Other than P&H, Lamplighter and Neil’s which burned down, I thought I’d covered just about every burger in Midtown. And then Sunday morning comes along and my Social Media rockstar friend, Liz Jostes, starts tweeting about brunch at Cafe Eclectic. Somewhere between here and there, a black bean burger was mentioned and the Best Memphis Burger twitter account was brought into the chat. If I recall, they were twittering about black bean wraps, and I commented something like, “Where’s the Beef?” Without missing a beat, the Cafe Eclectic Twitter account came right back with, “the beef is on our Claybrook Farms burger, served on our homemade bun.” What was so funny about that reply is that the next night I had plans to meet one of the Claybrook Farms owners, Mike Rice, to talk about an upcoming event that I still can’t talk about on the blog.
Fast forward 36 hours and I’m meeting with Mike and Allison Jacob, my burger, wing and wine friend. She and I are both getting schooled all about breading and raising Angus cattle and the many things that go into making the Claybrook Farms meat taste as good as it does. We begin talking about the number of Memphis restaurants that Claybrook Farms supplies and then Mike drops the name, Cafe Eclectic. I mentioned the Twitter chat with Liz and Cafe Eclectic that I had the day before. Just then, Mike reaches in his pocket and pulls out his iPhone. A few taps and swipes later, he places a picture in front of me that literally took my breath away. Telling you it was a burger would do this grilled artwork no justice whatsoever. This “burger” is an off the menu chef special called the Boss Burger and It was as stunning as it was huge. Two full sized patties, fresh red onion, tomato, pickle, green leaf lettuce and three pieces of Cafe Eclectic Egg Bun. WOW. Allison and I took one look at that picture and and in unison turned to each other and said two words, “Lunch. Tomorrow.”
As bad luck would have it, Allison and I couldn’t coordinate our lunch hours for this burger, but Big Tim, my burger buddy, took one look at the Boss Burger picture and cleared his schedule without thinking twice. The two of us called up a third friend, Jesse, who’d eaten with me at Three Angels, Bleu, and Burley’s. He’s also one the head cooks on Tangled Up in Que, my Memphis in May BBQ Team and a Memphis City School fellow sidewalk camper. I know him real well and I know what kind of burger he likes. This was one he wouldn’t want to miss.
With Tim and Jesse on board for lunch, I started tweeting with Cafe Eclectic and Chef AJ Saum to let them know we had a small posse coming. Right away I got their reply acknowledging our plans to come in and lay eyes on the Boss Burger. Sure enough no sooner did we arrive, we had a private audience with Chef AJ. Okay, a private audience may be a bit of a stretch, but AJ did sit down at our table for a few minutes to talk with us about Cafe Eclectic, burgers, Claybrook Farms beef and street festival ideas. When we asked about the Boss Burger, he told us that including the bun and toppings, we were looking at about 2.5 pounds of burger. A quick reality check told us that there was no way any of us would successfully be able to eat it. AJ didn’t back down though. He said he’d make one anyway, just so we could see it up close and take pictures for the site. He said he had four servers on the floor who’d be happy to eat it when we were done admiring it. How could we refuse an offer like that.
We went ahead and ordered our lunches while we waited out the arrival of the Boss Burger. Tim went with the Pub Burger, a Claybrooks Farms black angus patty marinated in Guinness beer, and topped with smoked cheddar and a medley of Guinness marinated mushrooms and caramelized onions served on a homemade egg bun. Jesse ordered The Hamburger, a Claybrooks Farms black angus patty served on a homemade egg bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and cheese. While the Pub Burger was calling my name, JJ’s Patty Melt was screaming it. It is also was served with a Claybrooks Farms black angus patty, but on homemade ciabatta with provolone, spicy mayo, and caramelized onions.
A little while after we ordered, our server brought out a masterpiece that no words could truly describe. Only seeing is believing. It was the Boss Burger, and it was awesome! The Boss was assembled and loaded from top to bottom with green leaf lettuce, fresh tomato, thick sharp cheddar, bacon, onion and pickles. It was Boss for sure! This double burger monster was literally 7-8 inches tall and held together only by a long wooden skewer. As amazing as it looked, I think we all breathed a small sigh of relief that no one was going to have to eat this mammoth gut buster. It may not be the Kookamonga, but it’s a Man v. Food candidate all in itself.
Although we were a little sad to see the Boss Burger taken away to feed the Cafe Eclectic staff, we knew we still had some burgers that we would get to eat heading our way. We thought that nothing that could top the magnificence of what we’d just had sitting on our table. Man, were we wrong. Out of the kitchen came our three burgers. Each one looked better than the next. There wasn’t going to be any loser at Cafe Eclectic that day, and no one was leaving hungry.
All three burgers were all cooked spot on and the presentation was beautiful. The sides taters were steaming hot. We couldn’t wait to get up in these burgers. I’m going to say it now and you can call it a pitch for Claybook Farms if you want. If you want a good burger (I mean a really good burger), you have to use good ground beef. Whatever Mike Rice is doing up at Claybrook Farms, it’s working. The taste and texture of these burgers were second to none. The beauty though is, other than a little bit of salt and pepper, they were barely seasoned. The meat is rich, and buttery tasting. It was juicy and full of great ground angus beef flavor. My patty melt was so good, I could swear I hear myself making little noises of pure joy as I ate. The Spicy mayo was delicious and just complimented the provolone which was awesome under those caramelized onions. The homemade ciabatta bread just sealed the deal. So much flavor and awesomeness in one burger. Seriously, one of the best burgers I’ve had. Top 3 for sure. Collectively, Tim, Jesse and I couldn’t find one thing wrong with the burger. It was just a moment of bovine joy.
If I had to find a something wrong with the meal as a whole, I’d say it was the potatoes. Wait, don’t read into this the wrong way. They were delicious diced and baked white and sweet potato chunks seasoned with fresh rosemary. Maybe the sweet potatoes could have been more crisp, but the taste and flavor were all there. I just happen to be a fries guy. If I’m having a burger, I want fries. If you offer me chips, I’d rather have fries. If you make delicious seasoned taters, I’ll still prefer fries. That’s just how I roll.
I give the Cafe Eclectic JJ’s Patty Melt 4.5 out of 5 stars. A top candidate for Best Memphis Memphis Burger. I wish I visited them sooner.
603 North McLean Boulevard
Memphis, TN 38107
If you have a favorite burger that you think is Memphis’ best and should be reviewed on Best Memphis Burger, please drop a note in the suggestion box. If you’re interested in guest posting your favorite burger, send an email and let us know why.
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Good Lord. When I was in Memphis two years ago, I went to Cafe Eclectic and I had a bowl of porridge. Porridge. And a doughnut. Now I've seen this, I'm not going to be able to sleep nights.
I'm re-posting the pic of Fresh Slice's burger. For some reason, the original link didn't "hypertext" properly. I hope this works.
I'm glad you finally made it to Cafe Eclectic. The burgers there are among the city's best and I agree with just about everything in your review, especially the meat that the cafe uses. With the right choice of ground beef, even the simplest burger can taste great.
Speaking of great tasting burgers, I hope you visit Fresh Slices Sidewalk Cafe & Deli soon. The cafe's burgers are among my favorites, especially the Deluxe Bacon Cheeseburger. Although your opinion may differ, it's one of the few places that I like better than Cafe Eclectic as far burgers go.
Anyway, congrats on a great review.
kensfoodfind I've been to Fresh Slices in Mid-Town. I held off on a review because some dude, who swore it was his absolute end-all favorite burger, was going to do a guest post for the site. I guess that never materialized. I'm not going to say much in this thread because I don't want to distract from the awesomeness of the cafeeclectic burgers. For now I'll just respectfully disagree and say we're talking about two completely different burgers from the Major League and the Minor League, with Cafe Eclectic being the Major League. I guess I'll have to pull out my notes and write the review or go back to "freshen" up my recollection.