These burgers will take some topping
GUITARS are mounted over the bar, while a menu of burgers sits on it. And let's make it clear what's meant by "a menu of burgers".
That should not be taken to mean regular, cheese, cheese-and-bacon and – what the heck, let's live! – Stilton-and-mushroom.
No, this is a proper page-and-a-half of big, juicy burgers slathered in anything you'd ever want to slather a burger in and served alongside some member of the chip family.
And the burgers are served up near the speakers that pump out nothing but the blues. It's enough to make you think you've taken a wrong turn on Maid Marian way and wound up in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Except that in Clarksdale, they don't tend to have eight real ales on the bar.
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In actual fact, there's not a delta in sight at the Navigation pub in Wilford Street – the body of water alongside is the canal.
But thanks to a pair of publicans keen to create a home for blues in Nottingham and an expat American who knows her way around a burger grill, the pub is getting a transatlantic revamp.
"I come from Rhode Island," says Anmarie Spaziano, the "Annie" behind Annie's Burger Shack at the Navigation.
"I come from where the first diner comes from. I know what a good burger tastes like."
Basically, she's on a mission to bring proper fare to the burger-craving people of Britain.
"People love burgers here," she says. "But the way they taste here is so disgusting."
Meanwhile, John Mehew and Peter Hotchkiss, both of this parish, took over the Marston's-owned pub a few weeks ago, and have slowly been building it back up.
Pete's the more experienced pub guy, while John's a musician who knows other musicians and wants to get the regular music nights going.
"That's the aim," John says. "Live music every night in different forms.
"We've got a good few bands lined up."
Most nights, the music on tap will be blues. The every-night programming might not happen straight away, but they've got a big music offer on tonight and tomorrow.
Annie's been getting things going for the last few weeks, but the Annie's Burger Shack grand opening happens this weekend with a line-up of blues, rockabilly and psychobilly on stage and a substantial selection of burgers on the menu.
The bands will include The Speedkings, Steve and the Raise, Regimes, Endless Grinning Skulls, house band The Navigation Blues Corps (John sits in on that one) and The Distillery Blues Band.
And the burgers? Well, there's the BB King, the Lemmy, the Thin Lizzy, the Louisiana Burgundy Street, the Sherwood, the Elvis, the Johnny Cash .... let's just say there's a few. They come with toppings ranging from cheese or bacon to jalapeño to chilli to Jack Daniel's sauce. She's created one masterpiece called the Sunday Dinner Burger. The name is a literal description.
And Annie prides herself on vegetarian and vegan options on her menu – not always something you get with a burger specialist.
She also does other proper gutbuster dishes – hot dogs slathered in chilli or done New York-style with mustard and sauerkraut, or maybe a Mexican special on the chalkboard.
But when you call it "Annie's Burger Shack", you've got to bring the cow.
Annie cooks burgers to order using fresh veg and beef from a family-owned butchers that get their beef from a farm in Leicestershire.
"We're definitely not a fast-food franchise," she says.
Annie's lived in Nottingham since 1994. As she puts it, she arrived with a guitar and a suitcase. ("I don't know if I was naive or psycho-stupid," she says).
She was looking for music but eventually found her way into cheffing. Before coming to the Navigation she'd served a similar menu at another pub known for its music, the Old Angel in Hockley.
When she left there, she had a few offers. But when a mutual friend put her in touch with the Navvy guys, she knew she was onto something good.
"When I came down here and met Pete and John, we just really hit it off," she says.
Since joining forces, they've been seeing a few old faces. Some people know Annie from her previous burger work, others are revisiting a pub they used to enjoy before it spent several years in a downward slide.
Says Annie: "We have a lot of people coming in here going 'We haven't been in here for years but we're so coming back."