Curbside was arguably Baton Rouge's most popular food truck at the zenith of the city's mobile restaurant scene, attracting lines wherever it parked.
Then, the white and red truck disappeared. Lovers of the truck's juicy hamburgers and pork belly preserves patiently watched the permanent location's construction on Government Street last summer.
The new Curbside restaurant, opened in the fall, builds on the truck's reputation for inventive flavor combinations and fresh ingredients while adding a full bar and an expanded menu with salads, shakes and nonbeef options.
Just inside the entrance, a split-down-the-middle truck guides patrons to the counter, a nod to Curbside's origin. The truck's body displays menus and placards that tell the story of the business.
The restaurant interior is airy and modern, with dark-stained concrete floors and industrial fixtures. But the patio and outdoor seating scream for your attention. Created for sunny spring days and summer evenings, small garage-style doors open the restaurant to the covered patio with plenty of picnic tables.
Beyond the deck, a smattering of tables surround a tall oak, and a bocce ball court awaits for post-burger matches. In the corner, a small wooden stage, nicknamed the "Pig Pen," stands ready for weekend musical acts.
I tried a classic, the Brian 3.0 ($9.49), a burger I first encountered on a warm spring day five years ago when Curbside rolled up to our office parking lot. Using what Curbside describes as a "proprietary blend of beef," the patty is flavorful and moist without being overly greasy.
Curbside wisely chooses brioche buns, which have a soft, slightly sweet taste. It's topped with salty fried onion straws, a stout Gorgonzola cheese and pork belly preserves — essentially a jam made of bacon. Schedule a nap — or at least avoid heavy exercise — after consuming this.
Another guest chose the cleverly named Lamb-I-am ($11.99), which sounds like the "title of a rejected Dr. Seuss book," he said. The ground lamb's texture and flavor weren't too different from ground beef, and its toppings of arugula, red onion and feta cheese were also within the normal range of burger fixings. The pepper jelly set this burger apart, though. At first bite, its sweetness was a surprise, but once the shock wore off, it complemented the other flavors well.
Trying to eat on the lighter side, another guest tried the Seasonal Salad ($7.99, plus $3.99 for the added protein) with turkey, which came as a turkey burger plopped on top of a bowl of spring greens so big that, after eating her fill, it looked like she had barely touched it.
The fresh greens were generously sprinkled with blue cheese and walnuts. The shallot vinaigrette was sweet and vinegary. "I'd order it by the bottle," she said. And the turkey burger topping was moist and well-seasoned.
On a second visit, she ordered the Naq Attaque ($9.99) burger, which comes with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, a Parmesan crisp, garlic mayo and a side French onion soup dipper. The two competing cheese flavors seemed to cancel one another out, and and they became a mess when the cheese began sliding off the burger along with the caramelized onions. The onion soup dipper was lacking in taste and salt.
The stand-out on both trips was the Truffle Parm Fries ($5.49). Fried in truffle oil and dusted with Parmesan cheese, the light cheese flavor complements the crisp fries without becoming the typical, messy cheese fries.
In Baton Rouge's competitive hamburger scene, Curbside started with a built-in fan base from the food truck days. That group will only grow once they try the new permanent location.
4158 Government St., Baton Rouge
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
INFO: Visit curbside-burgers.com or call (225) 478-8349.
PROS: Hearty, flavorful burgers (especially the Brian 3.0); beautiful patio atmosphere; truffle parm fries
CONS: We didn't have enough room in our belly to try everything. Guess we'll have to go again!