I can’t recall precisely how I heard about Mac’s Local Eats, but I can vividly recall the first time I ate there.
I got off work early on a Friday at my new job and decided a celebration was in order. Being in Dogtown, I walked down to Heavy Riff Brewing Company (which, incidentally, you should all visit, as well) for a few beers. My girlfriend met me there and then we decided to walk over to Tamm Avenue Bar to get a burger at Mac’s Local Eats before heading to a movie at the Hi-Pointe Theatre (which you should also support).
I walked in and noted that the operation was literally a hole-in-the-wall in the back of the bar. I ordered the Pimento, a double burger with pimento cheese, fried green tomato and pickles, because why on earth would you pass up pimento cheese on a smashburger? On the patio out back, I took one bite and was hooked. I wolfed down that burger like a stray dog that hadn’t eaten in days. As I was leaving, I told Chris “Mac” McKenzie that I would be definitely be back. I’ve never kept a promise so easily in my life.
Like I said, Mac’s is literally a service window in the back of Tamm Avenue. Bob Brazell, the co-owner of Tamm Avenue and also of Byrd & Barrel, decided to revamp the bar within the last year, including the food service. That’s where McKenzie stepped in.
He had already quit his job to start Mac’s Local Buys, a grocery service designed to bring quality, locally sourced proteins and produce to St. Louis area residents. Brazell tapped him to take over the food at Tamm Avenue. McKenzie brought this focus on quality, local ingredients to the new venture, as well.
That’s one part of the above story that I left out. Even with a line forming behind me, McKenzie enthusiastically explained, in detail, several menu items to me (the menu is listed plainly on a chalkboard). It’s a song and dance I’ve seen repeatedly during my visits, and there’s clearly a reverence for the ingredients that, honestly, might be unmatched in the city.
The foundation of the menu is dry aged beef. Dry aging is a process of letting meat age uncovered in a temperature and moisture controlled area for weeks without spoiling. During this process, enzymes in the meat break down and make a more tender cut. The oxidation of the fat and the enzyme and bacterial processes also change the flavor. You end up with a deeper flavor that gets a little funkier and nuttier.
From the dry aged meat, Mac’s makes 2-ounce patties that are smashed and griddled to crispy perfection. The resulting Maillard Reaction, which intensifies the flavor of browned food, makes that dry aged beef even tastier.
I’ve had several of the burgers at Mac’s, and they’re all incredible: the aforementioned Pimento; the Lumberjack, a beef patty, pork patty, cheese, pickles and thick-cut bacon; the Dirty Sancho, two pork patties with pepperjack cheese, shaved onions, pickled jalapeno and salsa negra chipotle aioli and the Pork Burger, two pork patties, garlic mayo, pickles, shaved onions and slaw.
Each burger is great in its own way, but they’re all united at a base level by the deep, satisfying flavor that comes from dedication to quality ingredients and perfectly executed griddling. Once you have a burger at Mac’s, you start to wonder what the hell you’ve been eating your whole life.
In addition to the main proteins, Mac’s is also dedicated to using the whole animal. At varying points, the menu has also included boudin balls, a deep fried sausage made of pork heart, kidney and liver, anticuchos, a Peruvian beef heart dish, and chicken skin cracklings.
It’s also worth noting you can get an order of fries coated in Old Vienna’s Red Hot Riplets seasoning.
I have to admit, like Whiskey and Soba did in his piece, I was somewhat ambivalent about broadcasting this. Mac’s is down the street from my office and across the park from my apartment. During the last few months, it’s felt like the epitome of a hidden gem to me—something for those in the know. I realize that’s a silly idea, and that I’m no better than anyone else for finding delicious food. But I also know that more of us need to support places like Mac’s.
Make no mistake, it’s certainly worth your patronage. For the style, it’s the best burger in the city. When you eat at Mac’s, you can truly see what a difference ingredients, care and dedication make.
If you’re going to have a beer and burger, make it Mac’s.