I just love a good, old-fashioned American burger and fries. So it’s no surprise that during my stay in Valdosta (Lowndes County), Georgia I went in search of my burger bliss in Lowndes County. I queried my usual sources for suggestions—the visitor information people, Yelp, relatives, and strangers on the street—and came up with three likely candidates.
Steel Magnolias – 132 N Patterson St.
Steel Magnolias in heart of historic downtown Valdosta had to be the first stop since not one but multiple people recommended their burger. We were able to easily find street parking downtown free of charge. We were surprised to see such a cute downtown with many charming turn-of-the-century many restored buildings. We had no time for exploring the cute shops just then, as we were on a mission to find the best burger in the county.
Even though Steel Magnolias was lunch-time rush hour busy we were greeted immediately and seated quickly. This restaurant truly oozes the charm of the South. The décor is old world Southern classic meets modern chic. There is an open kitchen as soon as you walked in the door (no microwaves or toaster ovens in sight.) Even though I knew I was ordering their burger I still checked out the menu. The menu was extensive and diverse and our server told us it changes seasonally. The open kitchen and outstanding menu selection conveyed immediately how seriously food is taken here. Steel Magnolias is in the farm-to-fork tradition and relies heavily on local products.
My “All-American Burger” was outstanding. The 8 oz. Angus beef patty was grilled to perfection and served on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and pickles. Everything was uber fresh. I wanted my All-American Burger to have a touch of the Deep South so my cheese choice was pimento. The burger came with a side of Parmesan truffle oil fries.
Despite the fact we were there during the lunchtime rush our service was outstanding. I definitely will be returning to dine at Steel Magnolias again. The rest of the menu looked so inviting and southern (but with a twist). I spotted peanut butter pie on the menu and asked our server about it. Another diner heard us asking about it and leaned over to inform us that it was “to die for.” I really wanted to try it but I just didn’t have room for it. (sigh, tomorrow is another day.)
Bleu Pub – 116 W Hill Ave
We found our next perfect burger in historic downtown Valdosta also. My nephew gave me an enthusiastic recommendation for the burgers Bleu Pub. Jeremy is a fireman and a foodie and has not steered me wrong yet on a food recommendation. As it turns out burgers are the “thing” for the Bleu Pub.
Housed in another turn-of-the-century building, the Bleu Pub interior sports beautiful, exposed brick, old sports photos, and gorgeous soft lighting. It really focuses on burgers and beer. The menu leads off with the selection of a traditional burger – hand-formed, ½ pounders of beef offered in single, double or triple patties that come in the classic style (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and a yummy, made-on-premises Dijon mayo). But the Bleu Pub also offers a variety of other cleverly named versions of the same burger. For example – the “Dirty Bird” is topped with smoked Gouda, fried egg, and bacon; the “Braveheart” is topped with peanut butter and bacon; the “Goddess” is topped with feta, black olives, bacon, and cucumber. (Bacon seems to top all their burgers.) Our server, Will, said the “Dirty Bird” was the most popular selection on the menu. It was tempting but my sister and I decided to split the “Cledus.”
The “Cledus” is topped with onion straws, cheddar cheese, thick-sliced bacon, BBQ sauce, and served on Texas toast. Unusual, and tasty, with a great burger flavor. We were told that the fabulous flavor of the meat was from the time-seasoned, 70+ year old grill.
I can’t wait to go back and try the Braveheart. Will told us the peanut butter is not a commercial brand but all homemade and natural. Peanut butter, bacon, and burger, couple that with Sweet Potato fries and it sounds perfectly Southern.
Friends Grille and Bar 3338 Country Club Rd
This recommendation came from several people. The Friends Grille and Bar is quasi-causal, fancy dining with an upscale modern interior and a charming outdoor dining space. It is also outside the downtown area but still in the city.
We arrived at the restaurant at the happy hour and we had our choice of the patio, the bar, or the main dining area. We opted for the main dining area. We were seated close to the hostess station by the front door and this became a distraction. The restaurant was not very busy but seemed to be fully staffed. With spare time on their hands, the wait staff congregated at the hostess podium and did what people do – they talked. It wasn’t that they were loud or that we lacked great service, it was just annoying and distracting. But all that was forgotten once we tucked into the food.
There was no fancy name for the burger selection here. The menu just listed it as “The Burger,” served with a side of onion rings. Again it was the classic burger – 8 oz. of hand-patted, prime ground beef, with lettuce, tomato, house pickles, and a fancy sauce. It was topped with pimento cheese and cherry wood smoked bacon. It was amazing! I have to admit that this burger just barely edged out the other two for “best of burger” in Lowndes County. It was the pimento cheese/crisp smoked bacon combination that put it over the top.
Kudos to the chefs of Lowndes County. My burger tour was a great introduction to what a Southern chef can do with an America classic comfort food. They kicked the old-fashioned burger up a notch.