Old-style goodies on grill at Kooky Burgers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 25, 2015

Marvin and Shannon Atlas serve up a burger Thursday afternoon at Kooky Burgers, 3401 Halls Ferry Road. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Marvin and Shannon Atlas serve up a burger Thursday afternoon at Kooky Burgers, 3401 Halls Ferry Road. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

A sign above the door might say Kooky Burgers, but the recipe for what owners Shannon and Marvin Atlas are cooking is a mix of blue-collar ethic and simplicity.

“I’ve seen places that you can’t define what they are,” Shannon Atlas said. “When you go in and look at the menu, they might be selling an American dish, an Asian dish, a Mexican dish. It’s like when McDonalds was trying to sell hot wings.”

She and Marvin, her husband of 14 years, started grilling home-style burgers in the Halls Ferry Junction strip mall behind Walgreens in December, with a stripped-down menu that reflects an easy definition — as opposed to family businesses who overdo it and end up on reality food TV and an earful from a celebrity chef.

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“We wanted to stick to something specific,” Shannon said. “So there’s no better way to sell hamburgers than to give a good, homemade, hand-crafted burger. We butter-toast the bun on the grill like a good old-style burger.”

Formerly a husband-and-wife team of caterers, the Atlases brought the yin and yang of a kitchen couple to the kitchen — Shannon loves to cook, Marvin loves to eat and see what works.

“We started catering in Claiborne County in 2004 and did it a few years,” Marvin Atlas said. “We catered from one person to 1,000 people. One time, we did one person. It was Thanksgiving dinner for this man and his wife.”

Shannon, who majored in agriculture and had interned at Monsanto, saw the food industry from the regulatory and production angles, having worked the next few years at the Mississippi State Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Basically, I went from the farm to row cropping to pastures to inspecting restaurants to doing my own restaurant,” Shannon said. “He was traveling with me and working locally. I just always loved cooking. And the gas prices at the time drove us to doing this, because I was driving two hours one way to go to work.”

At first afraid to “step out on faith” and start a restaurant, the Atlases rented the space and opened with a simple banner sign out front. What they’re serving up is no dried-out burger from below a row of heat lamps or humidity locker. It’s juicy, certified Angus beef patties on any of four types of buns accompanied by tasty choices of helpings, which can include five types of cheeses, a heap of bacon, sneaky-hot jalapeno peppers, savory mushrooms or sweet potato fries.

Ingredients are fresh and the seasonings simple, yet familiar at the build-a-burger bar — lettuce, pickles, onions, tomatoes, the jalapenos, guacamole, mayo and barbecue sauce.

“You can put whatever you want on it that we have to offer,” Shannon said. “And we’ll cook to specification.”

First among the “kooky” burgers the couple wants to test on local palates is a patty infused with tangy chorizo sausage. Pineapple slices and eggs cooked to order are on tap to join the menu as optional burger toppings on Thursday, when a grand opening is planned.

“We’ve talked about doing crazier, exotic burgers on the menu — to make it a little more kooky,” Shannon said. “We have some tricks up our sleeves with some limited-time burgers.”

Neither has forgotten their roots being busy parents of two teenaged sons. A staff of four keeps the grill hot into the evenings, with doors open until 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We’ve worked long hours in multiple counties,” Shannon said. “I’d be getting home late in the evening, Bible study on Wednesday, band practice or football practice. So this is a good, fresh home-cooked meal to take back to the house. We’re thinking of working families.”