt and pepper, I didn’t see any additional seasoning used. They put mayo, pickles, shredded lettuce, tomato and onion on a fresh warmed bun, wrapped it up in some paper and added a toothpick to hold it all together. I also got crinkle-cut fries and a side of coleslaw with my combo. I took the order to go and headed back to work. Since, I’m right around the corner, everything was still nice and hot when I got back to my desk.
The Tops cheeseburger was good, but for me, it wasn’t the grail burger. It just wasn’t extraordinary. It was a really good fast food type burger, thin and salty. Loaded with toppings but lacking in beef. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed eating it and I’m glad to know I can get a good burger that close to work. However in the quest for the Best Memphis Burger, I’d travel just a little further and visit Alex’s Tavern or Burley’s if they every open back up.
The crinkle-cut fries were anything but extraordinary. They weren’t at all crisp and somehow got soggy during the 2 minute drive back to work. Crinkle-cuts aren’t my favorite, but compared to Jerry’s Sno Cones, these weren’t even close.
I know a lot of you really like this burger and I don’t know what to say. I guess it’s just a matter of taste. My preferred burgers are thick and juicy. Tops reminded me a lot of Sweden Kream, just no where near as good.
I give the Tops Bar-B-Q burger 3 out of 5 stars. It just didn’t live up to my expectations as being a Best Memphis Burger.
1286 Union Ave
Memphis, TN 38104
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.