Cool Al's is a simple burger joint on the outskirts of downtown Jackson that gave us probably the best burgers we had ever eaten.
What is it about the burger that is so inviting, so casual, so reliable? Is it the years of marketing that has engrained in the American people that they are not in fact American if they don't enjoy a burger on a semi-regular regimen? Maybe it is that you cannot go more than an eighth of a mile without seeing some semblance of a burger joint. Whatever the reason, you can usually count on a burger to provide relief when your stomach has eaten through your liver and started gnawing on your spine. If you're like me and you still want something tasty at any stage of hunger, head to McWillie Drive in Jackson, MS for a bite at Cool Al's. You will not be disappointed...unless, of course, they run out of Kool-Aid.
Having spent some time living in Jackson previously, there were two restaurants that I knew we had to visit when we got there: Stamps on Dalton Street and E & L BBQ on Bailey Ave. Stamps is the burger place to go when you are in Jackson and it automatically gives you a certain amount of “street cred” when people find out you know and have tasted a Stamps Superburger. The only drawback to Stamps is the lack of seating at its origin location. After contacting a friend of mine, Tario, who was going to be joining us for a bite to eat, he suggested that we go to Cool Al's which was essentially the same restaurant and actually once held the name “Stamps” until some unfortunate family legal issues. Agreeing to meet at Cool Al's, we set off in our rented car to try out this Stamps "knock-off".
Pulling up our only indication that a restaurant resided inside was the Superman-shaped emblem marking that this was Cool Al's and that it was open. The space inside was general enough with your standard diner chairs and tables interspersed throughout while traditional African art clung to the walls. Straight ahead a hole in the wall (literally) allows you to place an order and pay to which you will receive a number, your drink, and a peek at the kitchen where the magic happens. As I am always up for bold flavors, we chose two medium sized K.B. burgers while Tario ordered a side of sweet potato fries. These burgers come stuffed with Applewood smoked bacon, jalapenos, and cheese cooked inside the meat with more cheese piled on top with an order of the Cajun battered fries to split. Oh and lets not forget the blue Kool-Aid on special!
After a fifteen minute wait that was long enough to need a refill on my Kool-Aid, our orders were brought out. In all it's glory, my jalapeno, bacon, and cheese stuffed burger stared up at me knowing that it was what I had been craving since before I left Knoxville. Having been in love with Stamps and not wanting to cheat on them, I was somewhat skeptical about how Cool Al's would compare with the memories I had of the heaven I had tasted so many years ago but Al did not disappoint. Slammed full of flavor from the beef itself and enhanced by the sauteed onions, peppers, and smoky bacon, there was nothing to do but let out a sigh of pure intoxication. As I looked across the table, I knew my comrades were in the same place. The fries left a little to be desired. I expected a little spice and some crispiness and definitely heat, I am sad to say I was a little disappointed...but then again who wouldn't be after a burger like that?
There isn't much left to follow up that kind of meal. If I tried, it would be like following Beethoven with a rendition of Mary Had a Little Lamb on a set of Fischer-Price chimes. What I will say is that if you find yourself in Jackson and you haven't had the burger that breaks you for all other burgers, stop by and visit Cool Al's (or Stamps). Believe me, you will appreciate it and if it happens to be on a Friday around 4-7 p.m., walk off that burger with a beer tour at Lucky Town Brewing Company, which is just around the corner.
Cool Al's is located at 4654 Mcwillie Drive in Jackson, MS. It is open daily 10a.m. to 9 p.m. and closed on Sundays. Aside from burgers, it has vegetarian choices, other sandwiches, and more. (601) 713-3020