The nationally renowned burger at Little Jack’s Tavern has been restored to its rightful place on the Upper King Street restaurant’s menu.
No longer is the four-ounce patty sold as an $8 warm-up appetizer or wind-down dessert — lighthearted offerings that ultimately threatened to upend the steakhouse’s reputation as a full-fledged restaurant. Now customers who want to sample the 2017 South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash champion can buy the sandwich on a platter with fries for $15.
“We’re thrilled to be busy and popular but it’s simply a matter of business to recognize that just selling a little burger isn’t really good business,” owner Brooks Reitz explains via email.
“You want to be able to have a higher ticket average so you can attract good talent, pay people well, make improvements to the space and have a little left over,” he continues.
According to Reitz, while Charleston area residents took notice of the Burger Bash win, the Tavern Burger garnered a wider following after Bon Appetit in 2017 named it the “Burger of the Year.” Deputy editor Andrew Knowlton reported he ate six of them over three Charleston Wine + Food Festival days, and urged readers to follow his lead: “Don’t worry, the waiters are accustomed to this repeat, rapid-fired burger bingeing,” he wrote.
Enticed by Knowlton’s description of a “75/25 meat-to-fat ratio patty made from half chuck, half brisket …topped with a sunchoke relish that mimics the flavor and texture of long-cooked onions… a gooey slice of American cheese and mayo-based ‘special’ sauce,” they did so in droves. Even after Little Jack’s raised the burger’s price to $10, it remained the restaurant’s best-selling item.
“The dangerous side to that kind of accolade is it will sometimes attract customers that aren’t looking for the Jack’s environment but are more just seeking out that one item, without an understanding of the full context of the experience,” Reitz says, reflecting on the roast chicken and steaks that the restaurant’s partners envisioned for guests.
“Our intent was always that Jack’s would be more of a casual, accessible steakhouse in a classic, nostalgic environment,” he says. “It’s simply too nice a room with too good of service to just be a burger joint.”
With opening general manager Marc Hudascko back in the dining room after a stint selling meatballs, and opening chef de cuisine Andrew Tackett back in the kitchen, Little Jack’s is now modifying its menu to include additional fish dishes and prime rib.
“Frankly, most of our regulars are tired of the burger, and are happy to have some new options,” Reitz says.