In the spring of 2010, Chef Ryan Trimm opened Sweet Grass in the heart of the Cooper Young. Word spread quickly and reservations quickly became the only way to secure a table. Soon after, Sweet Grass expanded its space and opened Next Door with a more relaxed atmosphere and a less expensive, lighter pub type menu featuring a great crafted beer selection and of course, the pimento cheeseburger. There’s plenty of bar and table seating and a small room in the back for private parties. Next Door is open for lunch Friday – Sunday and daily from 5 – 11 pm. Sweet Grass and Next Door are also Project Green Fork certified, meaning they contribute to a sustainable Mid-South by helping reduce environmental impacts. The criteria to be PGF certified are impressive and gives Sweet Grass and Next Door extra points in my book.
This week I had the pleasure of joining Noah Shrader for lunch at Next Door. For Weeks, Noah has been answering many of my burger tweets with, “Have you tried the pimento cheeseburger from Next Door yet?” It’s been entertaining in a cat-and-mouse game kind of way. I eat a burger and Noah asks about Next Door. Beside Noah, the Next Door burger has been recommended by some of my other favorite tweople, @VanitySized and @kristinirene. Finally Noah made the offer to treat me to lunch. I couldn’t refuse and I thank him again for an awesome lunch and chat at a great spot in Midtown Memphis’ best eating and entertainment neighborhood.
I only worked till noon this past Friday and with a little arm twisting from Noah, I started with a Sea Dog Wild Blueberry Wheat crafted beer from Bangor, ME. It was fantastic. It was lite, sweet, crisp and just a perfect summer beer. Had I not had to run back to my office and grab my laptop and then pick the kids up at school, I could had easily enjoyed a couple more.
Okay, it was time to order lunch. I will be the first to admit that pimento cheese does nothing for me and I was tempted to just ask for it on the side. But then I thought, heck, if the chef put it on the menu, it must be good. And in the name of staying true to the burger blog, I was going to order it, no questions asked. My only request to the server was to please ask the chef to prepare my burger medium.
The Next Door pimento cheeseburger is probably one of the most beautiful burgers I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. The plating presentation was second to none. The first thing I noticed was the pimento cheese. It wasn’t at all what I expected. It was cooked perfectly on the burger patty. If I had to guess, I’d say the chef, took the burger off the grill, added pimento cheese and melted and browned it briefly under a broiler. The sight was simply mouth-watering. I also noticed the freshness of the vegetable toppings. The tomato was a brilliant color of red. The thickly sliced red onion rings were a deep shade of purple and hit my nose as the plate was placed in front of me. The lettuce was a mix of salad greens that looked freshly picked. But what stood out the most were the thin pickle slices that were obviously homemade. They had a great dill flavor with a sweetness to them unlike anything you’d get out of a jar. Best tasting pickle slices I’ve ever had and a great accompaniment to the pimento cheeseburger. This magnificence was all served on a thick toasted homemade sourdough bun that held all the aforementioned toppings and the burger together through my last bite.
While the 8 oz pimento cheeseburger patty was big and thick, the fully constructed burger with all the toppings added easily stood no less than 5 inches tall from bun to bun. It was a sight to behold. Once I put it all together and took a couple of pictures, I put a little “mash” on the bun and juices just poured out of the burger. I could tell this was going to be a good one. Now if I could only figure out how to unhinge my jaw. Like my trip to Stuffy’s, I again found a way.
My first bite was a slight let down. The burger was overcooked. Instead of it being served medium, like I requested, it was cooked somewhere between medium-well and well. It really makes me wonder if when a customer tells a server they want a burger cooked to a certain temperature, does that message ever get relayed to the kitchen. However, any disappointment I had didn’t last long. The burger was loaded with flavor. You couldn’t miss the pimento cheese taste and all the freshness of those gorgeous vegetable toppings with the pickles standing out the most. There was a really nice texture going on, which I attribute to the awesome sourdough bun, the cheeseburger and those crisp fresh veggies. Everything just worked well together and got even tastier with each bite.
Noah ordered us a big side of fries. And when I say big, there was nothing about them that was small. Out came a large bowl with big seasoned potato wedges that I’d argue were as good as any fries in Memphis. I got so consumed in the burger that I was unable to do much damage to the fries. Unfortunately for those fries, Noah was all over them. Really good stuff!
I give the Next Door pimento cheeseburger 4 out of 5 Stars. Everything about the burger was top notch. I wouldn’t call it the Best Memphis Burger, but I will say that if you’re in the Cooper Young area around lunch time, this is a burger not to be missed.
Sweet Grass Next Door
937 South Cooper Street
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.