I’m not a bar person. I’m introverted. I quit drinking 30 years ago. I got old and didn’t want to be anywhere but my own bed after midnight. Every now and then, I did, however, visit Burkhart’s — either to see Morticia Deville, my friend who performed Sundays with the Gospel Girls, or to grab the pub’s $10 steak, a major Midtown deal.
Morticia disappeared and died. The menu killed the steak. And Burkhart’s itself died in February after its cast of queens bravely quit, accusing owner Palmer Marsh of racism. Then, new owners reopened the space as Midtown Moon. The queens came back. So did the steak.
So, I visited the bar early Thursday night two weeks ago for a quick meal. I was, I confess, shocked that nothing architecturally seems to have changed in 20 or more years. It’s still all shiny, dark wood with the same tiny performance/dance space, and a good-hearted, smoke-free ambiance. Since it was about 6:30, there were very few people.
The bartender handed me the menu of usual pub food and, sure enough, there was the sirloin steak for about $10 with two sides. I ordered and moved to a table by a window. Then. I. Waited. The menu warns that the kitchen is tiny but I’m talking over 30 minutes. That’s a long, long time in a bar when you’re alone and don’t drink anything but straight-up tonic water. At one point, the bartender walked over, put his arm around me and said, “We’re going to take 10 percent off your meal because of the wait. It will be out in two or three minutes.” It wasn’t, but I was happy to stare at my phone, like everyone sitting at the bar. A friend happened to come in and we talked a bit. The clock ticked. Someone on Facebook called me a “libtard.”
The meal arrived — a giant steak, a giant pile of fries, a giant bowl of mac ‘n’ cheese. As was always true in the past, I was surprised by the quality for the money. The steak, while tender and cooked medium-rare, was, however, coated in a virtual crust of salty seasoning of the sort I haven’t encountered in a long time. To my fussy palate, it all but eclipsed the beef’s natural flavor. I know this is an entirely subjective reaction and others will love it. The mac ‘n’ cheese, which is undergoing another huge comeback at restaurants, was homey and straightforward. The fat, crispy fries begged for malt vinegar, but only ketchup was available.
Would I return? Yes, but I’d probably order the also-bargain-priced filet or ribeye, assuming they are not heavily seasoned too. Beef is certainly not your only option, but it remains the big bargain. I’m glad the space has returned to normal!
Let’s talk chicken: The much-anticipated Hattie’s B’s Hot Chicken has opened at 299 Moreland Ave. in Little Five Points. The specialty is the highly trendy, super-spicy chicken popularized in Nashville, where Hattie’s is based. You can literally order six levels of spicy heat, the ultimate being “Shut the Cluck Up.” I’ll report more later. You can also find (cheap) hot chicken at the newish Mary Hoopa’s House of Fried Chicken and Oysters at 2371 Hosea Williams Dr. in East Lake. It’s overdosed with cumin, so I prefer the also-available classic version. It’s the somewhat complicated small plates that really rule here. My recent favorite was the bread slices coated with whipped chicken livers, chopped banana peppers, and sliced peaches. It sounds absurd, but, in the hands of brilliant chef Robert Phalen, absurdity always tastes fantastic. The oysters: Last week’s, available raw or grilled (the better), were way too anemic for their $15-per-six cost.