During college, I worked one summer as what we refer to today as a sous chef. Back then, people just called me a cook, and part of my job was flipping burgers — big, juicy burgers adorned with many different toppings and served on a doughy bun that we baked ourselves — in a trendy suburban Atlanta indoor-outdoor restaurant and bar.
My appreciation for an oversized, decadent burger grew exponentially as I threw myself into the art of cooking for one stressful summer. My specialty, and my go-to meal during break, was a bacon-swiss burger with crispy bacon and lightly melted cheese. The combination of tastes appealed to me, as did the texture of the soft bun, a medium-cooked hamburger patty and the interplay of cheese and bacon.
Ever since, the bacon-swiss has been my burger of choice.
A month or so ago, my wife and I discovered a new bar and grill on Route 236 in Eliot, the 207 Tavern. It used to be an ice cream place and was refashioned as a roadside tavern with a big bar, big TVs and a big menu to match. We loved it the first time and have been back three times since. It’s always busy, and each meal has been excellent — overflowing plates of bar food that shows attention to detail in its preparation. The steak tips were well-marinated and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The chicken fingers were crispy, the salads fresh and fried haddock light and flaky.
It wasn’t until our fourth visit that I opted for the bacon-swiss burger ($10 for the burger and another $2 for the bacon). It’s been 30-something years since that summer behind the grill, and I’ve spent most of them in search of a burger better than those we served in Atlanta. I have found a few along the way, and the burger at 207 Tavern is right up there with the best. It was served almost exactly as I asked, with the burger cooked medium, a bit of mustard, a leaf of lettuce, bacon and lightly melted Swiss. The burger was slightly pink but not so juicy that it became a mess. The bun was soft and the lettuce fresh. Even the bacon was as I like it: crisp but not burned.
My wife knew I liked it, because she noted how slowly I ate it. I savored it, enjoying each bite.
The fries also were crisp and not salty. My wife’s chicken fingers ($10.95), which she has ordered nearly every time we’ve been, were exceptionally good — again, crisp but not overdone and with a variety of dipping sauces.
The decor at 207 Tavern is clean and casual, with a woodsy, cabin-like feel. It feels like a sports bar, although I had to ask for a TV to be turned to the Sox game on a Friday night. The Sox were on one of four TVs, but I couldn’t see it from our table. The others were on CNN, a tennis match and soccer. I’m all for giving people choices, but when the Sox are on, the Sox are on. We shouldn’t have to ask.
It’s not a large place, with a half-dozen tables and 16 or so bar stools, and it fills up quickly on weekend nights with a boisterous crowd and a festive atmosphere, thanks to good food, a well-stocked bar and a decent selection of taps.
WHERE: 811 Dow Highway (Route 236), Eliot. 748-1790
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday to Saturday.
WAIT: 15 minutes
PARKING: On site
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes