Cole’s Burger Co – lunch

Categories: All American, Casual, Eat-in
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: September 29, 2010

After several fits and starts, Cole’s Burger Company is now open on Rt 57 in Liverpool. A very important part of this review is the location – it’s in the building that a lot of us still think of as “Tommy’s.” Sure, it’s hosted more than it’s fair share of failed eateries in the last few years; off the top of my head, I can think of Garcia’s Mexican and most recently Lou-Lou’s. But I don’t really think there’s a jinx on the location. It’s not the building or the lot that causes the restaurants to fail – it’s the total lack of inspiration on the part of the tenants.

Latest case in point – Cole’s Burger Company.

I dropped in on a Wednesday afternoon at precisely 1:30 (according to the clock in my car). There were a number of cars out front, which I took as an encouraging sign. I went in the old main entrance which, I quickly discovered, is no longer the main entrance. You’re now supposed to enter the dining area next to the ice cream windows, where you find yourself in a tiny alcove in front of the order station. There’s a hanging menu offering various burger combinations and fried sides. I scanned the offerings and went with a Black & Bleu Burger (cajun spices and bleu cheese) and a fountain soda. The menu listed the prices as $5 for the burger and $2 for the soda, and I forked over $7.56 .

I was already unimpressed – the order station and what I could see of the back area were still at the sheetrock stage (how many months has this place been about to open?), but I wasn’t asked how I wanted my burger cooked. The soda cups were about the size medium cups used to be before we hit “The Great Recession” and which now pass for large in most places. It wasn’t mentioned if they offered unlimited refills (you get your own), but I got the distinct impression they weren’t. Pretty steep for $2 if you ask me. I was given an electronic buzzer to signal me when my meal was ready for pick-up.

While I sat and waited, I looked around at the interior. It’s still the same tromp l’oeil decorations from when Tommy Leatherwood re-did the place, only the text has been converted to English from the old Garcia’s days. While there was a radio playing, most of the interior lighting came from at least 8 different TVs of various sizes hung on the wall, and three arcade games shoved to one side.

One of the most serious problems I have with the place is one of the design flaws introduced during the Tommy’s period. Artistically I think having a floor that emulates a French cobblestone street went great with the original street scene painted on the walls. But from day one, it’s been a bitch kitty getting tables and seats not to wobble. Okay, tearing up the old floor and putting down a new one costs a lot of money, I’ll grant you. But getting down on your hands and knees with a few sheets of cardboard from your latest Sysco delivery and jamming them under wobbly legs and corners costs you literally nothing. The tables still hop from leg to leg like some three-year-old who has to pee, and not one tenant has addressed this!

There were bout a dozen patrons sitting around eating, all apparently working class stiffs on lunch break. A few minutes after sitting down, I discovered this was literally true – most of the guys got up and entered the kitchen. I think there were like 3 tables with people left after everyone went back to work. Hey, at least the people doing the work aren’t afraid to eat here!

It seems like a small thing, but the buzzer I was given seems to have come straight out of the box from the factory. There’s a small, clear window behind which the restaurant is supposed to slip some kind of ad or business card. Nothing on it.

So it went off, and I walked up to get my meal. It was delivered on a plastic cafeteria tray, with real metal flatware wrapped in paper napkins offered in a grab-your-own basket. The girl didn’t seem to care if I returned the buzzer.

The bleu covered the top of the burger in a thick layer, and it was gooey and melty and had a hearty flavor. Unfortunately, it way overpowered the rest of the burger. I tried a bite of the patty by itself, and there was no cajun or any other seasoning added to it that I could tell. It was a standard, hand-shaped ground beef patty that had been smash-fried on a griddle, cooked well done (but not burned). There was a TON of shredded (cut, really) lettuce on top, along with a very red and juicy tomato slice. There were a few sliced pickles, all piled in one place under the burger. No onions, which I find surprising but also a relief as I’d forgotten to tell them I didn’t want any. Most “hand made” burger places around here seem to love piling them on. The bun was standard fare, the cheapest one they could get, apparently. There were no condiments on the burger, but squeeze bottles of ketchup were on every table.

When I was done, I deposited my garbage in the tiny receptacle by the soda machine, but I had no clue as to what to do with the tray and flatware, so I dumped them in the unattended pick-up window.

I know the place just opened, and I know it takes a while to get into the swing of things. I’m willing to give them a few weeks and go back for another burger. BUT. . .

Cole’s has a long, long way to go. My snarky comments about the floor aside, they need to decide what they are, and what kind of clientele they want to serve. Wall after wall of flat screen TVs tuned to sports channels (well, one was showing Tom & Jerry cartoons) would seem to indicate that they’re looking to get a liquor license and showcase a beer-and-burger menu to sports fans.

But the food is totally uninspired. They need to ask themselves: why would someone come here rather than go anywhere else? I mean, aside from several fast-food franchises, there’s Megan MacMurphy’s right down the road that offers a beer and burger combination for, I think, $5. Why stop here? And after the mediocre meal and service, why come back? It’s not that the place is bad. Actually, that’s the problem – it’s just there, not good or bad. There’s no personality about Cole’s other than what they’ve inherited from the building’s previous tenants, and that’s a pity. For just about the same price, I could get a fried burger and soda at Mickey D’s without having to get out of the car.

Food is fuel. It’s everything else around it – service, setting, presentation – that makes it dining. If you want people to keep coming back to your dining establishment, you have to offer them something they can’t get at home or from some other place. Right now, Cole’s isn’t doing that.


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  1. Lee says:

    Sounds like you’re not expecting them to last long. I actually found this review by Googling Cole’s Burger. Bet they wish they had their own website (which is what I was looking for). Now all I found was your review which didn’t help me make a decision to go there – quite the opposite actually. I like ho much detail you put into this review – sometimes people just like to rip on restaurants, but you clearly put a lot of thought into your review. Just curious though, why don’t you post things like this to Yelp? It seems like they’ve already got a great forum for stuff like this. I almost always look there first. Anyways – thanks for the review!

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