I set out to review something other than burgers this week, but fate was having none of that.
I haven't been to Russo's for quite a while, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for a foodie experience.
As I pulled in to a nearly deserted parking lot, I wondered if it had suddenly closed. No, I was early for the 5 p.m. dinner start. But, the host said, Bacchus Lounge in back is open if you want to wait there and we'll come get you when a table is ready.
Well, I settled in at Bacchus and never looked back. Fate had other plans.
Thursday, it turns out, is $5 Burger Night at Bacchus. Ah, fate, you win again. So a $5 burger it was, with red beans and rice ($4), and a salty snack (free!) to nibble on while waiting for the burger to arrive.
Bacchus is owned by Russo's owner and chef Dave Russo, but the two enterprises essentially operate independently, the bartender and waitress informed me via tag team. The menus don't cross over a lot.
Russo's is Cajun, Creole and Italian, and it gets rather pricy.
Bacchus gives a nod to New Orleans as well, with the red beans and rice, fried green tomatoes ($4) and fried pickles. The only big-ticket items I saw on the Bacchus menu were the Oysters Rockefeller ($15.99) and the 4 oz. filet for $15, which still isn't all that much.
Bacchus offers the Bourbon Mashed Sweet Potatoes ($4), which Russo made famous at Liberty Street Brewing Company in Akron. The recipe is , and it's not particularly difficult. But it is tasty, and I'm not a sweet potato fanatic.
On Thursday, the $5 burger is the star of the show. Several customers were clearly regulars for $5 Burger Night – because they said so.
For five bucks you get a hearty hunk of ground beef cooked to order (I went for medium, with just a touch of moo), a choice of cheese (pepper jack) and three toppings (bacon – of course – lettuce and onion). Other cheese offerings include Chihuahua (fans of the original "WKRP in Cincinnati" will giggle every time they see "Chihuahua"), Chevre, mozzarella, American, Cheddar, Swiss and blue cheese. Toppings include caramelized sweet onions, chipotle barbecue sauce, fried egg, fried green tomato, and folks at the bar raved about the hot chopped pepper relish (only after I had already placed my order – guess I'll have to come back).
The burger arrived, and it was a beauty. The thick patty had a nice charred exterior and the medium center was pink but definitelly cooked. With a little ketchup and mayo thrown in, it was as good a burger as any of the other "best in town" burgers I've had. The bacon was stout and crisp and the pepper jack had enough bite to make an impression.
The red beans and rice had that zesty red bean taste with just a touch of Cajun warmth and delightful chunks of roast pork making a surprise appearance. The rice is hidden under a thick blanket of red beans, so dig deep into the bowl to get the rice.
A friendly neighbor offered a taste of the fried pickle appetizer ($5.99), and they are surprisingly tasty. Proof, I guess, that everything tastes better fried.
The breading is crispy, and the frying process seems to sweeten the cucumber and at the same time it ramps up the vinegary pucker factor. Yep, I'll be heading back for that. I didn't even try the scallion buttermilk dipping sauce. I'll be heading back for that, too.
And one of these days I'll make it back to Russo's side of the house.
Bacchus Lounge. 4895 State Rd. 330-923-1000. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; Tuesday-Thursday 4-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4-10:30 p.m.