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BY SCOTT AND JESSICA (Guest Reviewers)
|Bar||Silverware||Marathon Burger||Truffle Fries||Turkey Burger|
2901 12th South
Nashville, TN 37204
$20 per person with tip
One of the surest parts of belonging to any community is having a go-to burger place. When we moved to Nashville in 2010, it was one of the most lacking parts of being new in the city. When you’re sitting on the couch and just want a good burger, you need a place off-hand that you don’t even have to think about—a place you know will deliver time and again.
Burger Up, a Nashville original, is that place, for us and for thousands. Located in Nashville’s 12 South neighborhood, Burger Up has become a neighborhood mainstay and the heartbeat of a growing community of local, sustainable restaurants that are taking root in Music City. Since it opened in 2010, Burger Up has left me searching for the right word to describe its $11 and $12 burgers. Gourmet? With its picnic seating, hand-towel napkins and milk-jug water pitchers, Burger Up would scoff at gourmet.
Whatever label you assign it, one thing is for sure: Burger Up does burgers as well as any restaurant in this city, and probably a few others, while straddling the delicate space of upscale food in an approachable, non-pretentious atmosphere. When you walk in, the first thing you see is an elegant bar, then the dining room: a handful of picnic-length tables with community bench seating. Don’t expect a private two-top in the corner. Burger Up is a community restaurant, and that’s whom you’ll be eating with.
There are a handful of appetizers, salads, and a couple sandwiches available, but the undisputed star of Burger Up’s menu is, well, the burgers. From the Triple L Classic (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, yellow cheddar, yellow mustard) to the Woodstock (bacon, cheddar, Jack Daniel’s maple ketchup) to the Pimento Cheese Burger, Chili Burger, Bison Burger, and Lamb Burger, the focus is on flavor. I’ve had the Woodstock, the Triple L Classic, and the last two times I’ve been I’ve had the Turkey Burger, with avocado, caramelized red onions, mayonnaise, romaine, and tomato. It’s definitely my favorite…I think.
Fries at a burger place are crucial. Here, they come in a metal cup with a house-made ketchup, and for $1 they’ll finish them off in a delightfully greasy truffle oil, with a house-made aioli.
The atmosphere at Burger Up weds Southern comfort with an upscale, modern feel. Though the intimidating crowds and often-highbrow clientele might tell you differently, it’s really not a place to be afraid of. Elegant floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking 12th Avenue flood the room with natural light, and large wooden beams promote a rustic feel.
Understand: when you go to Burger Up, you’ll probably have to wait, and you’ll pay more than $25 for two burgers. Whether that’s worth it is up to you. To me, Burger Up is a treasure in the heart of Nashville, and they do just enough of the little things to make it so. On our last trip, I looked around while we waited on our food, literally searching for a reason to take points off, and I saw a server, in an idle moment, polishing off ketchup bottles by the bar. The little things.
And really that’s the point. Burger Up is about celebrating the little things that connect us, both to food and to people. When the restaurant’s owner experienced a personal tragedy earlier this year, the neighborhood overwhelmed her with support. The restaurant was embraced like family, because that’s what it feels like. Now they’re back on their feet, the doors are open, the grills are firing, and Nashville is all the better for it.
Finding a truly great veggie burger can often be next to impossible. Between the frozen soy and who-knows-what-else patties and the occasional restaurant chain making an all-too-often failed attempt to accommodate their vegetarian patrons, a vegetarian going out for a “burger” tends to be a lackluster and unpalatable event. Thankfully, Burger Up ticks all the boxes with their Marathon Burger when it comes to flavor and texture.
What makes the Marathon different from most of the veggie burgers I’ve had is that they have found the perfect consistency. Many times I’ve ordered veggie burgers that have completely deteriorated in my hands within two bites and I’m reduced to eating a pile of rice and mushed beans with a fork—which is, in a word, tragic. I’ve also had the unpleasant experience at lesser establishments, whereupon reading the menu, there’s no explanation as to what the veggie burger is comprised of, and upon asking the waiter, it becomes apparent they have little idea as well (which says to me, it came frozen in a cardboard box).
The main components of Burger Up’s veggie patty are quinoa and black beans, which provide that meaty texture that’s both delicious and satisfying. The menu clearly states what is in the patty as well as the accompanying toppings. It comes with a lime crème fraiche (divine), lettuce, tomato and red onion that perfectly complements the black beans as well as elevates the overall flavor. I opted to add avocado to my burger, which leads to my one and only complaint. For $1.50 add on, I expected a little more than four tiny slivers of avocado that could barely cover half of one side of the patty, and much less even be tasted. But like I said, it’s an optional add-on. Outside of that, pair with a delicious cocktail and their rock-star house fries and you’ve got one of the best meals in all of Nashville. Not in the mood for a carb-heavy bun? No fears, you can enjoy the Marathon patty atop any of their seven equally delicious salads.
Another thing I love about Burger Up is their transparency. Adorning their dining room wall is a giant chalkboard that not only lists their specials for that day, but also a long list made up of all the local vendors and farmers they support, including Triple L Ranch, Hatcher Dairy, Tennessee Sweet Water Cheddar and Howell Farms.
It’s nice, for a change, to find a burger joint that doesn’t neglect their local vegetarian community. Big on taste, even bigger on quality, and in the heart of a close-knit community that loves their burgers, Burger Up delivers time after time. It’s the one and only veggie burger I crave.