In every marriage there are issues that must be worked through. For example, my husband’s favorite food “on the planet” is a cheeseburger. I am not a fan. At Mussel and Burger Bar, there was something to satisfy each of us.
He previously proclaimed Baxter Station as serving the best burger in town and took me there to confirm that ranking after enjoying a very good burger at the Holy Grale. Baxter Station was a complete disappointment to me. Not much to look at, subpar atmosphere except for the train that circles the bar, blasé menu options. I ended up with a grilled chicken sandwich. Ugh. Meanwhile, my husband is having a religious experience with his cheeseburger across the table.
My experience at the Holy Grale was much better, beginning with the name of the place. I loved the funky atmosphere but despaired at the beverage choices. Only “fancy” beer…no wine. Alas there were food choices that appealed to me and I chose the mussels. They were good, but a version of the dish I could make for myself at home. If he wanted to return for another cheeseburger here, I could live with that.
Side note: My satisfaction level of restaurant dining is inversely proportionate to my home cooking skill level. Has the same phenomenon happened to you? I tend to judge a restaurant meal based on whether I could make it as well or better. Yes, I get to sit and relax while someone else does the work and there are no dishes to wash, but I don’t want to pay for something I can make myself.
On to the review at hand!
I have been hearing a lot of people talk about Mussel and Burger Bar. The owner also has Guaca Mole, and I loved the meal I ate there. Based on these two facts, I had fairly high expectations.
We arrived by 6:00 on a Friday night and the parking lot was already packed. The first thing we noticed about the interior was the uncomfortably dim lighting. And by “dim” I mean I thought about pulling out my iPhone to use the flashlight app.
To make our 30-minute wait for a table more enjoyable, we ordered a couple drinks from the bar. Noteably there are no draft beers and a less than extensive selection of bottled beers, but my husband was able to muddle through. I was delighted to see some wines by the glass and chose a white. Now for some nit-picking: my husband accepted the offer of a cold glass for his beer only to be handed a cold mason jar. Fortunately my wine did not come in a mason jar but was impractical nonetheless. My white wine was served in a sort of stemless glass that might be suitable for juice. It was bad for white wine because the warmth of your hand as you hold the glass will heat up the wine. I certainly don’t like the way the mouth of a mason jar feels on your lips so for a girly cocktail it would be fine but not for a beer. The glassware could definitely be improved.
Even though it seems like I might have been unhappy at this point, I was not. The most important aspect for me is the food. I had reviewed the menu and user reviews online earlier in the day and was excited about what was to come.
Luckily we were seated at a table right under a wall sconce at the entrance end of the dining room just past the bar pass-through. The sconce provided an adequate amount of light. As we looked back through that dining room, however, we could not see the people. It was like a black hole back in there!
As much as my husband loves cheeseburgers, that’s how fond I am of good French fries. Desirable attributes include hot, crispy, salty, fresh-cut, and the “gourmet” additions of duck fat or truffle put me over the edge of bliss. Obviously, I was going to order the Truffle Pomme Frites! To go along with my frites, I chose the curry cream mussels. Unbeknownst to our server, he appealed to the CPA in me by explaining the entrée size is a much more economical choice over the appetizer size.
My husband ordered the Argentenian burger after much debate. I’ll bet “heat” was a factor in his final decision. He gags at the thought of truffle so he went with the house frites.
The aroma of the curry broth made me swoon. I could easily detect the obvious ingredients of coconut milk and curry but also cilantro and lemongrass. I love Asian flavor profiles and this dish did not disappoint. The mussels were cooked properly and the portion size was generous. I shouldn’t have eaten the bread served with the mussels but the broth was so delicious, I couldn’t resist. Our server told us that a customer once asked for a straw and then proceeded to DRINK the remaining broth after running out of bread. Yes, it’s that good.
The truffle pomme frites were just what I expected. They were hot, crispy, salty, and truffle-y. Fantastic! (Hammerhead’s duck fat truffle fries are even better.)
The presentation of the food was very appealing. Service was good throughout the meal. The staff knew a lot about the menu items and was able to answer all our questions. I loved the t-shirts the staff wore. One of my favorite slogans was “meatatarian”. If they don’t sell those to customers, they should. They also have a funny doneness chart printed in the menu: rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well, and RIP.
My husband was very pleased with his burger even though it was not spicy. It may be spicy to other people but we eat a lot of spicy food which, I believe, has raised our tolerance level. He almost asked for a pretzel bun but went with the brioche that comes standard on the Argentenian. A decision he did not regret. Was this burger better than Baxter Station? Better than Holy Grale? He said it was too close to call.
While we were enjoying the last of our food and I continued to moan with every bite of broth-soaked bread, the lights got even DIMMER! We just couldn’t stand it anymore and asked our server about the lighting. He said the manager likes it that way. I am in favor of age-defying tactics, but I also like to be able to see what I’m eating. My husband was so put off by the darkness that he said he wouldn’t want to come back. And that’s a real shame because the food quality was very good.
I give Mussel and Burger Bar 4 out of 5. If you are going to put a specific dish in your restaurant name, you’d better be able to deliver. And they did.
Mussel and Burger Bar
9200 Taylorsville Road
Louisville, KY 40299