Susan and I seem to be into a one-two punch with our beef burgers. She posts the restaurant first on Hungry Memphis, and I follow up with an opinion of how the burgers taste on Memphis Stew. We did it with Five Guys in East Memphis (not so great for me) and now we are doing it with Stuffy’s on Echles (a far better experience).
First things first: There are two reasons this new restaurant located in the original location of Free Wheelin’ Frank’s is called Stuffy’s. Cheddar cheese is stuffed inside the burgers before grilling, a novel twist to a cheese slice plopped on at the last minute. Even more accurate is the way you feel after working your way through a seven-ounce patty topped with one or all of a choice of toppings, including a specialty mayonnaise.
From the first bite, mayo and burger juice blend together in your mouth in a mind-blowing marriage of texture and flavor. By the second bite, sauce is dripping through your fingers onto your plate. Be sure to grab plenty of napkins when you’re getting your drink. You’ll need every one.
There are nine choices of mayo at Stuffy’s, and they are used as toppings for the burgers and dipping sauce for the fries. I had a tough time deciding between flavors, so Vincent Brooks, who is helping his dad Marlin run the restaurant, prepared a mayonnaise palette for me to try. (That’s Vincent in the first photo.) Here are the flavors: steak, Italian, horseradish, lemon cilantro, Old Bay, barbecue, chipotle, hot wings, and dill and caper.
“I came up with the dill-caper,” Vincent explained, all smiles. It was my favorite. Tony liked the chipotle mayo and the simplicity of the horseradish.
Fries are central to Stuffy’s burger-centric menu, thanks to Marlin’s wife, Paula Brooks, who is very particular. “My wife is maniacal about fries. They have to be perfect,” Marlin said, explaining how the skin-on fries are hand cut, blanched in the morning, refrigerated, and then fried to order. They also are seasoned liberally with Old Bay, a nod to Marlin’s home state of Maryland.
When Marlin heard I was from Maryland, he insisted I try the restaurant’s peel-and-eat shrimp, a steaming hot bowl of spicy jumbos seasoned with Old Bay, bay leaves, grilled onions, and fresh parsley. A grilled lemon cut in half is also tossed in the bowl, so lemon fanatics like me can squeeze in some extra citrus. Another nice touch is that the shells are sliced down the center and deveined, so peeling the shrimp is not a messy task.
“We’re proud of our food, and we worked hard to get our flavors to come together into something unique,” said Marlin, whose extensive cooking background includes PF Chang’s and a casino and restaurant in Montana. The couple’s three youngest children aren’t working in the restaurant yet, but they are the official taste-testers. “They ate so many burgers when we were developing our recipes that now they only eat chicken fingers,” Marlin said.
In addition to burgers ($5.49), fries ($2.59 for a large), shrimp ($19.99 a pound), and hand-battered chicken tenders ($4.29 for six pieces), Stuffy's sells wings for 85 cents each, chili fries, fountain drinks, and an occasional blackboard special. The evening we visited, the special was a BLT sub, fries, and drink for $6.95.
While I liked my burger and ate it all, my colleague said his burger with Old Bay mayo was way too salty and thought the burger's cheese stuffing was a little weird. Decide for yourself Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. “We’re not open on Sunday,” Marlin said. “On Sunday, we go to church.”Stuffy’s, 786 Echles (901-308-2342)