By Doug Deal
Macon Community News
The word “rookery” means “a breeding ground for birds, particularly crows or rooks (a type of crow).” As applied to the renowned restaurant located at 543 Cherry Street in downtown Macon, it means a breeding ground for delicious food.
Getting into the Rookery is often a chore because of the popularity of this eatery, but if you are patient, it is worth the wait. They are mostly known for their diversely-themed burgers and milkshakes, but they also have an excellent cheese spread appetizer and fantastic sandwiches, as well as a full bar.
Their dining has recently expanded into the lobby of the building next door, which also houses The Creek 100.9 WNEX-FM, but the original bar area with rustic double-decker seating is still the first thing that will greet you. The restaurant has collected a large number of memorabilia and graffiti over the years, enough to make the decor unique and offer an opportunity to see something new every visit. But, as always, we went there for the food, and it did not disappoint.
If it is your first time, try one of the themed burgers. Options include the Jimmy Carter, which obligatorily has peanut butter along with applewood smoked bacon, or the Allman, with swiss cheese and sauteed mushrooms. Several other specialty burgers are available as well, with the Vampire Slayer being the most extreme, as it is loaded with various forms of garlic and served between two garlic grilled cheese sandwiches. These run from $10.50 to $15 and come with a side.
For my meal, I selected the Jerry Reed Burger, which is a simple burger, yet it possesses the perfect combination of spicy flavors. I was told that the meat was a seven-ounce beef patty, and I had it cooked to a medium, which they met perfectly. Inside, the meat was not overhandled or tightly packed, so there were large grainy bits that allowed the juices to share the space. This care in preparation resulted in a moist explosion of flavor with every bite that never seemed dry or tough.
They presented this fantastic burger with a dollop of sriracha mayonnaise that neither overpowered the beef nor stood silent. The sriracha perfectly blended the meat to the burger’s only toppings, pepper jack cheese and jalapenos. From the first to the last bite, this burger was a sheer delight. The Rookery’s Jerry Reed is quite possibly the best burger in town. It may not be for everyone, as it does have a slightly spicy kick. But the zing does not go too far, only far enough to please those that like the heat on when dining.
For my side, I chose the Rookery’s onion rings, which had a $1.50 upcharge. Fries generally bore me to pieces, so the small charge was well worth it due to the large size of the rings, crunchy panko-style breading, and thick slices of onion. The Rookery’s rings had a tender bite that never resulted in separating the breading ring from the onion. They were fantastic without a condiment, but I paired them with ketchup and hot sauce to match the character of my burger. It was a perfect marriage.
Four and a half dollars allows you to upgrade to a milkshake for your side item, and the Rookery has many options there. I did not catch that until after reviewing the photos of their menu, but this was truly a missed opportunity that I will remedy during my next visit.
My companion ordered the Gram Parson’s Cosmic Club. The name is a mouthful, but so is this enormous entree. If you go to one of those fast food sub shops or make a cheap processed meat sandwich at home, you will have the wrong idea about how good a club sandwich can be. This thing was something that would satisfy the Earl of Sandwich himself and maybe even a Duke or Prince of Sandwich, had they existed.
Eating it was reminiscent of watching Shaggy and Scooby-Doo unhinge their jaws to accommodate one of their creations. The oatmeal-dusted wheat bread was packed like one of my wife’s overnight bags. It was filled with loads of ham, turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and beer mustard aioli. In all seriousness, the portion size on the cosmic club was quite generous, and every bite was robustly flavored.
The Rookery is skilled at mixing flavors so that they meld in perfect harmony like a well-practiced choir. The only disappointment was in taking the last bite, even though you had to stuff yourself to get there. The sandwich runs only $10 and comes with the same choice of a side as the burger. My companion got their fries, and they were crispy on the outside and tender in the inside without being greasy or stale.
The Rookery will not be the least expensive or quickest lunch you’ve ever had, but it very well may be one of the best.