Uniquely NOLA: Get right with the Dr. Tan burger at Fharmacy

It was essentially a Hail Mary to even try at 7:15pm on a Thursday night.  My wife looked at me bewildered: “the Waitr app is paused…I’m not sure what is going on here.” Fharmacy technically “closes” at 8:30pm and has no need for the interruption or annoyance from Waitr biz circa 7:30pm on a Thursday. I call once directly…voicemail. I call a second time…voicemail. I’m starting to get edgy as suggestions of inferior product are kicked around. “Well, Three B’s is right down the street.” 

Every now and then, you come across a restaurant, an entity, an establishment and proprietors that deserve your hard-earned money.  Fharmacy is exactly that place. As I hop in the car, my fourth call rolls to voicemail too. Shit!

More times than not, food arriving via one of these app services brings a whole heaping of disappointment. That’s not the case when you order out from Fharmacy. Miraculously and with an impressive level of consistency, a Dr. Tan Burger with fries arrives at my door in the exact same condition as it does at my bar stool when I dine in.  From a physics perspective alone, I simply cannot fathom how French fries can arrive with such crunchosity remaining after a surely unceremonious ride through Mid-city and Lakeview.  The burger bun embodies this same phenomenon: nothing, not even fat, juice, condiments, dressing or toppings seem to alter this enlightened State of Burger. 

A bartender finally answers on the 5th call as I’m already halfway through City Park.  I hurriedly spit out “I’d like a to go order please…it’s Jimmy.”  Then I wait, hoping that I don’t hear a dial tone…that would be the end, and I’d be left to Le Mediocre Burger at somewhere I don’t want to go. Fharmacy rarely takes orders over the phone at this advanced hour, mainly due to the inconceivable notion that apparently there are pricks out there who order a cheeseburger and never pick it up (seriously, wtf!).

As my anxiety grows, the slow pause finally gives way to acknowledgement of my order and a scheduled wait time of approximately 25-30 minutes. I reply “no rush” and feel giddy almost as if I just won the lottery…they remembered me. Hallelujah! Our last order must have been two months ago, and it was for delivery. Honestly, it’s been four months since I’ve been in the place. Without further analysis, I aggressively fire in my order…”Two Dr. Tan burgers with fries.” 

Upon arrival at the dead-end of Banks Street by the new VA Hospital, I make a wild U-turn and proceed to Tulane Avenue to find that the parking situation has reached a new level of shittiness. I drive back towards the courthouse on Tulane, take a right onto Broad Street and then another right back down Banks Street, scouring the two blocks for a spot large enough to dock our Suburban. 

Ultimately, it becomes crystal clear that the only parking option is to back into a spot blocking the driveway of a dilapidated shotgun house, which has clearly been slated for renovation. How do I know, you ask? Well, instead of the usual pile of wet clothes, mattresses, half-burnt couches and tarps, I find a clean driveway with a NO PARKING sign, clearly denoting the end of the squatters’ era.  This dimly-lit dead-end street is not necessarily a destination you’d strive to escort your daughters and wife to once the sun goes down. 

As you enter Fharmacy’s single shotgun structure, there are a handful of tables in a small pocket on the right before the long bar. The left wall is lined with two-tops for the length of the entire bar, leaving about four feet between the bar stools on the right and the two tops to the left. The bar and kitchen are one and the same at this uniquely New Orleans burger joint. There is one bar stool still available.

Fharmacy prep and awesome service.

Before I can decide what beer will bridge the gap between now and bliss…the proprietor Nhat says to anyone who will listen: “Jimmy likes to order here so he has time to squeeze in a beer before he goes back home to his family.” I tell him there’s no way in hell I’d want to remove myself from the shit-show that is currently the house where I live with my 3 under 6. Not me, never. Nhat claims he turned off the Waitr app to accommodate me, and I crack a smile knowing full well he’s 100% correct about my motivation. “We know you always like to have an excuse to come inside and stick around for a beer!” These guys are the best. 

Bobby and Nhat Nguyen are, without question, the most impressive personalized service-oriented restaurateurs I have ever come to know.  The duo is best known for having created the excellent menu for Namese restaurant on the corner of Carrollton and Tulane.  The photographic memory, personable nature, and laid-back demeanor are simply unmatched. They even remembered my affinity for a certain Athens, Georgia-based sports team after only one conversation. I am a consumer who rarely considers service to be a key ingredient when I rank a restaurant. Frankly I am typically not concerned about how fast or slow my food arrives or whether the bartender looks me in the eye. Instead, I usually let the grub speak for itself. But these guys are special and committed to the experience. 

The Fharmacy menu is simple, embodying a rare but effective “less is more” mentality. There are a few apps (Mussels & Frites), wings, wraps, and salads (Asian Style Chopped salad). The real focus is on the sandwiches (namely the Chicago Style Italian Beef and the Pastrami) and a collection of rock-star burger selections. For me, the choice is clear, and I rarely waiver despite notable alternatives on the menu. The Dr. Tan Burger.

Fharmacy menu.

The Dr. Tan Burger patty is comprised of 1/3rd beef brisket, 1/3rd short rib meat and 1/3rd ribeye meat. The meat is all ground on-site, delightfully seasoned to perfection but not too greasy, then smothered with fresh-grilled jalapenos, grilled and caramelized onions, a house Vietnamese slaw, two slices of bacon, and a chipotle aioli spread. This is all then topped with a perfectly melted slice of pepper jack cheese. The fries are impressive too.  Salty, thin-cut shoe-lacers with off-the-charts crunchiness. Often these fries elicit a complete inability to stop eating until the last little straggler nub on your plate is vacuumed up. 

Dr. Tan Burger, Fharmacy.

By the time my Canebrake is halfway finished, Bobby says “Jimmy …two Dr. Tan’s….right?” My order is up. As always, I make sure to leave an enthusiastic pick-up tip. I like to think it’s because I’m just a generous guy, but deep down I know it’s to secure my place in the hierarchy at this fine establishment  Once the door shuts behind me, I literally race to the car to get back home to our perfectly packed boxes of awesomeness. Without question, the best cheeseburger I’ve had in my 38 years on this planet.  Not. Even. Close.                                    

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