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Cheeseburgers and Beer- Fayetteville's Best and Coldest

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By MAYLON T. RICE

Down Fayetteville’s side roads and in casual conversation with those who are not so rushed and killing a little time, one can often pickup on some really tasty culinary treasures along with some challenges.

Take for instance, where is the coldest beer around?

After last year’s trek to several local beer joints, many of the wider known clubs and restaurants challenged this writer to do the hidden thermometer test at their establishments. Some interesting results were found in this secretly administered taste and temperature test.

And along the way to many sticky bar stools, patrons engaged this writer in rather interesting conversations about the heft, taste and aroma of “a real grilled cheeseburger” and where said tempting and tasty delight could be found. Ah! Another journey on behalf of the Free Weekly. But first, let’s assess the coldest beer in Fayetteville during this less than blistering summer of 2007.

The Coldest Beer in Town
Well it didn’t take long to reassure the folks at The Beer Keg, (on Township, just west of N. College Avenue) and bar owner Max Leichner that it is here that THE COLDEST BOTTLED DOMESTIC BEER in Fayetteville can be found.

The lack of heat and humidity in the Ozarks the early part of this summer, caused one to wonder if the icy bottled brews were indeed still flying out of the coolers – and this answer is yes, sir, they are.

Leichner and his staff, amid their tiny haven filled with Razorback memorabilia, are all geared up for the 2007 Fall Gridiron Campaign. If you don’t love the Hogs and their coach, it would be wise not to park yourself at The Beer Keg, where the beer is a cool 32 to 34 degrees even at a heat of the day mid-afternoon stop.

The regulars still let strangers “in” on what’s been going on. They will always welcome the unfamiliar face and fill them in about the small, connected (like family bar) from their pre-ordained tables and chairs.

These obliging “veterans” of The Beer Keg family (sort of like the old TV show regulars on Cheers) will inform you that “you might have to give up your seat when the “regular” guy comes in.”

The explanation of why some customers prefer certain seats is a little mysterious. “He just likes to sit here. Nothing against you, you see, but he’s in here EVERY day,” one well wishing regular informed this stranger about the sociological sway of decorum of The Beer Keg’s regular patrons.

Another spot where some of the cold beer in town was found last year, has sadly fallen a couple of pegs down the ladder, but it still maintains all it’s rustic charm -the White Star tavern, a true blue-collar bar. The White Star’s beer tested a little, bit warmer this year than last year. Not much has changed as far as interior design at the White Star—some new posters and a new gal behind the bar, at least for this shift. That’s about it.

While some of the White Star regulars tried not to look the same as they did a year or so ago – well – there were still some of the same ones who were spotted the last time a visit was paid.

Maxine’s Tap Room, on Block Street, has rebounded from a devastating fire about two years ago. This writer gave Maxine’s a mention last year on his coldest beer list and will do so again this year. The beer WILL BE cold. By God, Maxine, rest her soul, would not have it any other way. I repeat, the beer will be cold.

Art’s Place on N. College Avenue just a block or two from The Beer Keg had the second coldest beer found this icy-beer scavenging season. The long neck brews were at a constant 34 to 36 degrees when tested. This combo bar and restaurant has some notable character of design and function and it also has some characters of the human race inside on the sunny summer afternoon of the test. But what matters most—the beer was indeed cold and the atmosphere was indeed pleasant.

The domestic bottled beer at Roger’s Rec – ah, yes, that venerable Dickson Street hangout and pool hall—was some of the coldest as well. The beer, quickly temp tested, came in at a chilling 35 to 37 degrees.

A quick walk up Dickson Street and around the area to test some other haunts proved that Roger’s was not alone. Uncle Gaylord’ Mountain Cafe, much to this writer’s delight, had some of the coldest beer sampled. The domestic bottles were served promptly and a bone-chillin’ 34 to 37 degrees.

As much a part of Dickson Street as the old Santa Fe Railroad Station across the street, George’s Majestic Lounge, rounded out the very coldest list. The brews served up there were a chilly 35 to 37 degrees.

Others that offered some good cold brews were Jose’s (inside), The Dart Room, Cafe Rue Orleans, Herman’s and Hooter’s. Another list for cold ones: The Billiard Palace, College Inn, Electric Cowboy, Dickson Theater, Grub’s and both Flying Burrito locations.

Two of Fayetteville’s newest spots where you can find good cold beer are The Crown Pub, a tiny little spot on Dickson Street, and the new Hog Town Pizza on Razorback Road. The Crown Pub—for you longtime Dickson Street watchers— was once home to the Reptile Museum. The Pub’s less than cool air conditioning on the day of the test didn’t help the testing process, but the beer was sure enough cold. And that’s a good thing.

On to the Cheeseburgers
While the debate rages on about the coldest beer in town, let’s move the discussion to the where to find the elusive, delicious and best cheeseburger in town.

Cheeseburger. Cheeseburger. The late Saturday Night Live actor, John Belushi started it—his comic rendition of the immigrant cook, who only knew a smattering of English. The bit went like this: The waitress would take an order and yell it to Belushi who would always roar back: “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger.”

So off we go on the hunt for Fayetteville’s best cheeseburger. And as a disclaimer to all the true “fast food” spots out there – only a few will make this list.

What makes a good cheeseburger? Well, it is more than the patty of ground beef. It is more than the “fixins” which vary greatly. For this quest we’ll stick with a standard of lettuce and a slice of tomato as the basis for our research. Onions on cheeseburgers, you see, is an acquired taste.

In Fayetteville there are some places of renown that now sadly are no longer. Hoot’s Drive-In, that used to be on S. School Street, is perhaps one of the best remembered cheeseburger haunts of yesteryear. Hoot’s cheeseburgers had that almost indescribable glow about them. The patty of meat was cooked just right, the lettuce crisp, the tomato had a little snap to it and never wilted or mealy and the cheese – that golden yellow square of cheese was ever so perfectly melted, so ply-ably, so delicious. And the bun, toasted on the buttery grill, was warm to the touch, slightly toasted around the edges and glazed with that fine clear mist that made the bun shine, the cheese glimmer and the meat sizzle. That’s what a real cheeseburger is like – and the one sought out today.

Lots of places have cheeseburgers on the menu. The prices range from a little over $3 to almost $8 at some of the newer gourmet spots in town. We’re discarding the dollar menu at some of the fast food places – those are not the type of “real” cheeseburger this search dictates.

The top cheeseburger in Fayetteville- a pure cheeseburger – can be found at Brenda’s Bigger Burger on Sixth Street. The cost is minimal, the burger – a staple of the business – is of the highest quality.

A faithful following can almost always be found at the two little takeout windows waiting for the hot, juicy cheeseburgers to be passed out. There’s no inside dining here. Takeout at it’s best or more than 30 years.

Another, perhaps lesser known spot – and certainly one of the top five cheeseburgers in Fayetteville – can be found only on Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Sale Barn Cafe – next door to the weekly livestock auction. The cheeseburgers here have all those melodious trappings – a decent sized,
hand-patted patty, lots of lettuce, good tomato and a sheen of cheeseburger mist straight from the grill good enough to make the any cowhand smile.

Hugo’s, that Bohemian basement eatery on Block Street, has indeed taken the plain old American cheeseburger to another level. While the regular American cheeseburger here is delicious, their Bleu Moon Burger that’s topped with delicious crumbly bleu cheese is out of this world. The burgers, served up in little baskets with paper liming the bottom, emits that fresh from the grill taste.

If it is size that you are looking for in a cheeseburger, the Rollin Pin Cafe is indeed one of the biggest and best for a decent price. The service is fast and furious – so fast – at times that the cheese has not really had time to melt, but hey this place at lunch is in sprint mode.

This list cannot be complete without a visit to the R.O.T.C. – the old R.O.T.C. – as memory serves. But the newer haunt of the R.O.T.C. off Highway
112 indeed still ranks among the best in the hunt for a fine cheeseburger.

Even Penguin Ed’s, which majors in barbecue, has a decent cheeseburger. Now that Ed has three spots it is hard to say which one really has the best cheeseburger. The old B&B location, dropping sharply off Archibald Yell Boulevard, is perhaps the best place to get the fresh-off-the-grill
cheeseburger.

A new spot, Pop’s on 15th Street has a good cheeseburger. Lots of folks will remember when it was the Drake Café, lovingly known by the local folks as Ma Drake’s. Mrs. Drake ran the whole joint. Her cheeseburgers were to die for.

Bizy’s in the Crossover and Mission area has a good burger—well made, well
served and quite tasty.

The trio of chain restaurants that actually serve up a pretty good cheeseburger that doesn’t taste or look particularly like processed, assembly line food are Sonic on Sixth Street, Backyard Burger and Red Robin out on restaurant row with Olive Garden, Logan’s Roadhouse, and T.G.I. Friday. Logan’s and T.G.I. Friday’s, cheeseburgers are good, but not outstanding. And Fuddrucker’s rates a mention – just so folks won’t think I’ve left them off the list.

With summer slowing down, thankfully, the cheeseburger has evolved into a sandwich available year round. Got any favorites left off this list? Let us hear from you. Go to our website at www.freeweekly.com.

3 Comments

lhm108 September 19, 2007 at 9:45 am

Maylon- Nice job with the article. Since moving to Fayetteville 18 months ago, my fellow transplant co-workers and I have made it our personal mission to find the best burger in NWA. With the exception of Hugo’s, we have not been to any of the other top 5 locals. I must say, however, I am a bit dissapointed that the burger at Art’s Place was left off. Though you did give Art’s credit for their extra cold brews, it’s their burgers that make them a habitual destination for our crew. So if you haven’t tried a burger at Art’s yet, give it a shot, we’re confident that it’s a significantly more flavorful burger than Hugo’s!

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Kurt Dempsey September 19, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Nice article. My office was right next to Hoot’s on South School back in the 80’s, he had the best burgers in town even better than Brenda’s, but his chili dogs were to die for, I have never tasted any chili dogs that even compares to the ones he produced. I would give anything to have his recipe for the chili, too bad those days are gone, it was just another part of the good Fayetteville back then, can’t say that now.

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