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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's a well-known fact in the news business that if you want to find the best places to eat, just ask a photographer.
They hang out in every corner of the city and aren't afraid to try almost anything.
So, for four weeks, Rick Portier, who has been shooting news in Baton Rouge for more than 13 years, will take the audience to some of his favorite burger spots.
DAVID'S TIGER EXPRESS – CENTRAL
It's a well-known fact in the news business: If you want to find the best food, ask a photog. We hang out in the strangest places and aren't afraid to try almost anything. It makes for some pretty interesting lunch hours. So when the boss asked me to introduce people to some of my favorite burger joints, I said, "Eating lunch on the clock? You bet."
I found David's Tiger Express quite by accident. It was June 2001. I was sloshing through Central covering the floods caused by Tropical Storm Allison. The gas station on the corner of Joor and Hooper was about the only thing open. Good thing for me, because in the midst of all the misery caused by that storm, I found one of my all-time favorite hamburgers.
Owner James David and his crew have been serving up burgers from their Mobil gas station since 1998, and they're used to all the gas jokes. But make no mistake, their burgers are nothing to laugh at.
The Gutbuster is easily the biggest burger in the area. Three half-pound burgers on a ten-inch bun for a burger as big as your head. They pile on the fixings, and for about ten dollars, you can feed a small village.
The Tiger Burger is David's biggest seller – a big burger, two slabs of fried ham and bacon topped with cheese. It's been my favorite since that soggy day in June.
The newest offering is named for the high school that calls Central home – The Wildcat Burger. A big juicy burger piled high with grilled shrimp and sautéed onions. There's not much better on either side of the Comite.
Don't wait for a flood to stop by and tell James and his crew hi. And make sure you save room for dessert. They make a bread pudding with white chocolate sauce that should be declared a sin.
TRAMONTE'S MEAT & SEAFOOD
May is National Hamburger month, and there's no better way to celebrate than with what is arguably the best burger in town, the Tramonte Pounder.
Brad and Mike Tramonte know their way around a side of beef. They should. Their family has been feeding folks for four generations. It started when Great Granddad A.D. Tramonte sailed here from Italy. He landed in Grameracy, Louisiana and set up a roadside vegetable stand. That grew into a full grocery store that stayed in the family until Brad and Mike's parents moved to Baton Rouge.
Seven years ago, Brad and Mike returned to their roots and opened a store of their own – a meat market – on Jefferson Highway about a quarter-mile east of Airline. It was only natural for them to start grilling their own meat.
Ground fresh every day, their signature one-pound burger is a treat for the carnivore in all of us. Brad and Mike grill it to perfection and stack it with all the fixings on a special-made bun from Liedenheimer's Bakery in New Orleans.
You may have to unhinge your jaw to get your mouth around it, but your stomach will thank you.
My dad always told me, "Son, never order steak at a seafood restaurant." My dad knew his meat, but he'd never been to Downtown Seafood. Owner/cook Henry Zare has been treating the courthouse crowd to some of the best fired seafood for more than a decade. Not bad for a man who, before opening his own grocery store lunch counter had never cooked in his life.
Henry's food philosophy is simple. Less is more. You won't find lots of fancy spices and marinades in his kitchen. As a matter of fact, he doesn't season his shrimp his at all. And when he brings that same minimalistic approach to his burgers. Henry starts out with ground beef fresh from the meathouse in Kansas City. He says it has fewer preservatives and just plain tastes better. He cuts it straight from the packing tube, presses it into patties, and plops them on the grill. That's it.
Right before they're ready to serve, each burger gets a light dusting of Tony Chacherie's, then its on to a big sesame seed bun with American, Swiss, or pepper jack cheese. The three-quarter-pound Megaburger is a mouthful of meat that will have your mouth watering before it gets to the table. It comes with a heaping helping of fries and a drink for just eight dollars (tax included).
The name of the restaurant is Downtown Seafood, and seafood is what Henry and crew serve most, but his burgers are enough to make my dad amend his mantra.
If you'd like to suggest where Rick heads to next, leave a comment below.