Downtown. Joachim and Dauphin. The city doesn’t sleep much at this corner. It has been an important food spot ever since I moved here almost two decades ago. For the longest it was Picklefish, then a short lived Hopjacks. Now we know it as the LoDa Bier Garten.
LoDa first hit the scene with a tremendous amount of beers and the first non-pizza menu this joint has seen in my time. With a decent amount of German inspired snacks and entrees the downtown taproom has since shifted its focus to designer hamburgers. They are keeping some of their favorites, but burgers are now definitely the star of the show.
I first had one at a gig and thought, “Hey, I better pay attention to these guys.” All of the burger names have some Mobile-related monikers and the bleu cheese baby I first tried is known as the Courthouse. It blew me away. My next visit I encountered a burger with fried macaroni and cheese. I recognized the size was too much, even for my not very lanky frame, so Kelley and I split one. But I knew right away I must come back and review some more of these babies.
If you need someone to help you take down a massive burger there is only one man you should call. A man with a thirst for beer and an appetite for beef like no other. It’s been a while since he tagged along, but I am of course talking about the man who needs no introduction but has already received one, Mr. Bubble.
Our old husky buddy picked me up one Thursday night for a trip to the familiar intersection. We bellied up to the bar as the first NFL game of the year hit the big screen TV. About that time my old high school chum Parker walked in and the night got even better. Sitting at the bar I realized there could not be a more different trio of people dining together. There are a few similarities between us, but the important thing tonight was we were going to celebrate our differences by sampling a lot more different food than we originally planned.
Right off the bat we were sharing some very good appetizers. Mama’s pretzel bites ($6) are pretzel nuggets stuffed with Bavarian bratwurst and served with aged cheddar and Abita Amber cheese sauce. You won’t regret ordering this one. Matter of fact, this may be one of my favorite snacks there.
They aren’t afraid to experiment with different ideas over there. Buffalo chicken Rangoons ($8) are a fusion success. Shredded white meat chicken mixed with mild buffalo sauce and a three cheese blend fried up into a Rangoon is a winner in my book. We aren’t even to the burgers and these guys were knocking it out of the park. We had to slow down, though. We were about to face a mean amount of meat.
Let’s begin this beefy journey with a burger called Bienville ($11). We’re talking about Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce, teriyaki, pineapple and jalapenos. Swiss cheese, bacon, and romaine top this with sweet chili aioli. It sounds like an overly sweet sandwich, but trust me, it isn’t. The bacon and the slight heat counteract the sweetness and you don’t get that Hawaiian burger feel. It’s a very original taste. We got this one with torpedo fries, which are battered, corkscrew bits of goodness.
Bacon mushroom Swiss will always be a popular burger. LoDa Bier Garten ups the ante with their Saenger ($12). What separates this monster from other BMS burgers is the mushroom. Yes, I said mushroom, singular. It’s an entire portabella mushroom cap. You can’t argue with it. Why deal in little button mushroom slices? Just go large. I ordered a really good hot potato salad as the side. I thoroughly enjoyed the generous portion of onions adding to the overall flavor.
My favorite of the evening was the RSA Tower ($12). Like our other burgers, this one has bacon. Like our other burgers this one sports Swiss cheese. This one also has braised cabbage and a sunny side up egg with spicy mustard. But here is what made it my favorite: sautéed pickles and onions made this sandwich the best one of the evening. It’s a well put together burger. We also enjoyed more of the braised red cabbage on the side.
Looking back at our evening I realize that every burger we had was loaded with bacon and Swiss cheese. I would say simply if something works, keep using it. I also need to stress the fact that even though we cut these things into three so we could sample each of them, I didn’t finish a single one. I’d be happy splitting a burger and a side. Brioche buns and quality ingredients make LoDa force to be reckoned with in the burger world.
There wasn’t a single complaint from Parker or Bubble. Three extremely different burgers with a few similarities for three extremely different guys with a few similarities is not a bad night for the first NFL game of the year. I’m hoping this corner of Joachim and Dauphin has these guys anchored for years to come. The Courthouse is still my favorite overall burger. Beware of the giant oversized Defibrillator that would even give Adam Richmond a run for his money.
It’s amazing when you ask the staff for their favorite each person rattles off a different burger followed by a backup. It kind of tells me you can’t go wrong. I’ll be back for another.
LoDa Bier Garten
251 Dauphin St.