WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
For many New Orleanians, the first discovery that a hamburger could rise above the level of ordinary occurred at a Bud’s Broiler. My eye-opener involved a Number Six in the summer of 1967, at the now-gone Bud’s on Banks Street. I can recall that flavor to this day. It’s a great concept: hamburgers (or hot dogs, chicken, or fish) grilled over live charcoal, served on toasted buns with grated cheddar cheese and other above-average add-ons. If Bud’s executed it’s brilliant, unconventional idea with better consistency and used fresh potatoes for its fries, it would make those top-ten lists you see in national magazines.
WHY IT’S GOOD
As their old paper bags said, “Where. . . charcoal grilling makes the difference.” That is a fact. The part I elided in the above was “high-quality beef,” which is less true. The beef is way above average, but it could be much better: hand-formed patties, for example, and seasoned more interestingly. Even so, it’s a distinctive product. Since Katrina, we’ve seen a change in the hamburgers: the meat patties are bigger, while everything else has remained the same. I’d say this has not moved the sandwich either up or down. An underappreciated aspect of Bud’s is that they toast their buns, which makes quite a difference.
Bud’s Broiler was founded by Bud Saunders in the late 1950s. The first location was on Airline Highway, around Turnbull Drive. Then came the one on City Park Avenue, the oldest Bud’s still extant. That set a precedent for offbeat locations, the strangest one being in the middle of a block of a Gentilly side street next to a cemetery. It also set a standard of very scruffy premises; even newly-opened Bud’s Broilers look worn out. Saunders had it all figured out from the beginning, and the formula has weathered the decades well–even the 1990s, when Bud’s became terribly inconsistent and poorly staffed. During the past ten years, the chain has become dominated by franchisees, who have typically improved the product and service. Since Katrina, Bud’s has returned to the quality of its best days.
No two Bud’s Broilers are alike. What they have in common are wooden picnic-style tables and benches, their tops carved with the initials of past customers. The carving of your own is not encouraged, but obviously a lot of people have done it. Everything else is equally utilitarian. One wall is dominated by a real chimney above the charcoal grill–the sine qua non of Bud’s. The places are staffed by people who take their mission very seriously, or seem to.
#1 (with a sauce of mayonnaise, relish, and #2 sauce).
#2: Hickory smoke sauce.
#3: Grated Cheddar cheese.
#5: Lettuce and tomatoes.
#6: Same as #5, but with cheese.
Grilled chicken sandwich.
Grilled smoked sausage sandwich.
Grilled fish sandwich.
Fried pies: apple, peach, and cherry.
FOR BEST RESULTS
Know that Bud’s is not fast food. They make most of their sandwiches to order, and that takes a few minutes. Note that some, but not all, Bud’s take credit cards.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
What a place this would be with fresh-cut French fries! And an upscale, thicker burger in addition to the standard models! Some Bud’s could do with a very thorough clean-up.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment -1
- Value +1
- Wine and Bar
- Local Color +1
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open some holidays
- Open all afternoon
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking