PASS CHRISTIAN -- It's best to know exactly where you're going when you're looking for 'Da Burger Barn. It's not difficult to get there, but suddenly there are a lot of buildings with small signs in its near vicinity, so it's easy to get distracted. It's at the corner of Irvin Favre/Vic Faye Road and Kapalama Drive at the back of Diamondhead.
'Da Burger Barn's name tells it like it is. The specialty is burgers -- big handmade patties, cooked to order before your eyes on the griddle behind the counter.
I went one recent Wednesday, when fog damply draped the immediate Coast and lifted dramatically to reveal clear blue skies somewhere near I-10. Take Kiln-DeLisle Road north of the interstate, then turn left onto Kapalama, and before you know it, you're at the parking lot that 'Da Burger Barn and Grog's Bar share. I got there a little late for the usual lunch crowd, which was just as well; this place is tiny.
Owner and one-man show Eddie Newman greeted me as I entered and settled into a comfortable seat at the counter. The menu is pretty simple: burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, a couple of salad options, some appetizers and sides (jalapeno poppers, fried dill pickle or jalapenos, chili cheese fries, onion rings, fries or sweet potato fries) and the featured dessert, funnel cake fries. Specials are written on a board. Sandwiches and hot dogs come with homemade potato chips; these, too, are cooked while you wait.
I opted for the 6-ounce handmade burger, dressed, with bacon and bleu cheese ($6.75 for the burger and chips, add 25 cents for dressed, $1 for the bacon and $1.50 for the cheese), with the patty medium well done. Newman formed the patty and put it on the grill. There was something fascinating about watching my food being prepared, a throwback to burger joints decades ago, even if Fox News was on the flatscreen behind me and my smartphone flashed with a text from a friend.
He presented the burger and chips in a yellow plastic basket, and I was glad breakfast had been a small cup of yogurt. This thing was huge. I don't think of my mouth as petite, but it definitely was challenged. The burger was juicy (without leaving puddles of grease) and flavorful, and there was plenty of bacon. A little bleu cheese goes a long way, and Newman had added just the right amount. "Dressed," much as with a po-boy, meant lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion. Family-size squirt bottles of mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup are readily available.
"I make them as I go," Newman said later about the burger patties. "They're 80-20 lean ground beef."
The homemade potato chips were thicker, like kettle cooked, but much fresher than bagged chips. They also were much less salty. In fact, Newman lets the customer add his or her own salt as needed.
Watching one's sodium might be a pointless effort for anyone who wants to try one of 'Da Burger Barn's specialties.
"There's the Pig & Cow -- sausage, some cheese so they don't fight, and then the burger," Newman said. "The Rodeo Burger is cheddar cheese, bacon, grilled onions, onion rings and our own Hog Sauce on the burger."
Ah, the Hog Sauce. Newman also sells it by the gallon. It's a homemade spicy barbecue sauce with a somewhat creamy texture; the bite lingers, but it's not overpowering. He also uses it on other specialty sandwiches, such as the Chicken Philly. Yes, there's a big squirt bottle of Hog Sauce available for in-house diners.
Newman has lived in the Pass for 10 years and has owned 'Da Burger Barn for five. The New Orleans native, a former Bourbon Street musician, comes by his appreciation for good food through his family's own food industry experience.