A bevy of local spots to chomp on a hamburger
Published: May 18, 2011
Famous Hamburger 5808 Schaefer Rd., Dearborn; 313-945-0002; 3424 Fairlane Dr., Allen Park; 313-441-4100; also in Ann Arbor; famoushamburger.com; $: The hamburgers at Famous are a sight better than fast food. Come for the fries or for the bargain steak (a special), or because the meat is halal. Or, come just because it's a friendly place. The Dearborn location used to be housed in one of the city's oldest buildings, but now it has moved to an airy and commodious new spot on Schaefer Road, with quirky statuary of old-fashioned cooks and piazzolos. The Allen Park shop is no-frills, and their heaping orders of French fries will challenge even king-size stomachs. The friendly cooks will ask how you liked your meal, and they actually seem to care. They offer a dizzying variety of options.
Famous Izzy's Restauarant 22315 Little Mack, Roseville; 586-294-6750; $: This is about as serious as sandwiches get. And sandwiches that aren't just double-deckers or triple-deckers — but four-deckers so tall they have to be served on skewers. But they also serve hot dogs and burgers — giant-style. It's the home of the 25-inch, half-pound hot dog, and — get this — the seven-pound steak burger! (The menu describes as "not for wimps!")
The Gathering Place 3985 John R Rd., Troy; 248-689-2039; gatheringplacetroy.com; $: How do you explain the staying power of the exceedingly plain Troy establishment at the corner of John R and Wattles? It may have something to do with the deep-dish pizza, commendable burgers, and 16 sides from the deep fryer. As one would expect in a bar and grill, the Gathering Place features an array of drafts highlighted by the Pabst Blue Ribbon ($3).
Howell's Bar 1035 Mason St., Dearborn; 313-565-6322; $: This venerable corner bar used to cater to the old-man crowd years ago, but it has found a hip new identity amid the changes shaking up the Michigan Avenue strip in west Dearborn. Divey but clean, quirky but attractive, the bar's menu is brief but classic: Hamburger and cheeseburger and fresh-cut fries. Devotees of the hamburger will rave about it. No matter how much you want on your burger, it never costs more than $5.50, huge and juicy enough to soak through the bun (they're a reason they toast the buns lightly). So go with a friend, order two burgers, dragged through the garden, add on a pitcher of PBR for $6.50 and you have a great meal, ample drinks, and haven't even spent a Jackson. Don't forget to say thanks to the cook, Jimmy.
Hunter House Hamburgers 35075 Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-646-7121; hunterhousehamburgers.com; $: Though it was founded in the 1950s, it's no coincidence that the family that owns it bought it in the 1980s, just as Birmingham was really beginning to take off as an upscale suburb with eating and dining options. The patties mostly derive their flavor from the onions, pressed into the patty while it's still on the grill. In fact, if there's a single ingredient that sums up the burger, it's onions. Those who object to the thin patties can order a double, which comes with two patties, approximating a hamburger from a fast-food chain. The burgers are served on moist hot buns, with a glistening sheen on them. And the fries aren't tasteless krinkle-cut or all-crunch shoestring, but a pleasing medium.
Jacoby's 624 Brush St., Detroit; 313-962-7067; jacobysdetroit.com; $$: Jacoby's is one of the best places downtown for a great, no-frills, all-American (well, they are also noted for their fine German food) lunch — a wonderful place for a burger and a brew before a Tigers game or a show. Those burgers are said to be superb; but what about lunch for those of us of the vegetarian persuasion? Well, Jacoby's has one of the finest, tastiest garden burgers we've ever tasted — and we've tasted a lot in our lifetimes. Don't know exactly what they do to make it so special or so darn tasty, aside from the cheese on top (we always go with melted Swiss) and the incredible buns — but it's their secret and we're certainly not complaining. In fact, at least two MT editors claim they could subsist on nothing but these. Comes with a pickle and a side of french fries — though, lately, we've been substituting a terrific garden salad (you have numerous other choices, including Jacoby's famous potato salad, etc.) for only a buck more.
Jake's Crossroads Bar & Grill 2704 Oakwood Blvd., Melvindale; 313-928-9639; $: It may not be the best burger you ever ate in your life, but with 7 ounces of Black Angus beef and a crusty bun, it's definitely one of the finer bar burgers out there. This basic neighborhood blue-collar bar also serves up a tasty, enormous steak sandwich, plus nightly specials like Friday's beer-battered cod. All are way above your barroom average, with extra-large portions and prices that could attract even those who aren't barflies.
Joey's Meat Cutter Inn 2638 Orleans St., Detroit; 313-393-0960; cuttersdetroit.com; $: Good-size burgers for $5, or $5.25 with cheese? And they're not stingy on the meat, gigantic and hearty. If you have enough cash you can shoot for higher things. Or, you can choose to spend those extra sheckels at their bar; they mix their drinks generously.
Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger 551 S. Division St., Ann Arbor: 734-663-4590; blimpyburger.com; $: Where Packard meets South Division lies arguably one of the best burger houses in the country, where they're made on the grill right in front of you. And it's an Ann Arbor institution spanning six decades, right down to its R. Crumb-influenced menu. It's $4.30 for Jim's ultimate cheese sandwich, and just $5.62 for the veggie burger. A half-pound burger costs just $5.10, or $5.70 with cheese. To give you an idea how finely you can tune your burger, one patron recommends the "triple with blue cheese, black olives, yellow peppers and a fried egg — on a Kaiser roll." The burger stop's slogan? "Cheaper than food." Cafeteria-style setting means no tipping; read the "instructions" before ordering; open until 10 p.m. every day except Sunday (8 p.m.).
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