Wesley’s Nashville Burger Beat

It’s a well-known fact that it’s hard to beat our meat here at Porter Road Butcher, but we have to admit, you can find some pretty damn respectable—nay delicious—meat around town that’s well worth your precious dollars. Whether it’s a classic American cheeseburger, or a patty that boasts something crazy or irregular, PRB West’s Wesley Adams has an opinion on almost all of them.

Wesley Adams: The Real Burger King

Wesley Adams: The Real Burger King

First on Wesley’s list of priorities when he moved to Nashville in July of 2014 was finding a go-to burger joint—he focused on that endeavor before even finding a permanent place of residence. So as he stands here today, on the first anniversary of his move to Music City, he has sampled his fair share of what Nashville has to offer when it comes to this classic American favorite. And after twelve good months, he is ready to share his reviews.

In his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana Wesley’s allegiances are torn between Bistro To Go’s special smoked gouda pimiento cheeseburger—an explosion of southern flavor on a fat patty—and Strawn’s Eat Shop double bacon cheeseburger—a feast of two thin patties, plenty of mustard, crispy bacon, and an egg with a runny yolk, sandwiches between two halves of a toasted and fluffy bun.

So although Wesley has yet to find what he would snobbishly qualify as, “the perfect burger,” he has come across quite a few good ones that he claims, “are top contendors.”

Much to fellow PRB West manager, Alex Welsch’s delight, Wes claimed the burger that Alex prepared him for lunch one day, “the best burger he’s had in Nashville.”

Alex now holds himself in very high esteem.

Wesley’s Nashville Burger Beat (in no particular order)
  1. Bacon Cheeseburger / MLRose / $10.95 – choice of cheese, natural uncured bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion & pickle | Everyone at Porter Road Butcher is well acquainted with Wesley’s obsession for cheeseburgers, and everyone subsequently knows to expect an invitation to ML Rose on Monday nights for their two-for-one burger special—a deal that is only made possible with the accompaniment of two craft beers. 😀  “I usually get the bacon cheeseburger and a couple of Yazoo Dos Perros. That burger is probably the closest one I can find in Nashville to my hometown favorite, Strawn’s.”
  1. The Local Burger / Fido / $13 – ground beef and lamb, Tennessee white cheddar, caramelized fennel + fig aioli, caramelized onion, pickle, lettuce, on a bun  |  “Half of me is tempted to eliminate this burger just based on the fact that it has lamb and beef in the patty, but it was one of the first burgers I tried when I moved to town and it’s still one of my favorites,” said Wesley. “It’s kind of on the fancy side of the spectrum, but the mixture of lamb with that fig aioli? Woo! It is damn good.”
  1. West Coast Burger / Burger Republic / $10.50 – twin thin pressed patties, mustard steamed with American cheese, BR sauce, lettuce, tomato, grilled onion | “In my book, there are two kinds of burgers: the grilled backyard BBQ style burger, and flat top diner style burger,” said Wesley. More often than not, he pledges allegiance to the latter variety. “When it’s grilled, the patties are usually thicker so I like a nice medium in the center. If I’m not grilling it myself, that doesn’t always happen. Even though flat top burgers generally come out more well done, they’re still really juicy—I actually like that kind of burger better.” Burger Republic uses two thin flat-top patties and accoutrements reminiscent of a Big Mac, but considering the black angus patty, the brioche bun, and the sizable sandwich that those two, plus all the remaining ingredients amass, Mickey D’s doesn’t hold a candle.
  1. Burger + Fries / Dino’s / $6 – the greasy, delicious classic | “This is my kind of place,” Wesley said when he first walked into Dino’s on a rainy night in March, “I could see myself becoming a regular here.” After a recent revamp of this East Nashville favorite spot, the bar still has that drab-ulous and somewhat smoky vibe that feels so good in the local watering hold, but with the added bonus of actually delicious diner-style food. Cheeseburger included. Although he doesn’t usually include French fries in the judging equation, Wesley made special note of the exceptionally crispy and perfectly salted fries that accompanied Dino’s “greasy, delicious classic” cheeseburger. They hit the nail on the head: ain’t no better way to put it.
  1. Brisket Burger / Martin’s Bar-B-Que / $8 – our custom blend of ground beef comes with grilled onions, American cheese, bbq sauce, and topped with our smoked beef brisket | Another burger that doesn’t quite follow the “less-is-more” idiom, the brisket burger from Martin’s BBQ falls along the lines of, “meat-is-more.” And in this case, meat really is…more. Which might be why Wesley likes it so much…he is a butcher, after all. But wait! You say. A burger topped with…more meat?? How could he? Isn’t that too much meat? Won’t that give him the meat sweats? No, incredulous burger-hater. It doesn’t. This burger is NOT blowing smoke. When cashing out at just $8 for such a mountain of meat, neither your belly nor your wallet will mind.
  1. Fat Mo’s Burger / Fat Mo’s / $3.49 – all hamburgers served with onion, lettuce, mustard, ketchup, mayo, pickles, and tomatoes | After a night out on the town, this burger does the trick when you wake up the next morning feeling sluggish. It’s hearty, greasy, and just the ticket for soaking up last night’s sins. The spicy-seasoned fries certainly don’t hurt, either.
  1. Alex Welsch’s Best Burger / Porter Road Butcher West or Alex’s House / $0 [it was for staff lunch] – PRB ground beef, caramelized onion, PRB classic yellow mustard, Kenny’s Farmhouse white cheddar, and a toasted Bobby John Henry burger bun. | All quality ingredients. ‘Nuff said.

Want to make a burger that will turn on Wesley’s tastebuds? Here’s how he throws down with some PRB patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun…or something along those lines.

the wesley adams burger

¼ lb. PRB ground beef
2 slices American cheese (we’re talkin’ the single-wrapped squares)
mayonnaise
yellow mustard
lettuce
pickles
burger bun
salt & pepper

  1. Heat cast-iron skillet to medium-high heat.
  2. Form beef into 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch thick burger patties and season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Once cast-iron skillet is hot, add burgers to pan and cook until a nice crust has formed on the bottom, 3-4 minutes. Carefully flip burger and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until crust has formed. Remove burgers from pan and transfer to a cutting board. Place 2 slices of American cheese on top of each burger patty and then cover patties with a piece of aluminum foil to keep the burgers warm as they rest.
  4. Meanwhile, slice each burger bun in half, and toast in the cast iron skillet. Spread mayonnaise on the top half of the bun; spread mustard on the bottom half. Place burger patty on the bottom half, top with pickles and lettuce, and replace the top. Do not cut in half. Hold that burger in your hands and feel it while you eat it.
  5. Enjoy with a cold, dark lager or pale ale.

Burger_Blog

Smoking with the Master – Tips and Tricks of the Trade

“Matthew was born with BBQ sauce running through his veins,” said Matt Russo’s father in a comment on The Gambling Stick’s Facebook page, “He’s been in love with barbecue for as long as I can remember.”

The smoky love child of Matt Russo and Marshall Hamilton, The Gambling Stick is Nashville’s newest mobile BBQ joint that sits just outside of the east Porter Road Butcher shop. Russo, an employee of PRB for just shy of 3 years now, actually got his first real job working in a barbecue joint in his hometown of Louisville, KY when he was just 16 years old. He’s had smoke in his eyes ever since.

Not only did Russo get handed the position of “smokemaster” almost immediately due to his substantial smoking prowess—which came mainly a result of his love for sunny afternoons and sharing great food with great friends—but working at PRB he was afforded the opportunity to learn how to fully break down animals and quickly discovered the vast difference that high-quality meats make when it comes to cooking.

With his knowledge of whole animal butchery coupled with his classical training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and even further aided by his southern roots and love of smoke, what Russo has done with The Gambling Stick is unparalleled by any other BBQ joint in town. Or in the region.

Loaded Smoker at The Gambling Stick | Porter Road Butcher

Both originality and tradition clearly play into the menu, and likely their most popular item is one that exudes both: the “pigsket.” The pigsket (or, pig brisket) from the Gambling Stick is sweet and smoky, full of flavor, not the least bit dry, and has clearly been on the smoker for just the right amount of time: a typically tougher cut of meat, Russo turns it into something incredibly juicy and tender. Of course, beef brisket is a fantastic staple on their menu as well.

Another Barbecue classic-turned-original, Russo and Hamilton have been playing around in the world of ribs, giving hungry meat-lovers entire 12- to 14-inch “whole slab ribs” (for which they are still trying to come up with a suitable name) instead of the traditional rib cuts like St. Louis style, spare ribs, or rib tips. James said, “After eating a whole rib, I was almost full. Those things are serious.”

Following years and years of experimenting, playing, and learning on the smoker and in the kitchen, Russo can pretty much do it with his eyes closed and his hands tied behind his back. It just ain’t no thang. Which is why he’s giving us (and you) tips and tricks of the trade:

Matt Russo of The Gambling Stick | Porter Road Butcher

Smoking Tips from the “Smokemaster,” Matt Russo

Pigsket Sandwich from The Gambling Stick | Porter Road Butcher1. Use Good Meat
And like, duh. Of course that’s going to taste better. But there’s actually a good reason as to why you should use high-quality meat when you’re planning to smoke it. As a muscle works, aka as an animal roams around, it develops connective tissue and flavor. So, if an animal uses their muscles a lot, meaning they are roaming out on the field with their piggy and beefy friends, they will develop more connective tissue and more flavor than those who lived their entire lives in a small crate where they couldn’t move. In the smoking technique, you generally go for a long time and at a low temperature, aka “slow and low,” so that it will break down those well-worked muscled filled with connective tissues and then turn those tissues into gelatin. That gelatin is the meaty tacky goodness that makes your lips stick together and makes you feel happy when you eat BBQ. So, by using a pasture raised animal, the meat will initially be tougher, but with the slow and low smoking process, it will become more tender and gelatinous and amazing.

2. NOT too HOT
As do most cooking processes, smoking meat elicits moisture. So when the temperature is high, more moisture will be drawn out from the meat, causing somewhat of a steaming effect and thus leaching moisture from the meat. Leaving you with dry meat. Nooo, gracias.

3. Pick Fruity Wood
“Fruity woods, like cherry, impart a sweeter smoke, whereas woody woods, like hickory or oak, impart less flavor and can sometimes leave you with an acrid or bitter flavor,” explains Russo. “When using good, sweet cherry wood you can smoke something for 16-18 hours and it will come off tasting sweet and smoky and delicious, but if you did the same with hickory the meat could become inedible.” Talk abut a waste of time.

4. You don’t need a smoker to be a smoker
Most people don’t have badass smokers like The Gambling Stick’s, but even without such a piece of equipment, you can still get great smoking results.
Gas grill – put wood into a small, shallow cast-iron pan on top of the grill’s heat source (on medium-low heat). Set your meat on the grill and then simply close the top and let ‘er go.
Charcoal grill – build a fire made of wood—not charcoal—on one side of the grill base and place your meat on the grill as far away from the heat as possible, so as to avoid direct heat, aka grilling. Close the top and smoke on.
Note: don’t wet the wood; instead keep it dry. That way you’ll get a better smoke on your meat instead of smouldering it.

Pigsket

5. Be on top of it but also be flexible
“It’s important to keep an eye on the temperature and try to keep it consistent,” advises Russo. A good range is 225o to 275o but that range can vary depending on what you’re smoking and how you want it to turn out. “With chicken I like to smoke it a little higher at first to get the skin nice and crispy, and then turn it down to finish it,” he says. But remember – recipes and rules are always subject to change when it comes to cooking. “You’ve got to keep an eye on things so that you can change strategies if you need to: turn up the heat, turn it down, or even taking the meat off the smoker way before or way after you’d initially planned. Just like grilling, after a while you’ll begin to get the hang of it.”

6. Don’t limit yourself
Smoking is not just for meats. Fish, like trout and salmon, are both excellent on the smoker. Smoking things like vegetables, particularly in a vegetarian setting, can add a sort of meaty characteristic to a dish that would be otherwise without. And even using smoked goods in baking—smoked lard, smoked salt, smoked fruits—can add in a little umami to what would otherwise be a traditional sweet!

The Gambling Stick is open Thursdays – Sundays from 11am until they run out. They are located at Porter Road Butcher East, 501 Gallatin Ave, and are available for catering events as well. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.