Reviewed by: Kevin & Kate
Kevin was in Nashville for New Year’s which meant we obviously had to take this opportunity to do the rare, joint burger review. We chose 417 Union because we had heard good things, and neither of us had been there before. If you are wondering where it is- the name is a good hint. It’s at 417 Union St. in downtown Nashville. There was only street parking, which is why we ended up walking 4 blocks during the Polar Vortex to get to 417 Union. Side note: if you are ever in downtown Nashville and need a cheap parking option, the library garage is a great choice! Just get your ticket validated in the library (which you stamp yourself), and you get an hour and a half of free parking! But hey, you didn’t hear that from us…
There’s a distinct oldness about 417 Union. And by old, we don’t mean nostalgic. We mean old. Because nostalgia has a charm – a warmth – that, when you’re faced with it, finds its way into your heart. Perhaps I’m lending too much credibility to the Polar Vortex, but there was little warmth to the familiarity.
We were seated at a table, but to our left was a bar. And at this bar sat two men, separated by solitude and a handful of barstools. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that these men spend every lunch at this bar, alone, in routine. In fact, it seemed most 417 Union patrons had made this establishment part of their routine. Because while our waitress was notably friendly and kind, she was, more than anything, surprised to see us. We weren’t regulars, and to her that was weird. In fact, if we had to describe the burger in one word, it might be “regular”.
Kevin’s thoughts on the food:
Don’t get me wrong; this was actually a pretty good burger. But there was something about it that seemed fixed. Static. Like the men at the bar, this burger had passively accepted its fate. But despite this, seriously, strangely, it was actually a good burger. I was, and am, conflicted.
I ordered the Smokehouse Burger, topped with “house-made” barbeque sauce, bacon, cheddar cheese, and onion straws. There was a distinct saltiness to the burger that I really liked. And while the “cheddar” cheese seemed more “Kraft Single”, and the house-made-ness of the barbeque sauce did little to distinguish the flavor from its store-bought counterparts, I didn’t mind. It came together in an old-timey way. Not old-timey in a great way, as I’ve written before, but old-timey in a pretty-good-despite-its-flaws way. I’ll take it. Especially because the fries, like the burger, were well salted and quite delicious.
Kate’s thoughts on the food:
While Kevin chose a more adventurous burger with southern flare, I decided to stick with a more traditional burger. I ordered the Great American Cheeseburger, and while it was a good burger, nothing about it made it stand out as “Great”. It was a decent sized burger, topped with all the standard toppings- lettuce, tomato and american cheese. I really enjoyed the bun, which I later learned was from Provence – a local Nashville bakery. I’ve mentioned before that The Pharmacy also uses their buns. Overall, I would have to agree with Kevin- the fries were delicious, but the burger was just “regular”. If I wanted a “regular” burger I would go to Steak ‘n Shake where I would pay $4 as opposed to $10.
One friend described 417 Union as “the best place to eat in the inner loop of downtown Nashville” (whatever the inner-loop is…), and another expressed his approval, placing 417 Union in the top 30% of burgers in Nashville. While we think both claims are a bit too strong, 417 Union offers a decent burger for the lonely old man in all of us.
Kevin’s Star Rating:
Burger Flavor: 4/5