Corbett's Burgers & Soda Bar is the mom-and-pop shop that could.
When the landscape is as dotted as a dalmatian with Bad Daddy's, Five Guys, Burger-Fi and similar burger-centric places, it takes guts to open another one. How do you distinguish yourself in such a crowded field?
Corbett's answer is in the second part of its name. When you walk in, one of the first things you notice is not one, not two, not three, but four large beverage cases filled top to bottom with sodas from across the country and, in some instances, seemingly across time. It may not resonate with the Red Bull generation, but some patrons may find themselves transported by the opportunity to grab a cold glass bottle of RC Cola, Faygo, Jic Jac or Nehi.
Corbett's stocks more than 240 different sodas. There are root beers, including Abita. There are cream sodas. There are enough lemon, orange, grape and blue raspberry options to make a rainbow. There are novelties. The Chocolate-Covered Maple Smoked Bacon Soda bears the tag line "Breakfast in a Bottle," but it seems more like dessert in a bottle: The chocolate flavor dominates, with only an occasional hint of bacon. It's not what you would reach for to cool off after mowing the lawn, but it's not a bad après dinner drink.
Kids will be intrigued by the line of Always Ask for Avery's "Totally Gross Sodas," which bear such names as Toxic Slime, Bug Barf and Dog Drool. The Toxic Slime has berry notes; Bug Barf and Dog Drool are more citrusy.
Oh, you can buy food at Corbett's too, if you manage to tear yourself away from the sodas. The burger meat is ground daily and hand pattied; it will remind you of homemade. You can choose between quarter-pound singles or half-pound doubles plus a wide assortment of toppings. There are nine (counting the Salmon Burger and the Spicy Black Bean Burger) specialty burgers and five specialty hot dogs. The Southern Burger is messy but worth the effort. Covered with house-made buttermilk coleslaw and oozing with Velveeta—yes, you read that correctly—it calls for extra napkins.
Speaking of Southern, Corbett's offers a grilled pimento cheese sandwich, something unlikely to be found north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
With typical add-ons such as American cheese, lettuce, tomato and onions, the Sodalicious Burger is flavored with a combination of BBQ Island sauce, tangy ranch and what's billed as "special sodalicious seasoning." Extra napkins come in handy with it, too.
Skip the fries. On one visit, the seasoned fries were so bland I actually thought I had gotten plain fries by mistake. Instead, order the house-made coleslaw, which has a hint of sweetness but isn't overbearingly so. An even better choice is the house-made baked beans. Laced with bits of meat and strips of onion, they pack a mouthful of flavor with every spoonful.
If you have room for dessert, the banana pudding will remind you of your grandmother's, assuming she was a good Southern cook. Corbett's also serves ice cream, milk shakes and genuine root beer floats.
The staff is friendly and seems genuinely interested in your experience. Although the restaurant has been open only a few weeks, it is clearly aiming to be a warm, welcoming place with an old-fashioned touch.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Top of the pops."