There’s a primal beauty in the burger. The flame, the bubbling juices, the smoke, the smell. An intoxicating mixture. It’s not easy to get a good one, but credit should be given to any restaurant that makes a hamburger a featured entrée rather than an afterthought. And the Coast, west to east, offers some of the best to be had.
Mockingbird Cafe', Bay St. Louis
The Mockingbird Café opened in August 2006 with a homey atmosphere and specializing in hamburgers and deli sandwiches. The tried-and-true formula is still working.
By far, its most popular dish is the Mockingburger, a name that is in keeping with the restaurant’s theme from the novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
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Owner Alicein Chambers confirms that the meat is 100 percent Black Angus beef, and, just in case patrons are concerned, “There is no mockingbird in it,” she adds with a laugh.
The fan base for the burger isn’t limited to just South Mississippi. Patrons from all over world have been known to drop in to give it a go.
The bun makes the burger extra special. It’s a jalapeno-cheddar-sourdough bun. But you’ll have to guess where it’s made. That’s a closely guarded secret.
Edd's Drive-In, Pascagoula
For a good burger on the go, one can’t beat the flavor of the homemade Chili Cheeseburger at Edd’s Drive-In in Pascagoula.
Since 1953, Edd’s Drive-In in Pascagoula has been a tradition for Coast residents, and it’s undoubtedly the homemade chili that keeps folks coming back for Edd’s burgers and dogs.
The burger is served with just enough chili to get its homemade flavor in every bite, but not so much that it can’t be eaten on the go. Add an order of crinkle-cut fries and a Barq’s Root Beer, and it’s as traditional as any Coast meal. If one is really hungry, there is a special that offers larger portions of meat, onions and chili.
Adds Jaci Turner, program manager with the city of Pascagoula: “You can call yourself a true Pascagoulan if you know what an Edd’s special is and you can eat it in a car on the way to a meeting.”
The menu and ambiance are all simple at Edd’s. There are no drive-thru windows or carhops, just fast service via a walk-up window under a green-and-white striped awning. Co-owner Walker Foster says it’s the good food that has kept people coming back for decades.
“We have a more limited menu than other drive-ins. We haven’t had to expand our business, and we’ve been successful for 57 years,” Foster says.
Government Street Grocery, Ocean Springs
At the Government Street Grocery in Ocean Springs, the Grocery Burgers are hearty, with a post-cooked weight of approximately one-third of a pound of ground beef. The burger comes loaded with bacon, provolone and American cheeses, lettuce, tomato and grilled onions, all on a cornmeal-dusted Kaiser bun with a pickle spear on the side. It also is dressed with Creole mustard and mayonnaise, which give the burger a slightly tangy kick.
To get the most of the Grocery experience, one should grab a seat at the bar, where no one is a stranger and wit flies freely among the bartenders and regulars. A nice complement to the burger is one of the Grocery’s large drafts, which include Dead Guy Pale Ale and the Coast-brewed Southern Pecan from Lazy Magnolia Brewery.
The Wheelburger at Skeeter’s pool hall is aptly named. Says owner Ricky Dombrowski, “It’s about as big as a wheel.”
Dombrowski had been a regular patron of Jim Bob’s and an enthusiastic appreciator of its featured hamburger. When he purchased the bar and grill in October 2006, the name of the hamburger changed along with the business.
He decided to name the burger after another created at Spiders, a long-time bar on Beach Boulevard, just blocks away from his Tegarden Road pool hall.
What makes the burgers special is the charbroiling on an open fire. They are then soaked in an au jus sauce.
The buns, which Dombrowski says are locally made, are also buttered and toasted, which adds to the rich flavor. Then, of course, just about any toppings you want can be added: bacon, grilled onions, mushrooms, cheese.
If the burger is too big for one person — and it is for most — no problem. A cutting knife can be provided at no extra charge.
The Project Lounge, Biloxi
Claiming to have the best burger on the Coast is a bold statement, but The Project Lounge in Biloxi isn’t afraid to make that claim. It also does a good job of backing it up. The Project’s “Best Damn Burger on the Coast” is seasoned and seared for a juicy flavor that is unmatched.
Owner Martha O’Keefe says the burgers always have been prepared at The Project, going back before the 12 years at its current location on Iberville Drive. She says the burger was given its name after the Sun Herald’s Marquee deemed The Project to have the best burger on the Coast.
Burger Burger, Biloxi
Biloxi also is home of the redundant-but-delicious Burger Burger, named after the restaurant that makes it — “the burger so nice, they had to name it twice.”
Six small burger patties cover 18 inches of pistolette French bread loaded with fresh chopped onions, a special mustard blend and a special chili-based sauce that is made fresh every morning by owner Martha Ebberman. The sandwich’s length, weight (1.5 pounds of beef), and special seasonings make it unique to the area, says kitchen manager Jonathan Ebberman.
“It’s something you definitely cannot get anywhere else,” he says. “It’s so large, people just want to see if they can eat all of it.”
Indeed, the whole establishment is unique, with a kitchen and dining setting filling what was once a small family home in Biloxi. Also, the walls are filled with historic photographs, memorabilia from Biloxi events and autographed photos from specials visitors. The home-style setting is much like the down-home goodness of the food offered at Burger Burger.
“Everyone likes that they can come here, and everything on the menu is like a shot from the past — a reminder of what their mothers and grandmothers cooked for them as children,” Ebberman adds.
Darwell’s, Long Beach
Darwell Yeager III is owner and master chef of Darwell’s in Long Beach, but his dad and co-owner, “Papa D.,” is no doubt the front man and crowd-pleasing personality.
The moment a patron sits down, Papa D. is hovering, tending, cleaning and talking. “Ask me anything about the food, and I’ll tell you,” he announces to guests.
He’ll be honest that he doesn’t like some items on the menu, which gives credence to those he promotes. And one of his favorites happens to be one the restaurant’s most popular — for good reason. The Gandy Dancer is as tasty a hamburger as it is monstrous.
“We pull out all the stops with this one,” Papa D. says. “It’s our gourmet redneck burger.”
It starts with a 100 percent Angus beef patty that’s been pressed to Darwell’s specifications, grilled and then marinated in an au jus base with a few secret ingredients added for extra measure. Then, sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions, bacon, lettuce, tomato and “whatever else that’s laying around” are piled on.
The burger’s secret is no real secret, Papa D. says. “We actually cook here,” he says. “We’re one of the few places that really cook. You can’t cook fast if it’s going to be good ... It’s a process that makes our food really pop.” On a side note: The Food Network’s show, “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” featured just about everything but the restaurant’s famous burger. But off camera, Papa D. said host Guy Fieri and the crew latched onto the Gandy Dancer. Says Papa D.: “He called it his buddy.”