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Nashville Five /// Austin Manuel

Austin Manuel shared his Five Best Cheeseburgers in Nashville (in his opinion) before the release show for his most recent LP, 'Up the Ridge,' at the Basement.
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Photo by Juan Solarzano

Quality musical output is at an all-time high in our fair city – its as if every week there’s one or two local acts getting their dues on a national scale, and another six or seven making waves in and around town. While the wellspring plethora of Music City movers and shakers dancing in the limelight is a music lover’s Manna, things can seem daunting when trying to stay up to speed with the ever-burgeoning Nashville songbook. Luckily, that’s where we’d like to think L/S comes into play.

One of the newest (and personally, one of my favorite) releases to originate out of Nashville is none other than the city’s locally sourced dream country intoner, Austin Manuel, and his excellent LP release, Up the Ridge.

The record is steeped in Manuel’s personal journey and narrative, as the locational title serves the album’s prevailing premise – exorcising reminiscent thoughts and celebrating the life of his grandparents, who lived in a home “Up on the Ridge” just north of Nashville (where Manuel wrote the majority of the record).

It’s an effervescent pilgrimage across Manuel’s memories associated with the home, along with expanding his sound to disco-psychedelic country tones that could be set against the backdrop of a cowboy space opera in cinemascope (you don’t believe me, just listen to “Time Enough to Last” and “I Ain’t Ever Leaving You”).

Up the Ridge’s album release show is this upcoming Saturday, August 6th, at The Basement, at 7 PM. Manuel is enlisting the help of resident ambient dream rockers, Good Buddy. Austin was kind enough to share his Nashville Five of the “Five Best Cheeseburgers in Nashville (IMO),” along with the precise parameters/tenants of what qualifies a burger’s merit in Manuel’s book. Easily one of, if not the best Nashville Fives of the year, in the same way Up the Ridge is one of the best Nashville releases of the year, too.

Nashville Five: Five Best Cheeseburgers in Nashville IMO by Austin Manuel

I’m presently in Midtown, New York City alone in this sharpie-covered, wood-paneled burger joint, aptly called Burger Joint. Hidden like a speakeasy in a corner of Le Parker Meridian’s hotel lobby, which I assume by its plush curtains and “Le” name is a fancy hotel, you have to know where you’re going in order to find it. A friend who knows me well suggested I go here since I happened to be staying in this otherwise overbearing, machine-like, “Rhapsody in Blue” part of town. This friend knows that I pretty much live for cheeseburgers. He and I and one other friend are in a text thread almost exclusively about the burger at Husk (#3) except for a brief stint on our mutual love of Bruce Springsteen. A cheeseburger and fries would probably be my “last meal” if I were facing execution. Fortunately today like most days, I am enjoying a burger because I want to. In Nashville, where I was born and raised, there are plenty of places to grab a burger and fries. I’m not sure when it switched from the Big Mac to a passion, but nowadays it is one of those simple things in life that makes it worth living. 

My Four “S” Tenants of a Good Burger in order of importance:

  1. Sturdiness: bun, toppings, patty all stay in place throughout entire consumption. Nothing worse than a dry bun, having to pick up ketchup-covered lettuce, or a patty that falls apart mid-burger.
  2. Size: I need at least 6 ounces of pure beef on my burger for it to qualify… gennnerrallllly. That being said, the patty, toppings, and bun all need to be manageable. I hate it when a burger arrives and it’s bigger than my face. Dude, I gotta eat that. If I have to squash it to fit it in my mouth, it’s gonna fall apart, in which case, #1 “S” and #2 “S” are off the table.
  3. Side: burgers without fries shouldn’t exist. Burgers with bad fries or not enough fries don’t make sense – you deserve much better.
  4. Source: I prefer a burger with grass-fed, local beef… most of the time. I mean, I’m not gonna not eat a burger from a mysterious source, but if I know the source, the burger is that much more enjoyable.

Five Best Cheeseburgers in Nashville (IMO). 

  1. Dino’s – Dino’s has my favorite burger in town. On Tuesdays they now feature the Porter Road Burger, which is a burger from a good Source, and so they’re scoring 100% according to all tenants. There’s like a 50/50 chance of them having good beef the rest of the week, but they’re still scoring high. Supremely sturdy, six-ounce patty, salty, manageable, and the best fries around – think Burger King from childhood, plus black pepper, minus Burger King. If you’re really hungry and deserve it, bacon and avocado are great additions, but not necessary. Egg can be added too, but at that point it sort of becomes unmanageable and turns into a salad that you’ll scoop up with your fries. Dino’s is also the best because of when you get to eat it – when you deserve a burger most: late at night after a long day of work and a long night of drinking. Serving till 2:30 AM.
  2. Gabby’s Burgers and Fries – In my old hood of Wedgewood Houston. Basically this burger has everything you want in a burger (quality Source all of the time – grass-fed beef from Greenbrier, where I now live) without any pretense and without hurting your wallet. I usually get the Seamus (pronounced “Shay-mus”) with cheddar, LTOP (love the diced onions), and half and half sweet and regular potato fries (a self-proclaimed pro move). Spicy ketchup and wasabi mayo are a plus for those fries as well. Lunchtime only except for Fridays until7:30 PM. There’s always a line.
  3. Husk – Okay so this burger is off the hook. I have a few pictures of it on my (aforementioned) text thread with my boys. Looking at it now and mouth watering. The fact that this is a double burger, with cheese on both patties, but still manageable (tenant #1 and 2) is very important. The toppings placement, in between the two patties, is undeniable. It is good beef from Bear Creek Farms. Sadly, and no offense – I’m sure there’s some really cool reason for this b/c everything is intentional at Husk – the fries aren’t my favorite mostly because there aren’t enough of them. I hate when I feel like I have to ration by fries. Still one of the most perfect burgers on the planet. The great thing about this burger is you get to go to Husk and feel like you’re treating yourself on a sunny day and not spend all of your money. Lunch time only.
  4. Pinewood Social – This cheeseburger is a very simple: no thrills, classic cheeseburger guy – like, I think it’s topped with American cheese. I love the wide diameter of this burger, the sesame bun, the simple pickle chip placement, and the surplus amount of classic fries. If you have friends in town and have to take them to cool places all weekend, you’ll likely end up at Pinewood. This is your cost effective choice.
  5. Robert’s Western World/Nashville Palace – You could almost say burgers are like pizza in that when it’s good it’s really good and when it’s bad it’s still pretty good. At the end of the day a cheeseburger is a cheeseburger. This is def the worst burger on my list. I’ve had many better burgers (Martin’s), but not as often. When you’re out honky tonkin’ and throwin’ back cheap domestics under the neon rainbows all night, ain’t nothing gonna settle in quite as nicely as the frozen patty and crinkle-cut fries combo at RWW/NP (besides maybe their fried pickles). Side note: Have you been to Nashville Palace? Out by Opryland; think less bachelorette parties, more old people, easier parking, great patio, and better looking bartenders (Miss Kelsey Waldon).




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