by Ian McNulty
Burgers in New Orleans once followed two basic types: the thin (see Bud’s Broiler) and the fat (see Port of Call and its numerous imitators). Now, the “better burger” trend is bringing many new options, so whether you’re a Five Guys gal, a fan of the grass-fed beef at Cowbell or a devotee to the precisely engineered examples at the Company Burger there is a lot more on the table.
The latest salvo in the city’s burger boom, however, is pulling out all the stops. Charcoal’s Gourmet Burger Bar is a two-story restaurant with a build-your-own format, a huge menu and a catalog of bells and whistles big enough for any two or three concepts.
Things get started with 10 types of patties, so if the “house beef blend,” the veggie burger or even the shrimp burger gets old you can try out venison, bison, elk or antelope burgers. Next you pick your bun (four options), but you’re nowhere near done because the various toppings range from aged goat cheese and gorgonzola piccante to fresh herbs, tasso and four types of bacon (conventional, boar, turkey or praline).
Salads follow a similar format, though with somewhat different ingredients and the kitchen cuts its own fries and potato chips for sides, serving some of these in little stainless steel fryer baskets. Meat and cheese plates, sliders, boudin balls and headcheese with Louisiana caviar are all among the appetizer options.
The tasso, boudin and other Cajun flavors are a nod to the upbringing of owners Blaine Prestenbach and Craig Walker Jr., who both hail from Houma. While developing Charcoal’s they also opened a pair of businesses in the French Quarter — a small diner called Somethin’ Else Café and a market called Vieux Carre Seafood & Meats.
Charcoal’s is a big, multi-level restaurant that presents still more choices even in its layout. The first floor has counter service and views in to the open kitchen while the second floor has table service, a bar and access to a wrap-around balcony. It has a contemporary look with plenty of detailed touches worked into the operation, from custom-built cypress furniture to wine buckets if you want a bottle of Chardonnay with your turkey burger.
Charcoal’s Gourmet Burger Bar serves lunch and dinner daily.
Charcoal’s Gourmet Burger Bar
2200 Magazine St., (504) 644-4311
Somethin' Else Café
620 Conti St., (504) 373-6439
Vieux Carré Seafood & Meats
1015 Iberville St., (504) 265-8462