IF YOU GO
Where: Sofa King Juicy Burger, 1743 Dayton Blvd.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week
Alcohol: Beer only
Price range: Burgers $6.49-$7.49 (additional toppings extra); sides $2.49-$4.99; milkshakes $4.95-$5.50
When was the last time you had a burger that sent your tastebuds soaring to new heights? The kind of burger that fuels your passion for beef?
That's the feeling I had when I took my first bites of the Nutty Burger and the Awesome Burger at Sofa King Juicy Burgers. The former features peanut butter, the other strawberry jam.
"The crazier the ingredients, the better they are," our server told us.
She couldn't have said it better.
Purists may scoff at the idea of a burger with anything more than pickle, lettuce and tomato, but the deviations offered at Sofa King should have patrons thanking the culinary gods for the idea of putting peanut butter and bacon on a hamburger.
That's the Nutty Burger, and it can best be described as heaven on a bun. It's two hand-patted beef patties on a poppy-seed bun slathered with peanut butter, then topped with bacon, lettuce and tomato.
And not just any bacon. This is from Benton's, straight from the smokehouse in Madisonville, Tenn. It gives the burger a peanutty, smoky flavor that's nothing short of remarkable.
The Awesome Burger has the same flavorful beef as the other burgers -- local and grass-fed. It's spread with strawberry jam and boursin cheese that melts into the poppy-seed bun. That combination takes the usual into new territory.
You can order a traditional burger with nothing but lettuce and tomato, though that seemed mighty boring considering the choices. Or you can build your own from a menu filled with options, such as avocado, blue cheese, fried egg, mushrooms and grilled onions. There's also a nice selection of sauces, including strawberry, ranch, Sriracha and good old Heinz 57.
The burgers don't come with sides; you'll pay extra for those. Among the choices are fries, salad, local veggies, fried portabella mushroom and onion rings.
The onion rings are dunked in a coating of beer and Aretha Frankensteins pancake batter -- my husband's two favorite food groups. No wonder he liked them so much. I found them a little too sweet.
You can finish your meal with a milkshake made by hand. While the technique is old-fashioned, the variations are modern. There are several specialty shakes, or you can build your own. Or you can customize a specialty shake with extra toppings, which is what I did.
The Cat Man Do, with caramel added, was recommended by one of the servers. This shake, priced at $5.50, is made with vanilla ice cream, cashews, olive oil and Himalayan pink salt. The drizzle of caramel costs an extra 25 cents, but it was worth every penny. This shake really shook up my idea of a milkshake. It was dreamy creamy with bits of cashews every few bites.
Sofa King's menu is simple but offers a complexity of flavors you don't find in your average burger joint.
The building near the corner of Dayton Boulevard and Signal Mountain Road has been home to several restaurants and bars in its lifetime. I remember they were all were dark inside. Not anymore.
Restaurateur Jeff Brakebill, who also owns Crust pizzeria next door and Aretha Frankensteins on the North Shore, gave the building new life. Walls were knocked down and big windows added to bring in light.
The restaurant's name, of course, is a play on words, but it does offer an ode to sofas to reinforce the obvious. A long, bench-style sofa stretching along the main front wall beneath the windows provides communal-type seating. There are separate tables, though, so while you may be sitting on the same bench as other diners, you do have your own table space. There are a couple of traditional sofas too, as well as a bar-type table where you can watch the one television tuned to ESPN.
Touches of chrome and unstained pine add even more brightness to the interior. It's remarkable, really, what has been done to this restaurant in its incarnation as Sofa King.
Service is semi-self-serve at Sofa King, adding to the overall casual tone. You give your name and place your order at a counter. Within minutes, your order is delivered to your table.
Sofa King puts the wow factor in burgers and milkshakes and shows how versatile they can be. Burgers and ice cream -- that's what this place sells. But there's nothing average about it.
Email Anne Braly at email@example.com.