Tasting Tallahassee: The Burger Bar Explosion


Even though we’re up in Thomasville, we still head down to Tallahassee regularly for dinners with friends and family. In January, for my youngest brother’s 30th birthday (!!!) we got a chance to try out Midtown Caboose, which was still relatively new, even though the owners behind it are not.

Ages ago Wells Brothers (aka Monk’s) opened near the corner of High and Tharpe, over on the west side of Tallahassee. This was in my neighborhood, there was a monkey on the sign, and we like a good burger. The food is good, the burgers are nice and reliable, and we’ve eaten there many times (Jason, the same brother who brought us to Midtown Caboose, even attempted their Burger Challenge more than once). All that to say, our expectations of Midtown Caboose were largely informed by our Monk’s experiences and we were looking forward to eating here.

We were not disappointed.

Goat Cheese appetizer at Midtown Caboose

Goat Cheese appetizer at Midtown Caboose

Midtown Caboose still has excellent burgers along with other sandwiches, wraps, and salads, but they also have some more upscale options, like the goat cheese appetizer we ordered. There was plenty to share with the rest of the table and the balsamic reduction was just so perfect paired with the soft, tangy cheese.

The ___ at Midtown Caboose

The Oh Canada* at Midtown Caboose

Mom raves about their chicken sandwich but I wanted a burger, and I think I decided on the Oh, Canada, but on a gluten free Kaiser Roll instead of the pancakes or waffles it would normally be served on, along with a side of their sweet potato fries. *Looking at their current menu online it had to be the Oh Canada, but it’s been several months and I’m making my best guess. I see eggs, cheese, and Canadian bacon, so I’m gonna go with that!

For those who follow me for Low-FODMAP info, this meal would be what I consider overall Low-FODMAP impact. I skipped the red onions on the appetizer and mostly ate the goat cheese with the greens and tomatoes it came with, but because I knew I could get a wheat-free bun here, I did indulge in a couple triangles of their fluffy pita bread, too. Overall it wasn’t a lot of High-FODMAP component and I really didn’t have any reactionary IBS symptoms (I passed on the birthday cake, just to be sure). Of course, knowing that we were going out I was careful with my breakfast and lunch earlier in the day, just to make sure my cumulative FODMAP load was low. This is what life is like for me on FODMAP maintenance-mode: thinking ahead, but a lot freer than the earlier years!

The Mac Daddy from Midtown Caboose

The Mac Daddy from Midtown Caboose

Todd’s burger, The Mac Daddy, features mac & cheese, bacon, and bbq sauce (it usually comes with fried pickles, as well, but I’m pretty sure he asked for those to be left off–not a pickle fan is Todd; the spear it the picture moved to my plate in mere moments after we were served). These burgers were very filling and you definitely get your money’s worth at either of the Wells Brothers’ locations.

Moving ahead to April, Todd and I were in town for something or other and decided to grab a late lunch before heading home at the recently opened SmashBurger in Village Square.

Avocado Club and Veggie Frites at SmashBurger

Avocado Club and Veggie Frites at SmashBurger

I am a SmashBurger convert, y’all. My Avocado Club (on gluten-free bun) was so good and the veggie frites are a nice option from the traditional fried potatoes. They are flash fried, so it’s not like they’re completely healthy, but the slightly blistered green beans and carrots are a really nice foil to the heavier burger.

The 000 and Smash Fries at SmashBurger

The BBQ, Bacon & Cheddar burger and Fries at SmashBurger

Todd went with the BBQ, Bacon and Cheddar burger with its haystack onions curbing any onion ring cravings. Having them on the burger and fries on the side is pretty much the best of both worlds if you’re into that. From the looks of things, those are the regular fries, not the SmashFries that have garlic and rosemary on them (though I believe he ordered them on a subsequent visit).

While I don’t often eat lunch outside of the office, the fact that they are putting in a SmashBurger not far from work and the restaurant offers easy online ordering makes me a happy girl for those times when I don’t bring my lunch and am craving a burger.

Grub Burger Bar, Tallahassee

Grub Burger Bar, Tallahassee

And then last month (August) a group of us ended up at the newest of the burger spots popping up all over town: Grub Burger Bar.

While I liked the atmosphere and options that Grub offered, I’m sorry to say that all the carnivores in our group found their burgers too salty to truly enjoy (meanwhile my sweet potato fries could have used some of the overage). And I’m someone who really likes salty food (ironic, as the only consistent critiques I got in school was for the under-salting of dishes–go figure)!


The Thai Peanut burger and Sweet Potato Fries from Grub

I opted for the Thai Peanut burger (with creamy peanut butter, roasted peanuts, cilantro lime coconut flakes, and Sambal mayo) on a gluten-free bun and a side of sweet potato fries. It was a good burger, aside from the salt issue–not salt-lick salty, just slightly above optimal–but the “rosemary dust” that was reportedly on the sweet potato fries would have needed a CSI lab to detect because my tastebuds certainly couldn’t. Nor could others at the table. Disappointing.

The OMG and Onion Rings from Grub

The OMG and Onion Rings from Grub

I think Todd fared slightly better with his OMG (Texas chili, Grub skinny fries, cheddar cheese, chopped onions and mustard) and onion rings.

We hear tell that their spiked milkshakes are worth a trip, but we’d just come from a meetup at an ice cream shop so, really, were a little dairy-ed out. And if we do end up back here I think there’s plenty on the menu that I wouldn’t mind trying–the Luau Fries, the Ahi Tuna, or even one of their salads–that I’m totally up for another trip should a good enough reason present itself.

What strikes me, though, is that we’ve got a lot of burger places popping up and many of them are chains. A Red Robin recently opened up on the Parkway–are they worth trying one of these days? Aside from Red Robin, I’d never heard of Grub or SmashBurger before this year. Are “gourmet” burger spots common where you are and is Tallahassee just (still and forever) playing catch-up (or would that be ketchup?) to the rest of the country or is this a college town, regional sort of thing?

I’m culinarily curious, let me know what you think of the burger bar trend!