There are two ways to make a hamburger that captures city-wide fame. The first is to make one different from all others; the second is to make one better than all others. The Greek Burger at Alex’s Tavern is both. It stands out even in Memphis, a city that boasts so many great burgers.
It starts as a six-ounce ball of choice ground beef that is hand formed and fried in a cast-iron pan that has decades of seasoning infused into it. This magic pan is reserved for Greek Burgers alone. The burger is named for the use of Cavendar’s Greek Seasoning on the meat. On a paper it doesn’t sound like all that exciting a twist, but the savory blend of oregano and seasoning salts makes it unique. It does fit the classic bar-burger definition of quality meat, thick and charred. Its bun, condiments, and fries, while perfectly fine, are afterthoughts. Who cares about the bun anyway? As is true of local barbecue, the meat is what matters, and this is as juicy and flavorful as a hamburger can be.
The Tavern has been around since 1953, and is now run almost single-handedly by Rocky, Alex’s son, who has been in and around the Tavern most of his life. He’s friendly and has an easy-going attitude. He doesn’t mind if you come in for a can of beer and sit in the corner, but you can tell that the food he serves is a passion project. The burger is presented with steakhouse precision. Wings are fried crisp and dressed in Rocky’s sauce. They rival some of the better ones in Buffalo.
Many bars can execute solid wings and burgers. We return to those that do, but Rocky deserves extra recognition for throwing together a deep and puzzling complex seafood gumbo.
Everything was so good (and reasonably priced), that we felt dejected that we couldn’t sample Rocky’s famous ribs, which are also seasoned with Cavadars (a la Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous?). We’ll be back!
As much as we are impressed by the food, history, and friendly dive bar atmosphere, we are more impressed by how well everything is done, in spite of being a one-man show. Someone running back to slice tomato to order and scoop gumbo into a plastic container between pouring beers is bound to be a distracted cook, but our food is flawless. Practice makes perfect.