Local legendary burger and muffaletta dispensary in the heart of Shreveport, Papa & Company boasts a litany of local awards, all of which have brought this purveyor of sandwiches to the top of my list for this week’s Burger Tour with Heliopolis. They’ve fallen in and out of favor lately and I wanted to get a chance to weigh in on the debate.
I’ve been to Papa’s several times in recent memory, often enough for my friend and fellow comedian Johnny Walker, who works in the kitchen and has been following this Heliopolis series, to know my tastes. They’ve got ingredient combinations for a very inclusive range of preferences, with cheeses, mushrooms, pineapple, peppers, and more, and if those aren’t enough for you, there’s the Papa Burger Challenge, and the Grand Papa Burger Challenge, triple and quintuple burger patty challenges, the reward for each being a t-shirt and personal bragging rights.
Someday soon I will be back for one of those challenges, but today was not the day to try that. My attention was drawn to the Cajun Bacon Cheeseburger, which by description on the menu seemed a modest single-patty sandwich with all of the trimmings and a side of french fries, but when Johnny brought it to me but a few minutes later I got to see the titanic monument. Papa & Co. sells their sandwiches by half or whole, and unless you are particularly ravenous I would strongly suggest only ordering the half burger. As you can see, mine was the whole sized, a burger with vast dimensions, sprawling over half my plate, with barely enough room for my side of french fries. If it hadn’t been so practicably flat, I’m not sure how I might have eaten it — I can scarcely imagine how monumentally girthy the Papa Challenges must be.
I separated the halves to examine the sandwich strata: shredded lettuce, thinly-sliced tomato, pickles, molten cheese and crispy-fried strips of bacon. In a strange choice of organization, lightly grilled onions were layered both above and below the patty. All of this was carefully portioned and spread for the odd-sized, round sourdough bun — with halves thankfully thin enough not to make the sandwich unmanageably tall — spread with mayonnaise and mustard on either interior side.
The homemade bun was was soft but not at all crumbly, with a thick enough buttery yellow maillard that had only been slightly darkened by baking. It wasn’t quite doughy, but it was definitely moist and had not been grilled or toasted. Someday I would like to see how Papa & Company bakes their bread, because it is a texture that I would like to replicate in my kitchen at home. As I’ve said in the past, a bun is as much a handle by which to hold the ingredients as it is a valuable texture component, and I am always impressed by a quality bread — this very much holds true for Papa’s supple homemade bun.
Appropriately greasy and with the texture of a patty that was not extruded by callous machine, but instead molded by callused hands — if any criticism can be levied against this burger it must be that the patty itself did not have the cajun flavor that I was expecting. It was salted and seasoned, but not heavily, and it seemed short on spice. A tabasco sauce, or even slices of chiles would have been a terrific inclusion. I myself have a loose definition of “burger,” expecting only for the sandwich to remind me of a burger; the same applies to any food that has been given the word “Cajun:” I want it to taste and feel like I’m sitting in the sun outside a cafe on Verret St. I want a cajun burger to make me want a bloody mary. I would recommend that anyone with a spice-demanding palate such as my own to carefully special order to compensate.
The truly satisfyingly odd flavor on this plate was in the oft unsung hero: the french fries. With as much as I have leveraged this venue to praise side items and appetizers, I could practically devise a series just on the variety of fries.
Sweet. Spicy. Salty. Papa’s fries not only have a crispy crunch and golden sear, they satisfy a combination of cravings that doesn’t have a word on its own. Expecting some sort of secret recipe, I remarked to Johnny how bizarrely delicious the seasoning was, and he shrugged, replying, “It’s a simple recipe: sugar, brown sugar, and Tony Chachere’s [seasoning].” (He wasn’t forthcoming with the ratio, but it seems to favor the Tony’s.).
As predicted, I was barely able to finish half of my burger before needing a to-go box and a nap. Though Papa’s Cajun Bacon Cheeseburger was satisfying, and I would definitely recommend it for burger-lovers all over the Arklatex, I do regret passing on the Inferno Burger, a specialty combination burger with a nebulous list of spicy toppings, ingredients, and sauces that I believe would have abated my sweltering sensibilities.
You can find their menu online at their Facebook page and at papaandcompany.com.
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