8115 Oak St.
New Orleans, LA 70118
Napoleon's Ratings: ***/*****
Burger joints are proliferating across town these days, just as they are across the country. It's part of the "better burger" trend, with serious chefs and restaurateurs from the fine-dining world putting their spin the country's favorite quick bite. Tru Burger is one local incarnation of this trend, opened in 2011 by chef Aaron Burgau of Patois along with his partners in that upscale, Uptown restaurant. They serve what looks like the classic, diner-style burger-and-fries, but they do so with a little more style and flavor.
This is a cool place, and it's usually pretty busy with high school kids, young families and people just dropping in for a quick bite. Tru Burger is part of the resurgence of Oak Street, and it nicely blends a classic look with modern sensibilities. There's a chrome-topped counter, for instance, and lots of repurposed wood built into the décor.
You order at the cash register here, just like at those burger chains. Getting your order generally takes a few minutes longer - and that's a good thing, since it proves they're actually preparing your specific order. They call your number when the food is ready, but they do more than call it. They shriek it, which adds a frantic, irritating edge to the room. It seems like another system of table delivery would go a long way to calming the place down.
The menu here is very small, focused almost exclusively on burgers and hot dogs. But there are a few choices to order on the side. The fries are the default and these are very good, representing the thin, crunchy, shoestring variety of fries. Onion rings have flaky batter and the cheese-filled, fried jalapenos are great.
The burger is of course the reason for this restaurant's existence, and in keeping with the better burger trend each part of it has been designed and crafted for specific effect. These aren't the huge, double-fisted burgers of Port of Call and its imitators, nor are they the high-end bistro burger priced up there over $12. In fact, they're quite slim burgers, weighing in at just a few ounces each, and they're made from a succulent blend of chuck and brisket. They cook quick on the griddle, coming out just a bit pink in the middle, and the quality of the beef really does shine through. The bun is a custom hybrid from the local Leidenheimer bakery that's a little softer than a po-boy loaf but still more substantial than a standard picnic bun. Still, the juice from these slender burgers is enough to dissolve the lower bun if you don't wolf it all down quickly.
There are always a few specials that build on the burger from there. For instance, there's one called the "Uptown" with goat cheese, arugula, aioli and roasted tomatoes; the Italian, with fried eggplant, marinara and mozzarella; and a Southern version with fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese.
The single burger does not seem like quite enough, though of course it should be. Still, when I'm hungry the double burger is my pick.
The veggie burger is actually a much more formidable sandwich than the thin, single burger. It's quite different from your standard veggie burger too. This one is a big burly cake, fried to a crusty edge, which cracks open at the first bite to reveal the deep, rich purple interior of shredded beets and a scattering of black beans. It actually tastes like something - namely, beets - and it's worth trying one day even if you normally eat meat. A special one day even offered bacon on your beet burger. I like mine with a hit of Tru sauce, the restaurant's dark, salty version of steak sauce.
I like the burgers here a lot, so it was hard for me to forsake one just to try a hot dog. But it turns out these are pretty good hot dogs. Made by the Zweigle's brand of Rochester, N.Y., these links are thick and stout with a natural casing that gives it a satisfying snap when you bite in. Add a streak of mustard, a shot of relish and a pile of kraut and you're in business.
Some people pair up the milk shakes with their burgers but really if I'm ordering a banana and Nutella shake these days, it's for dessert.
There is a pretty nice selection of bottled mircobrews and local beers on tap. Tru Burger allows BYOB if you simply must have wine with your burger, though I've never seen anyone do this.
One of the nice surprises about Tru Burger is that even with all the stylish trappings and the chef's approach to sourcing and such, the place is still priced like an anytime burger joint. A single burger or a hot dog is still less than $5 (doubles are $6.50).
Fun, stylish and easy, Tru Burger shows that a burger can be inexpensive and fast without skimping on quality.