Atlanta: Great Beef and Turkey Burgers with Gumption at Moxie Burger
255 Village Parkway NE, Suite 120, Marietta, GA 30067 (Map); 770-627-3201; moxieburger.net
Cooking Method: Flat-top
Short Order: Beefy burgers done juicy and messy by a local boy making good with his up-and-coming neighborhood gem
Want Fries with That? Yes, please, or any one of the other spectacular sides
Price: Moxie, $7; Bleu Ribbon, $7; Gobbler, $6.50; sides, $2-4.50
I owe my next-door neighbor an apology. And a burger.
For months, she's been trying to get me to visit this new place in town for the purposes of reviewing their turkey burger. Ugh. A turkey burger?!? Can't I just gnaw on an old shoe in the back of my closet for a while and write about that instead?
Turkey burgers are notoriously dry and flavorless, and the only one I've ever eaten that I didn't immediately regret was one that came off my own cast-iron skillet (from a recipe that Nick Kindelsperger shared with us back in 2007, that he in turn swiped from Real Simple...except I added a few tablespoons of coarse-ground mustard to the mix).
Enthusiastic, bordering-on-zealous raves from my red-meat-phobic neighbor were not going to be enough to convince me, but then I started to hear good things about Moxie Burger from other sources, too. It's a total word-of-mouth thing, since Moxie has no streetfront signage and does zero advertising. But it's working, 'cos there was a line out the door on my first visit. Coincidentally, the day before sitting down to write this, BurgerBusiness even put Moxie on its list of 2012's best new burger joints. Having now dined there a couple of times over the past few weeks, I get it. They're onto something at Moxie. And as much as it pains me to admit, Julie...you were right. They even have a damn fine turkey burger.
I started out with the namesake offering, the Moxie ($7): a six-ounce beef patty atop crisp bacon and the kitchen's special sauce, then crowned by spectacular housemade pimento cheese and a fried green tomato.
Mine was juicy and messy, the way a great burger should be, and two attributes that owner Chas D'Huyvetter specifically sets out to nail with every burger he serves. The 81/19 certified Angus is ground twice by Buckhead Beef, pattied on-site every morning, and given a hit of his own seasoning blend—which he would call only "a whole lot of stuff"—right before it meets the five-foot Vulcan flat-top. Every patty I saw got a gorgeous crusty char job on the outside, and my medium rare revealed a blush of pink on the inside.
D'Huyvetter (that's him at lower right) has his griddle set up with three different heat zones: one where the burgers go first for their initial sear, one where they go upon flipping, and a third where they're finished under a dome.
D'Huyvetter takes that hands-on approach with everything at Moxie. He walked away from our interview several times to take orders when the lunchtime line got long, to run food, or just to individually greet the countless regulars whose names (and burgers) he knows by heart. He personally picked out the reclaimed century-old wood that makes up the counter (and the tables and the paneling and the foot rail at the bar), and has family touches displayed everywhere, from his sister's framed photography prints and his brother-in-law's hand-turned pottery on the walls to the color scheme and signage that his mom helped create. Even the name has family significance; besides being a great word, Moxie was the completely-apropos name of a neighborhood tomcat that D'Huyvetter's family adopted.*
* If you thought the restaurant took its name from the old-time soda, think again. There's a bottle of it on display near the menu board, but that's as far as D'Huyvetter will go with the official soft drink of the state of Maine. The label may read "Distinctively Different," but D'Huyvetter characterizes it as "disgusting," and like a good Atlanta boy, opts to pour only Coca-Cola products...along with Abita root beer (on draft!) and an impressive beer and wine selection.
The Moxie is one of just three beef burgers on the menu, although there is a sizable build-your-own section that lets you get as nutty as you want to be. But you can trust in D'Huyvetter's tastes (he claims to have packed on 15 pounds over the course of creating the menu) and creations like the Bleu Ribbon ($7):
Sautéed 'shrooms, caramelized onions, blue cheese crumbles, and horseradish mayo round out this burger, which I sampled on a wheat bun. I'm not usually a wheat bun guy, but hats off to Masada Bakery. This one is dynamite, as is their white bun that Moxie serves—super squishy and substantial enough to stand up to these beefy burgers.
All of the sides I tried were varying shades of really fricking good. The standard fries are square-cuts, and though they're not hand-cut in the Moxie kitchen (a decision D'Huyvetter says was "really hard" but came down to space and time), they're also not frozen—these outstanding fries come out golden and crisp. Even better are the sweet potato fries, dusted with cinnamon and sugar and served with a sweet chili mayo that the kitchen spikes with one last top secret ingredient to take it over the top.
Pimento cheese is my new obsession, and the deep fried balls of it at Moxie make for a superb starter or side. D'Huyvetter recommends the zucchini fries, which get battered in his onion straw mix and come with jalapeño ranch for dunking. They weren't my faves, but were improved dramatically by a blast of salt and pepper. I guess there are just enough people who "go out for burgers" but can't fully commit to the experience to warrant fried zucchini sticks.
Which brings us to the turkey burger. Having been sufficiently blown away by the two beef burgers I'd tried, I went the last time just to chat with D'Huyvetter...and presumably re-order the Moxie I'd enjoyed so much. Damn if he didn't talk me into the Gobbler ($6.50): six ounces of ground turkey topped with dried cranberries and tarragon mayo.
He sells "a ton" of them, and apparently not just to my next-door neighbor and her girlfriends every Thursday night. Mine was incredible: juicy, flavorful, expertly balanced by the berries and mayo, with a pronounced crusty char, and so heartily satisfying underneath a marvelous ciabatta bun that I didn't even notice until after I had polished it off that it doesn't have cheese on it. So what's the secret? A coating of panko crumbs, a technique I'm totally stealing for my next batch of Cast-Iron Kindelsperger/Simple Specials.
East Cobb has seen an explosion of growth recently, with its own Trader Joe's, its own Whole Foods, and its own real-deal, upper-tier, non-chain restaurants like Seed. Now there's a legit neighborhood burger joint to go along with it, with exceptional beef burgers, and even a turkey burger worth ordering. But Moxie Burger is deservedly on the radar of burger lovers beyond East Cobb, too—and firmly entrenched on my list of new favorite places. I liked it so much I'm not even upset about being wrong on the turkey burger.
But a deal is a deal. Julie, your next one is on me.
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 for AHT and pizzas for Slice, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and 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.