Over the weekend I got a text message from Big Tim telling me he’d just gotten leads on three great burgers yet to be covered on the site. One was Mortimer’s, which I’ve had on the burger radar for some time now. I’ve just never made it over there. The second lead was Jack’s BBQ which I’d never heard of, but a good rule of this is good burgers and good BBQ often come hand-in-hand. The third lead was the cheeseburger at Al’s Tasty Burger Inn. Over this past year, I’ve received a few emails about Al’s Tasty Burger Inn, but similar to Mortimer’s, the opportunity to go there just never came up. As Tim an I talked about these three places, we determined that Al’s was only a five minute drive from work and we owed it to the blog to get some new places added to the index.
As lunch time came around, we hopped into Tim’s truck and headed out to find Al’s Tasty Burger Inn at 942 EH Crump. Between Tim’s Printed directions and my iPhone GPS, we thought Al’s would be a breeze to find, but that wasn’t the case. We drove back and forth on Crump Blvd, almost circling the block where Al’s was supposed to be, and then Tim spied a sign that read, “burgers.” One U-turn later and a hopped curb later, we were parking in front of a completely faded, Al’s Tasty Burger Inn sign.
As we got out of the car, things got a little confusing. We thought we were walking in to Al’s Tasty Burger Inn, but the writing on the door glass, windows and inside walls all read, Ms. Dee’s. Huh? Where was Al’s? As we approached the counter, Tim and I were greeted by a very nice woman asking if we knew what we wanted. I had to ask, “Is this Al’s Tasty Burger Inn?” She told us Al’s is gone, it’s now Ms. Dee’s. Just then a man sitting at the counter piped in, “apparently Al didn’t pay his taxes.” Mystery solved, I guess. Scratch Al’s Tasty Burger Inn of the list and add Ms. Dee’s.
Ms. Dee’s is a charming little soul food restaurant located on Crump Blvd., just west of Pauline. It looks like a lot of time was spent cleaning up the place when Al’s was closed. The walls appear to be freshly painted, including some hand stroked bible passages around the dining room serving as borders between the walls and ceiling. Ms. Dee’s has about a dozen or so small tables in the dining room and a long counter used for ordering, displaying desserts and for eating. There are cute little signs all around the restaurant the gave me a good laugh and a smile. The two I still remember are, “A well balanced diet is a cookie in each hand” and “A messy kitchen is a happy kitchen, and this kitchen is delirious.” It’s little things like that which really add personality to Ms. Dee’s.
They’re open daily for lunch and dinner and have a very reasonably priced menu featuring barbecue, burgers (of course) and other Soul Food classics.
After some talk with Missy Dees, who is one of Ms. Dee’s owners, Tim and I got down to the business at hand. We wanted some burgers. We both started to order the cheeseBurger combos and then I looked at Tim. “Since when don’t you order a Double?”, I asked. He laughed and changed his order. Missy said, “Are you sure? It’s big!” Tim laugh some more and said to her, “I didn’t get this big by accident. You better give me the double.”
We both skipped the lettuce and tomato and asked for onions and pickles. Tim only wanted mayo and I asked for mayo and mustard. As Missy disappeared into the kitchen area and started working on our burgers, The place started to hop a little bit as several people came in to place orders for lunch. Another gentleman showed up and started helping her take orders, while she attended to the cooking. Meanwhile the smell of burgers cooking started to invade my nostrils. I was pretty excited about this burger. I wondered if maybe we stumbled into another Roxie’s Grocery?
About 10 minutes later Missy Dees reappeared at the counter with two big to-go boxes loaded up with our burgers and fries. We paid in cash (I’m pretty sure right now that’s all they accept) and grabbed a couple of sodas and a bottle of ketchup from the counter. As I finished paying her and had my food in hand, I let her know about the Burger Blog and told her I’d be happy to write up the burger within a few days and help get her listed on Yelp and Urbanspoon. I think she was excited. I know I was pretty excited to join Tim and start eating.
Tim’s Burger was an impressive sized double patty with cheese and grilled onion escaping from under the top bun. It looked ridiculously delicious and made me second guess not ordering a double for myself. The bun reminded me of a fairly simple, jumbo sized Wonder bun, with a nice smear of grease on top of it, perhaps from a spatula. For a minute, I thought I was back at Dyer’s Burgers. Two of my five senses were in total overdrive. It looked as great as it smelled and I couldn’t wait to put sense number three, taste, into play.
For the most part, the burgers didn’t disappoint at all. They were big, hand formed patties that appear to have been cooked on a griddle top or in a skillet. There was some a nice flavor to the meat which I later learned was Ms. Dee’s secret BBQ rub seasoning. However, she wouldn’t tell me what was in it, so I guess you can call that her guarded secret recipe.
The Cheeseburger at Ms. Dee’s isn’t the hot greasy mess I got at Roxie’s and it wasn’t the explosion of juices forcing me to lean way over the table at Interim. Instead it had its own personality between those buns, and although it wasn’t my favorite Memphis burger, I’d happily go back for more.
My only complaints with the burger could both be easily remedied. The first is it wasn’t juicy enough. Missy Dees mentioned that she that she goes the extra mile to make sure her customers don’t get served an overly greasy burger, like Roxie’s. From the way the patty on my burger was broken into a couple pieces, I’m guessing it was the recipient of several good mashes with the spatula while it cooked. I’d argue that a great burger needs to retain some of its cooking juices to keep it from drying out. My other complaint was more of a personal preference. I asked for mustard and I got it. A lot of it. I would have preferred less on the burger and had the option to add more. I take the blame for the one though. I should have been more specific when ordering.
Another highlight in the box were the seasoned crinkle-cut fries. It’s hard for me to not compare dishes when I stumble across something good, and at first glance these fries reminded me of the fries from Ching’s Hotwings. These fries were perfectly crisp, but with a different seasoning that you’d get at Ching’s. Very good fries nonetheless, but again not my favorite. However, in Ms. Dee’s defense, I don’t think anyone will ever beat Ching’s fries. Period! Id you’ve had them, you know what I mean.
One last thing worth mentioning are the fresh homemade cakes at Ms. Dee’s. I had all intentions of ordering a big slice of the caramel cake, that is until I ate a big burger and an order of seasoned fries. I just couldn’t do it. The other cake which I call the Double Chocolate M&M Cake would most likely be a favorite with my 5 year old son. I’m not sure I could handle that much sugar in the afternoon. They sure look good though, don’t they?
Overall I give the Cheeseburger at Ms. Dee’s 3.5 out of 5 stars. It’s a good burger, no doubt. If it had been juicer I would have scored it higher. I encourage everyone to go check out Ms. Dee’s and give a little support to a new family business cooking up some great local treats!
942 East E. H. Crump Boulevard,
Memphis, TN 38104
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