Big Gun pulls trigger on burger appetites

Tyrone Walker/staff Big Gun Burger Shop is at 137 Calhoun St.

Austin Kirkland, chef and owner of Big Gun Burger Shop, tapped into our appetites for craft beer and freshly ground burgers when he set up shop in the former Alluette’s Jazz Bar on Calhoun Street.

This Johnson & Wales graduate is grinding the meats for the burgers and making pickles in-house, as well as crackers, chow-chow, barbecue sauce and chili.

The narrow space is the right size for a neighborhood bar, and the eclectic decor assures to comfort all. Churchgoers can take a seat in a pew that serves as a banquette.

Edison bulbs, subway lights, faux-crystal chandeliers and votive lights illuminate the space across multiple tastes in lifestyles. A little heavy metal is dished out in a propeller blade ceiling fan and the bar itself is studded with hubcaps.

Singapore Sling ($6), Pink Lady ($7) and Grasshopper cocktails ($7) will quench some thirsts while Geary’s Imperial IPA ($5.75) brings a new caliber of ammo to drinking craft-brewed beers.

In the spot where jazz musicians tightly gathered during the short run of Alluette’s Jazz Club is a small staging area, a few tables and booths providing a bit more seating in this condensed space of a burger bar.

Kirkland has decked out his menu with Southern staples such as chicken bog ($7.50), deviled eggs ($4), house-made pimiento cheese and crackers ($5), tomato pie ($4) and squash casserole ($3).

His appetizers share an equal sense of place along with a dalliance in the Bayou: Crystal Hot Sauce, etouffee, fried gator tail ($8) and frogs legs ($6.50), eclipsing the usual fried stuff that is called appetizers on many menus about town.

He has made eating vegetables fun with a menu of fried Brussels sprouts ($6) seared to a caramelized crust and blanketed with hot sauce riveted with puffed wild rice grains, smoky collards ($3) slowly braised to earthy toothsomeness and macaroni and cheese fritters ($5), served with a side of green tomato jam.

Your grandmother’s yellow squash casserole is there ($3), as well as a simple tomato pie ($4) with tomatoes, mayonnaise and cheddar cheese. These Southern conjurers of comfort resonate with the young and no-so-young, those from off and those from away and walk-ins who can’t help but notice two-fisted burger eating.

Appetizers and sides cozy up well to a bar menu of classic cocktails, craft beers and old-timey sodas whose flavors we still crave: Nehi Grape, Sprecher’s Cream Soda and Cheerwine.

The burger-centric menu also sports options other than beef such as Spanish seasoned ground pork ($12) sharing the flavor profile of chorizo, a type of sausage. Kirkland holds true to origin, topping it with Manchego cheese and romesco sauce. A catfish po’boy ($9) with Creole mustard and Crystal remoulade will soothe your NOLA soul.

A vegetable bean patty ($9) with eggplant-tomato jam and fried kale garnish ratchets up the pedestrian bean burger patty.

All the burgers include a side of fries and house-made pickles. The beef burgers are ground in-house, hand packed and can be had “pink” or “not pink” according to our friendly server. That, unfortunately, was not the case and all the burgers were overcooked.

A tribute to their meat quality, they still maintained flavor, but how much better they would have tasted if a rosy ruddiness had remained.

The Southern Hospitality ($11) with fried green tomato, pimiento cheese, bacon and chow-chow stacked a variety of textures that would have benefited from a more robust pimiento cheese and a bit more generosity with the toppings.

The habanero bacon on the Meatbanger’s Ball of the week burger ($10) had a similar fate. The fiery habanero checked its heat in the kitchen, but the caramelized onions and tangy barbecue sauce jolted the burger to another taste dimension.

A neighboring group of six hungry guys had a similar experience with their burgers not cooked “pink” but everyone cleaned their plates nevertheless.

Traffic was steady and regulars popped in to check out the scene.

And through it all, one server tended bar, bussed the tables, pulled the beers, took and served orders, answered the phone, replenished glassware, condiments and napkins and kept mixing those drinks and switching out a beer tap.

She had the temperament any restaurant owner would love to be able to test for: kind, patient, not easily frustrated and with enough common sense that when the tap went dry to go to the table of thirsty couples, explain what was going on and asked if they wanted to change their order. She is a server with hospitality DNA.

If you decide to check out how on target the Big Gun Burger Shop is, bring your patience, as “fast food” and “short order” do not apply. But keep it in your sights for the economy of satisfaction that eating a burger brings to the table.