Earnestine’s & Hazel’s
October 3rd, 2009
(Author’s note: I wrote this review on a train on the way to New Orleans. Since then, we’ve had 9-11, Katrina, Iraq, the FBI in our earpieces and a recession, but this cheeseburger remains a reliable comfort.)
EARNESTINE & HAZEL’S
South Main, across J.O. Patterson from the train station.
A truly great cheeseburger — a cheeseburger by which others find their measure — begins with the grill and ends in the bottom of a longneck. Such a cheeseburger isn’t possible on a new grill, the proper atmosphere for it’s presentation not possible in a new place. The grill must be seasoned by thousands upon thousands of patties gone before, by years upon years of eager anticipation from those that ordered. As you stand there at the long bar and watch the smoke, smell the sear and sizzle, you hear the clash of balls on felt behind you, the laughter rise and fall from crowded tables. Or not. Sometimes in this place it’s just you. The beer in your hand is always cold, and the place is always dark. The jukebox is magic and the dusty memorabilia here and there is mystical. When there is a crowd, it’s eclectic and electric, and the dancing spontaneous. Some say the rooms upstairs served as a whorehouse in the glory days of trains. Some say they play the blues up there better than anywhere on odd weekend nights and serve drinks you pour yourself when cops look the other way.
Everybody says the cheeseburgers are great.
DAN CONAWAY, Memphis Mojo