97 South Second Street, Memphis TN 38103 (map); 901-573-9800, kookycanuck.com
Cooking Method: Chargrilled
Short Order: It's big, it's cooked to order, it's on a homemade bun, and it's tasty. Share it with several friends.
Want Fries with That? They come with the burger, and they're good
Price: Kookamonga Burger w/fries, $24.99; King Kookamonga, $34.99; Corn brats, $6.99; BBQ Egg Rolls, $6.99
The South has its share of big burgers, competition monsters at greasy spoons that take up a plate and come free if you get them down your gullet in a certain period of time. Finding one that's also very tasty is the bigger challenge.
I recently found a tasty challenge burger at Kooky Canuck in Memphis. I've been meaning to tackle their seven and a half-pound Kookamonga Burger for some time—ever since I saw one of the monsters marched past me on a blustery January afternoon back in 2008. But getting to Memphis with a traveling companion to help me eat such a mammoth sandwich proved to be another challenge, and it wasn't until last month that I finally made it back with photographer Grav Weldon. We passed through the doors of the big white fronted, red awning building and under the watchful eyes of taxidermied animal heads into the confines of the city's best place for Canadian-American fusion food with one thing on our minds: to bag that big burger.
Strangely enough, the Kookamonga isn't the largest burger on the menu. While it weighs in at seven and a half pounds with four pounds of meat on a specially made bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and a huge pile of fries, it pales in comparison to the King Kookamonga, which is 12 pounds total and includes a six pound patty. Still, it's an impressive thing.
While we waited for the burger to come out (it took about 15 minutes to prepare) we dined on other items. The Corn Brats—big thick bratwursts coated in a State Fair-worthy batter and deep fried to golden perfection—were a real hit. While the spicy brats alone wouldn't have been that special, the batter made them unique. They were served with a South Carolina-style honey mustard barbecue sauce that, although good, could've benefited from a little horseradish.
We also tried the BBQ Egg Rolls, an egg roll wrapper stuffed with pulled pork and coleslaw. The meat was lightly smoked and not heavily seasoned. Although it tasted a bit bland at first, the flavors exploded when dipped in the accompanying ketchup and brown sugar-based sweet and spicy barbecue sauce.
Full sized plates were delivered to the table ahead of the burger, and then there it was—this fat round burger with a giant dill pickle on top held in place with a big knife. We stopped everything and started shooting one photo after another of this giant monster. I couldn't resist the hot, fragrant hand-cut fries—they were just slightly soft, freshly cut with the skins on, and dusted with little chunks of sea salt.
American cheese was melted over the patty, likely right after it was taken off the grill. Atop the meat were hamburger dill slices, slices of red onion, green leaf lettuce, and tomato slices. The burger was nestled on a specially made ciabatta-style roll from a local bakery. The somewhat coarse bread kept the moisture from the gigantic patty from obliterating the bottom bun. The top bun was airy with a significant mouthfeel and a little chew.
The patty is char-grilled; burgers here are cooked to order and we'd ordered ours medium rare. The inside was a warm pink throughout, though little bits of it were undercooked to rareness. The black pepper and salt-heavy spice had traces of what tasted like thyme and cumin in its blend, though it was hard to be certain. The char-grilled patty was up to two inches thick throughout, nicely crusted, and slightly charred with a little give. I was surprised how the meat had retained its juicy quality, but attribute that to the slow cook job. The meat itself seemed to be a leaner mix, perhaps a 90/10 ratio.
We each tackled an eighth of the burger as people at the next table gawked. I shared with them my apprehension about competition eating, and confirmed that we would not be attempting a record that day. Between the two of us, we managed to eat just over a quarter of the burger and were quite satisfied.
We were done. I mean, fries and egg roll and corn brats and burger—all enough. But the scent of burnt sugar kept drawing our attention to the next table, where a small group was toasting s'mores over a Sterno flame. One of the ladies admitted she'd never had s'mores before. I was quite surprised when Grav went over and started directing them to set up for a photo, and had to remind him that they weren't part of our review and that maybe we should leave them alone. Artists! But they were very sweet and assured me they weren't offended.