This article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 Print Edition released June 9, 2016.
For this special print edition of my Northwest Louisiana Burger Tour for Heliopolis, I’ve found myself having the good fortune of landing at Gullo’s Fresh Produce & Classic Bake Shop: a small store on Flournoy Lucas Road on the south side of Shreveport. The shop has been open since 1970, for years having stuck to the original plan of being a humble family produce stand run out of the front room of Craig Hamilton’s (current General Manager) grandparent’s home. It has since and very recently been remodeled and outfitted with contemporary accoutrements; it now not only resembles a restaurant, but has managed to maintain the comforting homey atmosphere. Their indoor dining area still has the fireplace! I felt like I was in someone’s living room. In a good way.
Craig was actually the first person I saw when I walked in the door, and before I could even voice my intentions I was handed a laminated menu. The hamburgers headline enumerated a short list of the types of sandwiches that you might expect to be average — which can still be quite laudable: a typical “Hamburger;” duplicated entries for one with cheese, then another with cheese and bacon; but the fourth down the list, in what I can only imagine was a “save the best for last” effort, was The Weekender.
“Taking care of your hangover one bite at a time, this thing is no joke. Our classic burger with double the cheese, 4 crispy pieces of bacon, 2 onion rings, and loaded down with our house BBQ sauce.” Yes, please.
My patient wait inside was rewarded by the quick delivery of the behemoth photographed herein. I hardly noticed that it didn’t come with any side whatsoever, because anything that could have been considered a side had instead been heaped on this burger.
I admit to taking it outside for pictures, if at least because the lighting that day was particularly amazing, and there I cleaved the beefy parcel in twain, sourdough bun and all — not entirely for artistic purposes, but mostly because I could not imagine any other way to wrap my hands around this monster sandwich to get it in my mouth.
On the side, a small disposable ramekin of extra barbecue sauce sat — a dress of condiment that I am well familiar with — in likely anticipation of my needing more than what was already included on the burger (a fair assumption). Craig explained that Gullo’s had been ordering this barbecue sauce for many years from House of Hickory BBQ of Nashville, a business run by a friend of the family. I found the sauce to be very palatable: tomato based, with sweet honey, black pepper, and even mysterious smoky flavors that I could not place. I also suspect hints of cinnamon or nutmeg, perhaps even Worcestershire? It was complex, even for a Tennessee barbecue flavor, a strange yet exciting pocket of non-local style brought by a restaurant so proximal to the heart of our Arklatex.
The beef patty, though thin (perhaps thankfully), held together really well on its own. Unfortunately however, it did not have many exciting flavors or textures of its own to write about. It was only a bit part, a small submissive percentage of the menagerie that I was struggling to keep from falling apart in my hands despite it all. This was perhaps because of the shredded lettuce that was used to top the burger. I would have much more preferred a single large leaf of lettuce (or two). I regrettably lost more greens to my plate than I was able to hold together in my hands. Between that and the tomatoes and pickles, it was a vaudevillian comedy of errors; I was barely keeping from having to yield to using a fork and knife on this burger.
However, on the topic, though sweet not being the variety I would normally go out of my way to eat, I found the made-in-house pickles to be surprisingly appetizing. There were thick slices of jalapeno in the mix of crinkled wafers, and a brine that was not overpoweringly sugary, thanks to the crisp peppers’ bite. On my Burger Journey I’ve found many ways to incidentally challenge my own preferences and shift into new comfort zones. The pickles were a markedly welcome inclusion to the diversity of crunchy textures in the onions both crispy red and beer-batter fried — cresting in enhanced combination with the smoky Tennessee barbecue sauce.
After my meal, being more stuffed than I had anticipated despite only having eaten a single burger, my effervescent host snuck a small plate of dessert onto the table: a fried peach pie with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream: a nutmeg-sprinkled cold treat that is much appreciated in our nigh-unforgiving climate.
I’m not one to rate a burger, and I will never purport to have the authority to tell you what the “best burger” is. On the contrary: I’d argue fervently with any publication that would dare boast that such a thing exists. Rather, I can tell you with personal and unbiased certainty that, although I can’t confirm how well a gnarly hangover competes with the manual dexterity required to paw it, Gullo’s is succeeding with The Weekender.