Marietta, GA: Suburban Tap's Diablo Burger Proves the Devil's in the Details
1318 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta, GA 30068 (map); 770-977-4467; suburbantap.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: The devil went down to Georgia, but the Diablo Burger is one hell of a disaster
Want Fries with That? Not if you insist on proper spelling, but you can order "fires" or "tatter tots."
Price: Diablo Burger, $7.95; specialty burgers up to $8.95; Double Burger specials up to $5.95 (weekdays, 11 p.m to 4 p.m.)
Five inches doesn't seem like much...unless you're talking about snow in Atlanta. A mere dusting in many places, less than a half-foot here on a Sunday night paralyzed the entire metro area for a week. Almost five million people in the city...but just ten snowplows. Ah, details. The first day of Snowpocalypse 2011 was fun: sledding with the kids, hot cocoa, Wii tournaments. By Day Four, I needed things to warm up. I needed to get out of my house. I needed a damn cheeseburger.
Suburban Tap is a little tavern a few miles from my house, on a main road that was barely passable 88 hours after the flakes had started flying. I settled on their hottest burger, hoping my lunch order would trigger a massive thaw-out in the city that Star Wars geeks had started calling "Hoth-lanta."
According to the menu, their Diablo Burger is topped with "lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapeños, 'our special wing sauce', pepper jack cheese on a habenero bun." That's word for word. My grammar alarm went ballistic. I can look past the missing "and" that would denote cheese as the final item of the list of things that are on the bun. And I see enough commas wrongly placed outside quotation marks that I assume we as a society will simply never get that one down. But wait a minute—why are those quotation marks even there? "Our special wing sauce?" I don't want tongue-in-cheek, sarcastically-named, fake "special wing sauce." And if you go to the trouble of offering a habanero bun, can't you bother to spell it correctly? A check of the sides was even more troubling.
No way am I ordering "fires," even if I know what you mean. I opted instead for the "tatter tots" and considered leaving a dictionary as my tip. Further perusal of the menu uncovered rare delicacies like "aeoli" and "fried tabacco onions."
But I'm a word nerd. That stuff bothers me, and few other people, it seems. Besides, I was here for a spicy cheeseburger fix, not a proofreading session. And my Diablo looked tasty. The cross-section revealed that it was cooked nicely, proving that the kitchen staff can more or less hit "medium," even if they can't punctuate.
It was a well-proportioned burger, although my server couldn't tell me how much it weighed. "It's big," she had said when I ordered. "Like a half-pound?" "I don't know. It'll fill you up." How can you possibly know what will fill me up, but don't have the faintest idea how much your burgers weigh? She did claim that the burgers are grilled, a fact I can corroborate only because when I picked up the burger, I could plainly see grill marks...where the other half of the bottom bun should have been. I guess "habenero" means "flecked with chunks of pepper and cheese, and prone to falling apart if you look at it wrong."
The Diablo brought the heat, but not really in a satisfying way. The dominant taste was that of nacho-style jalapeño slices, or, more accurately, the vinegary pickling juice they're jarred in. It permeated everything. As a result, I got no sensation at all from the pepper jack cheese or the "special wing sauce" that had been lazily dribbled over the topped burger. And the onions were AWOL, never even making it out of the kitchen. The beef was decent, I think, but after a while, every bite tasted like a shot of straight jalapeño juice; I went through more than my share of iced tea trying to dilute it.
Oddly enough, the "tatter tots" were a nice surprise. Super-crisp on the outside, crazy-fluffy on the inside, and, for whatever reason, a free upgrade despite the menu's stated $1 add-on. (You're kidding, another typo?!?) They made me wonder if Suburban Tap's "fires" are just as good, but I'm not sure I'll ever find out. One run-in with El Diablo was enough for me. There are plenty of better burgers to try out there at places that pay attention to detail—assuming I can saddle up my Tauntaun and get to them.
Note: In the interest of being thorough, I went back. I couldn't shake the idea that my bad experience was just a case of trying too hard to create a flamethrower. For a baseline beef reading, I sampled a straight-up cheeseburger with lettuce, onions, and mayo. Meh. Again, decently cooked, although I wasn't even asked for my doneness preference this time around. Overall, thoroughly unremarkable. Not juicy. No detectable seasoning. Too much bun. The (ugh) "fires" were crinkle-cut and nothing special. Bonus point for Boylan Bottleworks sugar cane root beer served in the bottle, but not even that nice detail can salvage a mediocre-at-best burger.
About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and recently penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.