Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Robert St. John: Ed's

This week's recipe: Black & Blue Burger

Since 1999 I have written every week in this space, a thousand words a week, never missing a week. That’s over 1,300 columns and more than 1,300,000 words in print. I mostly write about food, restaurants, travel, food in the South, and growing up in the South. Over those years I have made great efforts not to write about our restaurants in any kind of specific, self-promoting way.

Every once in a while, I may write about the restaurant business in general and reference broad instances that have occurred in our restaurants. I have written about the stresses experienced while opening a specific concept, but I usually refer to our restaurants as, “Our Italian concept,” or “Our breakfast joint.” Only on rare occasions have I mentioned one of our restaurants specifically, and almost never mention them by name.

That will have to change for the sake of today’s column.

Next week I’ll go back to my long-standing practice of mainly focusing on other restaurants when writing about this industry.

There are six restaurants in the current New South Restaurant Group fold, the New Orleans Creole-inspired concept Crescent City Grill, a breakfast/meat-and-three lunch spot called The Midtowner, two Italian restaurants Tabella in Hattiesburg and Enzo in Ridgeland, the newest concept, a bakery named after a type of pine tree, Loblolly, and the subject of today’s column, Ed’s Burger Joint whose name pretty much sums up the concept.

A question I am often asked is, “Who is Ed?”

There is no Ed, at least as it pertains to the restaurant’s namesake. The name came as a need to communicate the concept. My first restaurant was a fine-dining concept that I opened in 1987. It tagged me as a fine-dining guy from day one. When I went to open the first Italian concept, the word on the streets that kept coming back to us was, “St. John is opening a fine-dining Italian restaurant.” I wasn’t fine dining. Far from it. Tabella was designed from the start to be a mid-scale casual Italian restaurant. To call it fine dining was to— not only mis-label it, but— create an air of unapproachability as upscale concepts only appeal to a small segment of the market. One of the first moves I made was to put the servers in blue jeans and t-shirts to make sure no one saw us as upscale fine-dining Italian.

The same happened when the breakfast concept was in development. “That Purple Parrot guy is opening a brunch place.” We don’t do brunch at The Midtowner. We serve real southern breakfast and country cooking inspired meat-and-three at lunch, quite the opposite of a stuffy brunch spot.

So, when the burger concept was in development, I wasn’t surprised when people started approaching me asking, “When is the gourmet burger restaurant opening?” I wasn’t in the process of developing a gourmet burger concept. I wanted to recreate a very casual, fun spot that served burgers fries, tots, and milkshakes like the places I grew up eating in my childhood. Nothing fancy. The opposite of fancy, actually. I wanted the focus to be on the quality of the ingredients in an environment that was accessible and comfortable for anyone and everyone who wanted a burger. There wasn’t going to be gourmet anything.


After a few months I got tired of trying to explain the concept I was developing, and since I hadn’t come up with a name yet, I thought that I should choose a good, casual blue-collar name that everyone would identify as a working man’s moniker. Ed fit the bill, and “Ed’s” had only three letters with an apostrophe, easy to say, not a lot to fit on a sign or t-shirt. “Burger Joint” would dispel any ideas of formal gourmet burgers with exotic toppings and upscale pairings. It worked.

People often ask, “Who is Ed?” There is no Ed. Actually, there are hundreds of thousands of Ed’s out there. We honor all of them. Especially the ones who love burgers and tots.

We just celebrated our eighth birthday at Ed’s. It’s been the most fun concept I have owned. Everyone loves a good burger, and the burger at Ed’s is exactly how I like a burger— two patties with soft and squishy buns. We have all manner of pairings and toppings, but you won’t find truffles or microgreens, just things like chili and bacon jam.

The longer I am in this business the more I realize that we’re not in the food business, we’re in the people business. Years ago, our company purpose was a brief three words: Customers, co-workers, community. It was a nice alliteration and those have always been three things we believe in and dedicate ourselves to, but after a decade or so I made a slight shift in our philosophy. Today the company purpose for all our concepts is: “We exist to support our team, delight our guests, and to serve our community.”

We began putting our team members first and prioritizing them and their well-being and happiness, because they are the ones who ultimately take care of our guests. Once we have done that and created a good environment for both of those groups which allows us to reach out and do our best to help our community.

That being said, I am proud to give a shout out to the Ed’s team members who have been killing it lately. We have always garnered local, statewide, and national recognition for our food and concept. But the most recent award was one that is very special to me. The Mississippi Cattleman’s Association just named us “Best Burger in Mississippi.”

Years ago, a steakhouse concept I owned in Hattiesburg and Jackson won recognition from the Mississippi Cattleman’s Association, but this was the first time that organization recognized our burgers.

The thing I appreciate about the Cattleman’s Association is that they take nominations, but then the members visit the top five candidates to eat and judge for themselves. It’s not a marketing campaign or popularity contest, but a true test of quality and consistency by people who know beef.

So today, I want to give a HUGE thank you to the small but dedicated team members at Ed’s Burger Joint who are the true winners of that recognition. It’s that crew, some of whom have been there from day one, or soon thereafter, who do the daily work of making that a great little burger joint.

Out of the 20+ concepts I’ve developed over the years, Ed’s is the one with legs. It’s our growth vehicle as we have a couple of them in the works for future locations. And no, I’m not Ed.


Black and Blue Burger


3 pounds Ground Beef

1/3 cup Blackening Seasoning

1 Tbl Kosher Salt

1/2 pound Blue Cheese Crumbles

6 Hamburger Buns

1/4 cup Unsalted Butter, melted

6 Slices Red Onion

8-12 slices Ripe Tomato

2 cups Iceburg Lettuce, shredded

1 recipe Blue Cheese Dressing 


Divide the ground beef into 6 equal parts and form 1-1/2-inch thick patties.


Sprinkle patties with the blackening seasoning and salt. Cook over direct high heat for 8-10 minutes for medium- medium well burgers (155-160 degrees). While the burgers are still on the grill, top with blue cheese crumbles dividing equally between burgers. Close the grill lid to melt blue cheese.


Brush the inside surfaces of the hamburger buns with the melted butter. Place on grill and cook over medium-direct heat for 2-3 minutes. Place burgers on the grilled buns and top with onion, tomato and lettuce. Serve the blue cheese dressing on the side


Yield: 6 burgers


 Blue Cheese Dressing


1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/3 cup sour cream

3/4 cup half and half

1/2 tsp paprika

1 Tbl garlic powder

1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

1/2 tsp white pepper


Use a wire whip to combine the mayonnaise, blue cheese, sour cream and half and half in a stainless steel bowl. Mix these ingredients together thoroughly and then add the remaining ingredients and blend together. Refrigerate until needed. Best if made a day in advance.


Yield:2 1/2 cups

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS