The Food and Wine Hedonist

leave your inhibitions at the door

My Favorite Hamburger Joint

It seems everywhere you look there’s a new “gourmet burger” place that’s sprouted up.  When I was in NYC in April I went to both Bareburger and Shake Shack.  Out in Cali everybody’s raving about Umami Burger.  And it seems Five Guys is taking the whole country by storm – even invading our little hippie corner of Southeast Michigan.  In addition to Five Guys there are a bunch more burger joints that have opened here recently.  We’re not just talking about a bar or restaurant having a burger section on their menu.  These are places where the burgers are front and center.

But none of these places compare to Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger.

They’ve been cooking burgers in the same location since 1953, you can easily call it an Ann Arbor institution.  But it’s not just its longevity that makes it quintessential A2.  With its hippie history, A2 prides itself on being “weird” and “counterculture”.  People here don’t like following trends – at least those that are less than 10 years old.  If you tell locals NO ONE wears frickin’ Birkenstocks any more, they do the opposite and buy some more just to spite you.

And it so it goes with Blimpy Burger, where just about every suggestion on how to make a perfect burger gets tossed out the window.  I just Googled “the best way to make a hamburger” and the results were close enough to where I can say there’s a consensus on a few techniques.  Let’s see how Blimpy Burger does:

- The best burgers are done on a grill.   Not here – it’s on a griddle.

- Use coarsely ground meat.  Ok, makes sense.  This’ll make it steak-like.  Blimpy’s double grinds their meat.  When ordering, you select a double, triple, quadruple, or quint and they take out little pre-rolled 1.5 ounce balls of meat and put it on the griddle.  They only make singles for kids, so adults start out with doubles.

- Don’t press down on the meat.  As you press down, you compress the meat and squeeze out the juices.  At Blimpy’s, as soon as those balls hit the griddle, they’re slapped down with a spatula to a super thin patty.  As it cooks, they continue to slap it down.

- Avoid flipping over the burger often.  Flipping it over makes it hard to get a good sear on the meat which leads to juices not staying in it.  By the time the Blimpy’s cook serves your burger, it’s probably been flipped half a dozen times.

- Cook to medium or medium-rare.  OK, this one isn’t necessarily a rule. Whenever you order a burger at a nicer restaurant they’ll ask you how you want it done.  Medium or medium-rare is suggested so that juices aren’t cooked out of the patty.    Blimpy’s?  Cooked all the way through and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

In addition to the number of patties, you also have the choice of toppings, cheeses, and buns.  This being the home of one of the best engineering schools in the world, of course someone calculated the number of different combinations.  With the number of patties, cheeses, bun types, grilled items, and condiments, the total number of combinations is 2,147,483,648.  That’s 2.1 billion. You can see the actual calculation on their site.  Of course, me being the good Asian, I proofread the calculation.

So how are they?

You all know that I’m not down with sentimental choices.  Just because something’s beloved by so many and has been around for years doesn’t mean I’m going to like it.  In fact, that usually sends me screaming the other way.  But these are good.  DAMN good.

Bubba seems to have inherited my appetite as he’s graduated to the double.  He ordered it with mushrooms and swiss..

I ordered the legendary Pepper Steak Bullet -

Triple on Onion Roll with peppers, grilled onions, provolone, topped with a mixture of scallions, bacon, cracked black pepper, and ranch dressing.

 

The burgers were still juicy and only slightly seasoned.  All that flipping and smashing didn’t hurt it.  I think what happens is because there are multiple patties, there’s more surface area for the juices (grease) to stick to.  And it makes it crisper and crumbly – sounds odd, but it’s delicious.  The Pepper Bullet with all its toppings is a harmonious mixture of flavors, textures, and temperatures.  Definitely a must-have.

The sides are also excellent here.  The fries are the big plank type and they have bottles of malt vinegar at each table, like classic fish and chips.  We usually get the fried veggies – mushrooms, broccoli, carrots – to share.  Or we get the onion rings, which take a full 2 days to make.

It’s a polarizing place, though. A lot of locals haven’t been there in years because it’s a “college kid thing” or they’re worried about it not being healthy. It’s also a total dump with rickety stools and tables.  And the counter staff  could be understudies to Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.

But I love it.  It’s a great experience and burgers are one-of-a-kind.  Best part? As their slogan says, “it’s cheaper than food.”

Anyone want to grab one with me?  I’ll even pay for my own.  What’s your favorite burger?

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About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

22 comments on “My Favorite Hamburger Joint

  1. The Dutchman
    June 20, 2012

    One of my college friends is the proprietor/chef at http://www.craigieonmain.com/ – apparently they have a top 5 burger in the U.S.of A.

    I am a big fan of Blimpy Burger, but i wish they served it with gloves because the grease factor is off the charts.

  2. Go Jules Go
    June 20, 2012

    “… me being the good Asian, I proofread the calculation.” *snort* That is hilarious that they break all of the ‘how to make a good burger’ rules! But they do look amazing. I think a bacon cheeseburger has got to be my fav – and throw some BBQ sauce and fried onions on there! Or fresh jalepenos! They just put a couple of 25 Burgers near us, and they are PRETTY spectacular. Very juicy. Good buns and shredded lettuce, which is key for me.

  3. lolabees
    June 20, 2012

    Recently tried Umami in SF, and while it was good, it didn’t live up to the hype. Park Burger in Denver rocks!

  4. wakeupami
    June 20, 2012

    Why is it that the shadiest places have the best food? I visited Portland recently and someone insisted I go to the “Original Hotcake House” because I’ll never find better pancakes anywhere, ever. It’s a tiny, run down little building in a scary part of town. I actually feared for my life. But he was right. They were phenomenal. I’d say “maybe I’ll have to try more shady looking places” but somehow I think that’s a bad plan regardless…

  5. musingsoftheamusingmuse
    June 20, 2012

    That sounds like a fantastic place for burgers!! We have a “supper club” down the street from my office that gets robbed about every 3 months, you never know if the credit card machine will work, it’s dark – the lighting provided by the glow of neon and from the TVs since the curtains/shades are nearly always closed… This is the kind of place the average person would pass by on outward appearance alone BUT, they make THE BEST friend chicken and Friday Fish Fry there – the owner is a great bartender and at the end of the meal, they bring you a chocolate & vanilla swirl ice cream cup. Toby’s Supper Club – I highly recommend it!

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      June 20, 2012

      Supper club? that’s Wisconsin, right? Been to a few there, but couldn’t remember any names…

      • musingsoftheamusingmuse
        June 20, 2012

        Supper Clubs are definitely a Wisconsin thing. I’ve not seen them outside of the state in my travels. I can name at least a dozen without thinking on it. Some are still around, some are no longer, but they all had a history.

  6. TheOthers1
    June 20, 2012

    I know it’s a commercial place, but I love rage a1peppercorn burger from Red Robin.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      June 20, 2012

      The Pieholes love that place, I like it mostly for the local beers. I went there with a bunch of co-workers and convinced the waitress it was a colleague’s birthday (it wasn’t). She was pissed.. Thx for stopping by!

  7. Cheryl
    June 21, 2012

    My favorite: the Zinburger at Zinburger in Phoenix….it has Manchego, Zinfandel braised onions & mayo. It’s simple but Amazing! And the fries – 4 different kinds. I usually get the sweet potato. And the beer – got have a beer with a burger – Newcastle Brown. But they also have great wines…Educated Guess goes well with that burger.

  8. Megan @ MegGoesNomNom
    June 25, 2012

    Love me some Blimpie. Though I think I’m slowly (quickly) morphing into one of those “locals haven’t been there in years,” in favor of a Sidetrack burger.

  9. madamecroquette
    June 27, 2012

    This pictures need to be in Bon Appetite!! Great posts, always :)

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      June 27, 2012

      Aww, thanks! I really appreciate it. I’m putting a whole bunch of stuff on eBay now to get a proper camera. Love my iPhone but…

      • madamecroquette
        June 27, 2012

        Yes! Don’t know what quality of camera you are looking for but I use the Canon T-i2 that I got at B&H photo! It has done wonders for me. I hope this helps!

  10. the drunken cyclist
    July 7, 2012

    Used to live in the A2, within a minute’s walk of Blimpy. Thanks for the memories! great blog as well!

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