On a beautiful Monday night, before heading to that week’s local open-mic comedy night at The Brass Monkey, a good friend invited me out for a burger. I didn’t even get a chance to ask where we were going, but I couldn’t have been more pleased to learn that we had the same place in mind: The Highland Table.
Many Shreveport residents (especially those of us that have spent many years living in the Highland area) are familiar with the cafe space on the oft-busy corner of Creswell and Kings Hwy; the open patio, the cocktails in the warm summer breeze, the noise of the road. The spot has had many incarnations and proprietors: many years ago, Matthew Linn ran the aptly historically-named Columbia Cafe (where I held my first job washing dishes); then briefly it held the business of Stir Tapas; later still it was where Liz Bowen and Scott Roebuck moved Sevendipity Cafe from their downtown location; and finally in August of 2015 it came to be that Lesleigh Monsey was able to open her Highland Table at the famous location.
I can say confidently that although I miss the several unique eateries that have held occupancy at this corner, I had so far been pleasantly surprised to find that they had each held up traditions in similar panache to each restaurant’s predecessor; almost as if the friendly ghost of Columbia Cafe was being dutifully honored and contributed to by the successive inhabitants of the space.
Highland Table is no exception.
Lesleigh came to meet my party on the patio, we chatted a bit, my friends ordered some drinks, and I asked her which of the burgers I should order. Without skipping a beat, and not at all to my surprise, she recommended The Highland Burger, which, according to their menu, is a bacon burger with barbecue sauce, slow-roasted beef, crispy bacon, and cheddar. It seemed simple enough, a good baseline metric of a burger; it also seemed only deserving to go for the burger that bore the restaurant’s name.
While waiting, my table had enough time to go through a round of drinks (and a water for me — I was the sober driver), our presence was graced by one of Highland’s immanent feline urchins: an elderly orange tabby, fat and healthy no doubt from the generations of patio-diners at this corner. I’m a cat-person, and the friendly gentleman was polite enough to observe, allowed for pats and scratches, and was resigned to wait for any leftovers to be spared for him. I got plenty of photos of him too; photogenic ham that he was. The server passing by told us that his name was simply “Cat,” and he’d been there since the restaurant opened.
After a brief photoshoot with Cat, my burger came. I was awe-struck. The artwork that I saw on this plate was almost too perfect to eat. Almost.
The bacon was indeed crispy as the menu had limned — it was not overdone, but the perfectly flat planks of porkbelly were stacked in a stiff pyramid over the burger toppings: a slab of perfectly gooey, melted cheddar cheese atop a pile of roast beef, with barbecue sauce between it all and the generous patty of ground beef. At the owner’s behest, I’d opted for the white bread bun rather than my usual wheat.
On the side was a passable pile of ordinary potato chips out of a bag. I… ignored that.
While I mustered the courage to tackle this colossal sandwich, a member of my party was quick to advise an order of the truffle fries (their house side of french fried potatoes tossed in truffle oil).
I chose to eat half the burger without the meager house salad’s worth of toppings, to add later. I would want to try it both ways — with and without — to get as many flavor combinations out of it as I possibly could.
If there are any real criticisms to be held (and I can’t believe I’m saying this), it would be that the bacon was too much. It was exceptional by itself, crispy in all of the ways that I like it, and I would definitely eat it with a slice of toast and an over-easy egg for breakfast, but between the other mingling flavors, the dense smoky aroma of the roast beef (which reminded me of a really good scotch, honestly) and the tart barbecue sauce with sweet caramelized onions, the bacon felt unnecessary, not unlike an after-credits epilogue trailing a movie that wrapped up nicely and doesn’t need to allude to a sequel. It was already complete.
The truffle fries — though they may have been a selfish advisement on my friend’s part, as I very quickly discovered that she couldn’t keep her hands out of my plate of fries — were delicious. Huge grains of salt, a modest amount of black pepper, and the chic, fashion-food signature flavor of truffle oil.
From the pictures, you might notice that they weren’t very brightly colored. This was not a trick of the camera; they actually came out a little brownish, but this is not a burnt fry. I myself have fried (and burnt) many a chopped potato in my day — if I hadn’t, I might not have even noticed it — but there is a unique bitter flavor and a brown tinting that comes from the natural starch of the tuber when it’s fried, and that is unmistakable. Though they were delicious, I think they would have been even better if the starch had been more thoroughly rinsed off after chopping. On the bright-side, this was evidence of how freshly cut the potatoes were.
As I strike Highland Table from my list of stops along my journey through Northwest Louisiana, I will chalk it up as a successful adventure. I recommend this spot, not only for its incredibly convenient location, but for the food, the atmosphere, Cat, the drinks, and the stellar service. I’ll be returning in a less official capacity for a spicy bloody mary very soon.