There is a meal commonly found throughout America that is, considered by many, a favorite past time. A dish that can be pushed to the extremes and cost as much as $60, a veritable masterpiece with foie gras, black truffles, and Australian Waygu beef. But the simplest ones take form as properly cooked meat on bread that used to sell for as little $0.05. We are talking about the burger. The hamburger, cheeseburger, sliders, minis, unnecessarily over sized party burgers. We have seen them presented gloriously with a side of french fries or onion rings, speedily produced in the fast food chains, and destroyed by the inexperienced on an improperly prepared grill. And because of all the Big Macs and Whoppers they have began to lose their allure. Thankfully Five Guys, Smash Burger, and In-N-Out Burger have started a revival in this arena. And as lovely as these places are, sadly, they are still corporate, non-local vendors.
Then MShack arrives on the shores of Jacksonville. Like white sails on the horizon, the Medure brothers, have brought the masterpiece known as burgers. Not just meat on a bun with a little bit of ketchup, masterpieces designed by David and Matthew Medure. The chef brothers who are responsible for bringing us Restaurant Medure and Matthew's have brought us a burger joint Jacksonville can be proud to have in its city, fusing the old fashioned burger joint with style and fresh ingredients. MShack burgers are made with all natural, hormone-free Black Angus beef ground fresh daily. Juicy, all beef hot dogs, hand-cut fries, mouth-watering milk shakes and more help complete their unique menu. My friend Callie told me I needed to check it out and I had waited long enough. She convinced me the drive from Riverside to Atlantic Beach was worth the trip. I could only hope it was all true.
Having a beach locale, the feel of the restaurant follows suit. Large windows that open at the front to give access to a small patio and allow a gently sea breeze in to remind you that you are a mere seconds away from the sand. A small bar where the offer a few local brews and long community table running down the middle of the room all bring focus to the large chalkboard upon which they hand write the menu. The concept was, and is, to provide a great burger that is affordable. The basics all ring up under $5. And just like any good restaurant, you get to watch all your food made in the open kitchen.
The Sunrise Burger, bacon, farm egg, American cheese, shack sauce, $5.50.
Anybody who has truly enjoyed a good burger knows that one of the best ways to improve upon it is by frying an egg and throwing it on top. And that is the angle this burger takes. The burger is ground in house, if you get there early enough you can actually watch them grind it through a window in the rear of the kitchen. The bacon is not cooked until you order it and the Shack sauce is made in the style of Louis Dressing, a flavor that is familiar to most and pairs well with almost anything you would like to put it on. It all comes on a toasted Martin's potato roll, one that is made specifically for MShack.
Italian Sausage, sauteed mushrooms, peppers and onions, melted provolone, $5.95.
This sandwich is not what you may expect, it is not a tube of meat shoved into a hoagie and topped with soggy vegetables. It is a fresh ground, completely made in house Italian style sausage formed into a burger style patty and cooked fresh, just like all the other burgers at the joint. Then top with veggies and cheese and put it all on a fresh ciabatta roll made by local bakers, Village Bread. Old fashioned meets new school, and I have nothing to complain about.
Sweet Potato Tots, $1.95.
Almost simple and straight forward. I know, they are just tater tots made out of sweet potato, right? Not at MShack. I never got confirmation, but I am almost positive, and Callie agrees, that they are not a frozen, bought out product. To many irregular sizes and in no way a manufactured look to speak of, these awesome little nuggets had to be made in house. Then to finish it off, a special seasoning, salt, sweet, a little spice and a hint of heat, a perfect pairing for the golden sweet potatoes. Such a perfect pairing, we did not need anything to dip them in.
Queso Cheddar Fries, $2.95.
Nothing fancy, just potatoes, cut, blanched, and fried, then topped with a white cheddar chile sauce. The fries stay crisp, are well seasoned. The sauce, Oh!, the sauce is a dream of white velvet with just enough heat to keep the fries from becoming monotonous and keep you happy.
There is one spot I feel a place like Five Guys falls flat and that is not offering shakes. I cannot blame them for not attacking it, creating a great shake is not an easy task. And it allows them to focus on creating create burgers and fries and not worry about anything else. However, at MShack the Medure brothers took on the challenge and excelled greatly.
Pecan Pie Shake, $5.25
I saw this and had to try it. I easily saw the way for them to incorporate pecans, that one is a no brainer. Even incorporating the texture and flavor of a pie crust can be done with a little effort. The tricky part, the one that made me curious enough to have to order this shake, was incorporating that unique and ubiquitous flavor of the syrup style custard that makes a pecan pie a pecan pie. Simply put. . .Nailed it.
Peanut Butter Shake, $4.50.
Blue Bell Ice Cream and Skippy Peanut Butter come together in a luxuriously thick emulsion of dairy and legume. If it had strawberries in it, it would take you back to tour childhood days of PB&Js with a cold glass of milk.
So it turns out a drive to the beach was worth it. Most of the time I can see myself driving out to the beaches just to get one of these burgers instead of going to Five Guys. The good news, we will not have to be doing that by the end of summer.
Take Away Gourmet location, and I have nothing but thanks for this decision. With the talent that drives the restaurant and the concept behind the menu it can be successful anywhere they decide to set up. They have the basics that will be mainstays on the menu, burger, cheeseburger, M Burger, shakes, and sides, but the others, such as Sunrise Burger or Fish Sandwich, are rotatable and can form the menu around the location it is at and the clientele they serve. I feel that with this concept, MShack will be around for a while, which I could not be happier about. Which gives plenty of time to try the The Medurable .