Kat Robinson previously showed us the five-pound Giant Hamburger at Ed Walker's Drive-In Restaurant in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Today she brings us a burger report from a recent trip to Mobile, Alabama. Follow Kat's eating adventures in Arkansas Times' blog Eat Arkansas, and her own blog, Tie Dye Travels. —The Mgmt.
Callaghan's Irish Social Club
916 Charleston Street, Mobile, AL 36604 (map); 251-433-9374; callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Cooked to order pub burger on a grilled and buttered sesame seed bun with a generous amount of vegetation. A bit messy with ketchup on the bottom, but so good you'll dream about it.
Want Fries with That? No fries. Choose a side such as potato chips or pasta salad.
Price: Burger, $6.95; cheeseburger, $7.94; bacon cheeseburger, $9.84; comes w/side; bread pudding w/Irish Whiskey Sauce, $3.95
There's an old drinking song Frank Yankovic used to sing (that's Frank, not Weird Al) that comes to mind when you're dining in Callaghan's Irish Social Club on a rainless day, when the wind whips through the open window frame and blows through the bar like a laughing, half-drunken angel:
In heaven, there is no beer
That's why we drink it here
And when we're gone from here
All our friends will be drinkin' all the beer
You certainly could get a bit of a buzz on from all the free-flowing Guinness and Harp Ale coming from the taps at Callaghan's. Indeed, the proximity of table games, the proliferation of memorabilia, and the inevitable duo or trio cranking out tunes would be enough to send one into a state of alcohol-induced bliss with no additional ingredients necessary.
But then you'd be missing out on what truly differentiates Callaghan's from other pubs: the burger, the cheeseburger, and the bacon cheeseburger. The last of those three has made Alabama's tourism ads as one of the 100 Things To Eat In Alabama Before You Die.
Making the rare trek to the coast, I found myself with a crowd on a Wednesday night, singing along to music from the singer/songwriter era performed by an erstwhile duo of contented young men perched just inches from my chair. I knew before I arrived what I wanted, and my waitress had already taken off for the kitchen to procure for me a cheeseburger and a bottle of Abita Purple Haze. A pub burger, by all means, must be accompanied by beer.
A black and white cat purred against my legs. Pets are welcome in the neighborhood pub, and during my visit I noticed several owner-dog pairs sharing tables on the sidewalk outside the door. My waitress brought my Abita and the rest of the round for the others at the table. I waited with the calmness that surrounds oneself while waiting in a pub—no hurry, no worry.
Then she returned, arms full of green burger baskets, first plopping a bacon cheeseburger in front of one of my dining companions, a Chicken Club before another, a Shrimp Po'Boy before the third, and then a big cheeseburger in front of me. Callaghan's doesn't serve french fries; from what I understand it's never had a deep fryer as the pub's owners consider the monstrosity just a way to bring more grease into the establishment. Burgers and sandwiches are served with a choice of side: potato chips, potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw, or, my choice, a tomato and cucumber salad. A cursory pickle spear lay to the side.
I had been so happy and thrilled to be asked how I'd like my burger cooked, and on slicing the hefty sandwich in half found a joyous dark, warm pink center to the patty. I also noticed that the tomato slice was as thick as the burger itself, a half inch thick or better, and that the bottom bun was stuck to the meat with a layer of ketchup. The meat had that greatly desired brown meat-crust on top and bottom, and the cheddar cheese (American, Swiss, provolone, and pepper jack are also available) was a thick melted-on layer above. Red onions, lettuce, and a generous amount of pickle rounded out what was beneath the sesame seed-studded top bun.
That bun, I discovered with my first bite, had been buttered and griddle-seared and was the perfect combination of crispy outside and soft bready middle. The meat was salty and spiced with black pepper and developed the good flavor a burger griddle gets over time. The meat held in plenty of its juices and warmth, and the addition of the huge hunk of tomato and the liberal application of ketchup made each half of the burger a napkin-worthy handful.
I wish I had been as excited about the tomato and cucumber salad in the cup. It was marinated in vinegar and rather sour to my taste. It must have been perfect for the other companions I saw happily downing their portions, though.
I was sad to finish the half pound burger, but eager to try the only dessert listed on the menu: the Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce. I'm a bread pudding snob; too many times I've tried it only to be disappointed at a congealed, homogeneous mess. Not this time. The five-by-six-inch portion, easily an inch and a half thick, was served on a platter with a couple of plastic forks and a small lake of whiskey sauce. I promised myself I'd stop at three bites, but I lied to myself and went back to it again and again. I tried to slow myself down by offering bites to my dining companions—and they helped, sampling bites in between slams of Irish Car Bombs (a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream floated in a pint of Guinness Stout), but still the pudding cried out to me. This was a pudding done right, with creamy bits and coarsely textured bits and raisins littered throughout. The sauce was strong and heady and sweet, with cinnamon and what tasted like butter.
Some time later our group began the stumble out the doorway and across the street, our designated drivers smiling at our intoxicated motions and jingling their keys as we loaded up and headed away. Music and the scent of burgers and beer lingered with us as we pulled out of the tiny parking lot catty-corner from the bar.
Early the next morning I awoke with the worst craving—not for beer or breakfast, or even hair-of-the-dog, but for that burger's savory patty between those crispy buttered buns.