Burgers Off the Beaten Path: Samburger
On Thursday of last week, I drove all the way out to Bunker Hill and Longpoint to check out a taco truck called "Tacosway," complete with ripped-off Subway logo in that familiar green and yellow font. I was as amused by the copyright infringement as I was by the play on words: When you say "Tacosway" out loud, it sounds like "tacos, güey" (a.k.a. "tacos, dude" in English.)
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt Pictured: disappointment.
I pulled up to find Tacosway inexplicably closed at lunchtime that day, but found succor in the comforting embrace of an old friend down the street: Refresqueria Rio Verde.
I wish I could say the same about the next day's visit to Samburger, where excitement over thoughts of its deep-fried corn on the cob and livery little boudin balls turned to disappointment as I pulled in and found that my two favorite items were no longer on the menu.
I remembered, suddenly and sharply, my friend Mark emailing me almost a year ago to let me know that our mutual favorites had been removed from Samburger's menu. An attempt to focus on the burgers, or some such nonsense.
Samburger in better days.
Why? I thought, exasperated. The burgers were never the selling point anyway.
Still, I didn't want to waste my lunch trip over to the Fifth Ward and so I ordered a double cheeseburger with a side of chili-cheese fries and a Diet Coke, intending on picnicking at the tidy, inviting Kress Lyons Park across the street.
Samburger has no dining room, although it does offer three cute, red picnic tables out front -- all of which were full on a sunny, cool Friday afternoon despite doing mostly drive-thru and take-out business.
I unwrapped my cheeseburger with caution, as I didn't remember being particularly impressed with it during my initial visit three years ago. I was pleasantly surprised to find a very decent fast food-style burger in the foil wrapper, however. The patties were a bit rubbery and clearly frozen but nicely seasoned, while the crispy produce made up for the texture of the meat. I was particularly impressed with the gooey cheese and soft sesame seed bun, neither of which seemed to belong on a fast food burger.
Acceptable cheeseburger, inexplicably terrible chili-cheese fries.
The chili-cheese fries were another story altogether, though. The watery chili tasted of stale spices and the stadium nacho cheese on top was so bland it could have been cleverly disguised, orange-colored caulk for all I knew. Worse, the frozen fries were barely cooked through. I tossed the entire horrid affair after two bites -- which was fine, really, as the double cheeseburger was more than large enough for a full meal.
My Diet Coke, I was equally disappointed to find, was actually a Diet Pepsi. It smelled and tasted like a wet piece of cardboard, and followed the chili-cheese fries into the metal garbage can at Kress Lyons Park.
Is driving out to Samburger even worth it anymore, now that the once-fun menu has been so mainstreamed, now that the corn and boudin have suffered such an ignominious fate? The burgers are good and inexpensive, but that's not enough of a draw in a burger-centric city such as ours. I'm willing to bet the burgers a few blocks away at The Nickel are much better -- and just as cheap.
And not only does The Nickel serve excellent homemade sausage and smoked brisket, it serves boudin too.
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