The grizzled owner of the court reporter’s office asked me in his thick Brooklyn accent if I was open to eating at a pool hall. If I was, he told me to head three doors down for the best burger in Bradenton. Always up for an adventure I thanked him and made the short walk to Council’s Bradenton Recreation. I was greeted by a large green sign encased in glass announcing the pool hall’s name. In the corner was a small neon sign that indicated they served Budweiser and burgers. It appeared to be a complete dive and I was thrilled.
I made my way inside. In front of me was a griddle that looked like it had been in continuous service since World War II. An old man in a red striped shirt, gray shorts and an apron lorded over the stove frying meat, toasting buns, assembling burgers and chatting with the patrons. His counterpart was another old guy with white hair who kept the bar clean, served food and worked the ancient till.
I found a seat at the end of the bar next to a couple enjoying a couple of mid-day pops. The crowd was an interesting mix of lawyers, blue collar guys and afternoon drinkers. I took in the atmosphere as I looked over the menu written on a white board. I settled on a burger, chips and a coke.
While waiting for my burger I took a look around. The walls were covered in newspaper headlines announcing various Florida and Florida State victories. A few more tables were located away from the bar and the bar was dominated by six or seven pool tables. I really liked the entire dive bar feel and it made me think of one of my favorite places while in law school to grab a beer, the Palace Saloon.
A few moments later my burger arrived. It was served on white paper napkins with a toothpick stuck through the top. It was a no-frills, old school burger that said it had no need for bleu cheese, a sourdough bun, or an organic heirloom tomato reduction.
The patty was topped with lettuce, tomatoe, mustard and ketchup. It was juicy and well cooked. The paper napkin collected the juice and I amazingly kept my white dress shirt clean. The pool hall oozed character and if you are in downtown Bradenton it is well worth a visit.
Sweet Tea & Bourbon’s Rating: