5866 14th St. W., Bradenton
This is the umpteenth entry in a weekly column dedicated to eats that are cheap. If you have an idea for a place to feature in Cheap Eats, comment below, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter:@LeveyBaker.
It appears we have a burger rush in south Bradenton. Just last month, I hit up the new Sax Burgers & Sandwiches, which took over the abandoned Sonic on 14th Street, and already there's another new burger spot just up the road: S.O.B. Burgers. But although both restaurants specialize in burgery, there are important distinctions between the two.
While Sax serves you in your car or at one of its outdoor tables, à la Sonic, S.O.B. (which allegedly stands for "South of Bradenton") is a full-on restaurant and hangout, with a beer and wine bar along one wall and a pool table resting beneath a Budweiser lamp in the back. Guitars hang on black walls and roller skates rest on shelves as Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and AC/DC blare from the speakers. Action shots of roller derby bouts line the long hallway that leads back to the bathrooms, which obviously haven't been updated to match the front space yet. The sherbert paint and floral wallpaper trim match the restrooms at your grandma's assisted living facility.
And while Sax mostly keeps things traditional with its burgers, S.O.B. goes all out with the unusual toppings and combos. When I first heard about The King ($7.99)—an Elvis-themed quarter-pounder with peanut butter and fried bananas—I knew I needed to try it. My wife, Rachel, opts for The Voodoo Burger ($6.99)—a quarter-pounder topped with a "Cajun cream cheese spread," caramelized onions and bacon. And to satisfy you vegetarians, we also snag The Tree-Hugger ($9.99)—a veggie burger made out of beans, onions, peppers and a whole mess of other stuff.
The "Bad Azz Burgers" come on their own, no sides, in baskets lined with waxy red and white checked paper. The fried bananas inside The King are blistering hot, so be careful! After a minute of cool-down, I bite again. It's tasty, if not exactly life-changing. The combination of beef and peanut butter might sound gross, but it works, and the bananas round things off with a sweet kick. The problem: The beef gets lost in the mix. If you want that big beef flavor you get from, say, a Shakespeare's burger, this isn't for you. Still, it's good.
The flavorings on The Voodoo Burger are more chilled out. The spicy cream cheese gives a hint of heat, but nothing that will set your mouth on fire. The onions offer a sweet crunch, as does the still-crisp bacon. "It's really good," Rachel says, "but perhaps it's just put me under its spell."
That veggie burger is no afterthought. The strongest flavor comes from the sautéed green peppers, and the whole thing gives you a strong dose of heat. I salute any restaurant that makes a fresh veggie burger and actually tries, so my hat's off to S.O.B.
Also on the menu: a variety of "O.M.F.G Sammies," "Kick Azz Tacos" and "Snaxs" (how do you even pronounce that last one?). We give the classic S.O.B. Chili ($3.59-$5.99) a try. It's a nice thick stew of beef, beans and tomato-based seasonings. Not going to blow your mind, but it's chilly out and the soup's warm in the belly.
I mentioned that the burgers don't come with sides, but that doesn't mean the restaurant doesn't serve them. A basket of their fries ($1.99) is a nice surprise. They're fried just short of crispy and they possess an unusually strong potato flavor. I'd come back just for those and a beer or two. S.O.B. doesn't pour anything particularly rare or intriguing, but its alcoholic root beer and and IPA give you options beyond Bud. The sweet potato fries ($1.99) are good, too, but not quite as tasty as the regular fries.
All in all, south Bradenton is well-served burger-wise. Now, where can I get a great salad? My arteries need a rest.