MANATEE -- Justin and Amy Swisher wanted some burgers with an attitude and hoped they've struck the right combination at their new burger bar S.O.B. Burgers.
The Bad Azz Burgers, as they're called, include names like The King, The S.O.B. and Voodoo Burger that features a Cajun cream cheese spread. It's all part of being a little funny to make the food and the restaurant memorable, the owners said.
"I love burgers," chef Justin Swisher said, laughing. "Fine dining is overrated."
Oh, and S.O.B. is short for South of Bradenton, you naughty reader. The restaurant opened Thursday at 5866 14th St. W, just south of Sweetbay, and is open noon to 2 a.m. seven days a week.
"Whenever we say it, people snicker," Amy said with a chuckle. "People remember it because it triggers something else in their mind."
Justin's flare for fun recipes originates from his post-culinary school travels. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh, he found himself interning for an Emeril Lagasse property in New Orleans. While he learned quite a lot about being a pro, Justin would find back country diners and restaurants and ask the owners if he could learn in exchange for cooking for free.
"On my days off I'd go on the outskirts of New Orleans and find these old Cajun shacks and I'd go in there and ask if I could cook," Justin said. Whether it was in the Deep South where he wanted to learn soul food from local cooks or a Cajun with a raging recipe, Justin's yearning for knowledge took over.
"I'm an adventurous cook. You got (Anthony) Bourdain and all these other guys that go out in the middle of nowhere," he said. "Working for franchises and bigger corporations, they don't take time out to go out to these small places and learn these key elements that make these restaurants stay in business for 50 years."
Now Justin is retired from the franchise business and jokes that making a choice between a Corvette and a restaurant, he chose opening his own burger bar.
At S.O.B., Justin's journey can be found on the menu. He uses all Angus patties with simple ingredients that offer a twist. His burgers are served on a brioche bun. He said the key is to not overdo it.
"Too many ingredients, too much time," Justin said.
Some examples of keeping it simple with funky combinations includes The King, an Elvis Presley-inspired burger with a Thai twist -- it features a thin spread of peanut butter on the bun with tempura banana and bacon. Or how about the Dirty Leprechaun with a half pound of corned beef topped with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread.
"I hear people laugh when they comment on the menu, and that's what we want," Amy said. "Humor makes people remember stuff. If they see something that makes them laugh, they'll remember."
Rocky Carr and his friend David Sovey stopped in for lunch Wednesday and had a couple laughs looking at the size of the burgers, but the flavors passed the test.
"You can taste the burger patty, it's obviously natural beef," Carr, said about his Race Day Burger. "It's got a unique presentation, and the flavors are very good as well. You can taste the bacon, you can taste seasoning and you can taste the burger."
Sovey opted for the Voodoo Burger and said he could taste the spicy kick.
"It's amazing so far," he said. "I wasn't excepting a knife holding it together."
Beyond "traditional burgers," there are tacos, sandwiches and a veggie burger that's not really a burger. The Tree-Hugger is homemade featuring fresh black beans, onions, green peppers and other veggies, chopped fine and mixed with bread crumbs.
"I hate the comment that people say a veggie burger has to taste like a burger. It's apples and oranges," Justin said. "But you can make a veggie burger, have a consistency like a burger and have a really, really good deep flavor to it."
Justin has plenty of recipes up his sleeve for more burgers, testing concepts throughout the month. Each month will feature a different take. This month is the Race Day Burger with two patties, caramelized onions, bacon and cheddar cheese.
A Thanksgiving-themed burger is ready to go for November with cranberry mayo, ground turkey and stuffing inside. Other months could feature elk burgers, po-boy burgers and bison.
The Swishers are also catering to those who work late shifts, keeping the kitchen open until 2 a.m. each day.
"We serve food until people stop ordering food," Amy said.
S.O.B. also hopes to expand into a neighboring unit this summer, increasing seating up to 152 in order to get a full liquor license, the Swishers said. They plan to expand the menu at the time.
The bar is also an official post-game Roller Derby bar for several teams including the Hitmen of Manatee County, North River Rolling Renegades and Double Agents of Manatee County. The back wall features many of these players on a Roller Derby Wall of Fame, nearby a pool table and a jukebox serve to make the bar a real post-game party place.
"We've been to several bouts, and it's a lot of fun and great people are involved," Amy said. "I know they do a lot of charity work and we wanted to support that as well."
Just don't expect Amy to strap on the skates.
"Heck no," she said. "I don't like pain. I'd be the one falling on the floor all the time."
For more information, call S.O.B. Burgers at 941-755-1998.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.