Sofa King Juicy Burger 1743 Dayton Blvd Red Bank, TN 37405 (423) 490-7632
Considering the local kerfuffle surrounding Sofa King's pronunciation, and the urban legends regarding long waits in the snow uphill both ways, food shortages, etc., etc., I felt this review warranted blog treatment.
I stopped by for an early dinner on a weeknight and had only a short wait. Sofa's menu includes a lineup of several house burgers plus build-your-own, a list of sides, and a list of shakes plus build-your-own. The burger options are a little eccentric, and I'll get to that more later, but the gist is all the burgers are doubles (6 oz), and you can get a classic ("normal") or you can get it with jam and Boursin cheese or peanut butter. The sides run the gamut from french fries to onion rings in Aretha Frankenstein batter to fried veggies. The term "shakes" is a little misleading. It's more like a soft serve blended with a few extra ingredients.
This was something of a tourist eating experience, which is to say I didn't mind driving through this once but I wouldn't want to live there. The highlight was definitely the onion rings. The pancake batter adds an interesting sweetness to the caramelized onion and it made a nice indulgence. The Awesome Burger was a miss for me, as well as the others in my party who tried it. The strawberry jam didn't mesh well with the burger, which was heavily peppered and, surprisingly, not very juicy. There was too much Boursin cheese. The shake was essentially what I described above: a tall cup of soft-serve (with a few cashews thrown in for the Cat Man Du, in my case).
Sofa may have been at a slight disadvantage, because I just ate at Urban Stack the other week and I had a really excellent, juicy burger there. If you require trendy burger dining, my vote still goes with Urban Stack.
I don't think you can talk about a restaurant like Sofa King Juicy Burger without addressing the whole package. When I first arrived I noticed a few unusual things. The layout was weirdly inefficient, with emphasis on aesthetics rather than seating. There was a shelf of souvenirs, including glasses and T-shirts, by the door. And then there was the menu, which offers a lot of choices, but very few of the right ones. There are many references to grass-fed beef and local produce and condiments, but no reasonable portion control. There's no one-patty burger option or small size shake. The burger options are house, jam, or peanut butter, of all things. Who designs a menu like this, anyway?
I considered the whole package--the "infamous" name, the eccentric menu, the use of space, the garish souvenirs, and reached a conclusion. Sofa King Juicy Burger is restaurant pageantry. It seems to be part of a larger trend, an idea that eating out isn't just about eating anymore. There are a several restaurants in Chattanooga that have successfully managed to balance the line between being hip and being a good, functioning restaurant, so it can be done. I'm just not sure that Sofa King Juicy Burger is going to be one of them.