At first glance–well, at any glance, Beam’s is not the kind of place I would usually eat. And I mean that in the non-snootiest way possible. Located in an awkward part of Bossier City (on Barksdale Boulevard, near the Shreveport Barksdale Bridge), it’s situated in a dumpy, brown building next to a nightclub of questionable taste, and in front of a row of extremely depressing little houses. Hey, I never promised to be highbrow!
No, friends, this is certainly not a place to bring the out-of-towners. But, surprisingly, the place is marketed towards out-of-towners; I first heard about Beam’s when I picked up a “Louisiana Culinary Trails” brochure at the Barnwell Center. The brochure states:
“Beam’s Restaurant…is modest when it advertises ‘pretty good plate lunches.’ Taste well-prepared greens, beans, and cornbread along with tasty grill orders.”
Well, now it seemed promising. I was in the mood for Southern food, and we had already attempted to eat at the nearby Cotton Boll (closed; this was on a Saturday). So instead, we drove all the way to Bossier because a brochure told us to.
When we walked into Beam’s, we were immediately “greeted” by a distracted old lady (I hesitate to call her “crotchety,” even though nearly every fiber of my being longs to). She was busy talking to other patrons and instead shoved two menus our way, instructing us to “sit over there,” motioning vaguely to the right side of the restaurant. Okay, so Beam’s was off to a bad start. Their decor didn’t help, either. It reminded us of our days in the overcrowded school systems of Florida; if you attended public school there, you were almost guaranteed to have at least one class in a portable classroom. This place was exactly like sitting in a portable, which automatically made us inexplicably nervous. The creepy, unflattering fluorescent lights only added to this “mystique.” Dusty, outdated LSU merchandise adorned the walls, and, as expected, the condiments on the table (ketchup, Louisiana hot sauce, etc.) came in greasy squeeze bottles.
Unexpectedly, our waitress was a breath of fresh air. I have no idea what her name was, but she was bubbly, friendly, and dressed in a hot pink tee-shirt, which generated more light than all of the flourescent fixtures combined. This was heartening. She brought us our iced tea straightaway (all they had was unsweetened, which was…strange, to say the least), and seemed to genuinely care about our experience.
Upon perusal of the menu, we decided on some can’t-miss choices: my companion ordered the “Chuckburger,” which included no menu description. This made it mysterious and exciting. He ordered his Chuckburger with a side of onion rings, because really, how often do you see onion rings on a menu that isn’t Burger King?
The menu featured several Southern-style specials, including chicken fried steak, but I just wasn’t feeling it at that point–and, frankly, I don’t know enough about chicken fried steak to be able to determine if it’s a good one or not. Instead, I went with something that I have plenty of experience with: the patty melt. I believe a patty melt is a pretty reliable barometer of a restaurant, and if my theory holds true, then Beam’s is a really good restaurant. My patty melt was perfectly cooked, draped with a slice of American cheese, and topped generously with grilled onions. That’s it; the patty melt needs no further ornaments. I ordered it on rye bread, which was the only bread out of their offerings (white and wheat were the other two) that I felt could stand up to the gloriously greasy sandwich. Patty melts are one of those sandwiches that are just supposed to be greasy. If yours isn’t, send it back.
My partner’s Chuckburger was, frankly, not as exciting as we’d hoped for. A cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, the Chuckburger was obviously their version of a deluxe. My partner loves that Southerners put mayonnaise on their burgers instead of ketchup and mustard; he claims that it forms a waterproof protectant for the bun, preventing it from getting soggy with tomato juice. I just think it’s delicious.
The onion rings at Beam’s are so spectacular that they are getting their own paragraph. Big enough for Paul Bunyan to wear as bangle bracelets, the onion rings are crispy–no, crunchy–a dashing golden-brown, with a big, sweet hit of cooked onion at the end. They are NOT bready, soggy, or greasy, as they are wont to be elsewhere. Instead, imagine an onion slice wrapped in something similar to a wonton skin, seasoned well, and deep-fried; there you have it. Adding a dab of the vinegary Louisiana hot sauce to them only enhances their flavor, making them truly exceptional. The onion rings almost made up for the unsweetened tea.
During the course of our meal, several older couples arrived, chatted, and ate. It’s my belief that a restaurant that is popular with the old folks is one of two things: either it’s really awful, or it’s totally delicious. Beam’s proved itself to be the latter, serving up straightforward food in a no-nonsense environment. If you approach Beam’s with realistic expectations, you’ll leave pleasantly satisfied. Sure, the old lady working the counter couldn’t care less about you, the decor makes you uneasy, and the tea isn’t sweet (what is this, New York?!), but the food is classic American at its best: unfussy, greasy, and altogether delectable.
When you’ve had your fill of highfallutin’ bistros, or you’re just broke as the day you turned 19, spend $7 at Beam’s and be full for the rest of the afternoon.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE: While Beam’s accepts credit and debit cards, you cannot leave a tip on them. If you don’t pay with cash, at least bring enough cash to cover gratuity.
2826 Barksdale Boulevard