Atlanta: Ann's Snack Bar
Following his review of Krug's Tavern in Newark, New Jersey, Tommy Salami (tommysalami on AHT/Serious Eats) brings us another burger rec, this time from Ann's Snack Bar in Atlanta, Georgia. Thanks for sharing the burger love, Tommy! Read more from Tommy at his blog Pluck You, Too! or on Twitter @tommysalami. For anyone else who wants to share some burger intel, here's how to do it. —The Mgmt.
Ann's Snack Bar
1615 Memorial Drive Southeast, Atlanta GA 30317 (map); 404-687-9207
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Enormous slow-griddled burgers the size of the plate, and tasty too!
Want Fries With That?: Crinkle cut, but you won't have room
Prices: Burger, $3.75; Ghetto Burger, $7.50
Ann's Snack Bar became known outside the Atlanta area when the Wall Street Journal dubbed her Ghetto Burger "the best burger in America." That's big talk in a town where the Vortex serves the infamous burger made with two grilled cheese sandwiches as buns, but Miss Ann is up to the challenge. Just bring a huge appetite, because you'll be eating a pound of ground beef, plus bacon, chili, and cheese on a super-sized sesame seed bun.
What sets Miss Ann's Snack Bar apart is its old-fashioned road food demeanor. A simple diner car on the side of the road, it's best viewed as if you're visiting someone's home for dinner. Don't park illegally, don't talk on your phone, don't lean on the counter and for heaven's sake, don't cuss, or you're out! However, Miss Ann is no Soup Nazi. I asked for permission to take photos and she gladly permitted it. Warnings aside, let me get to the burger.
Their double bacon chili cheeseburger dubbed the Ghetto Burger starts with a pound of fresh ground beef, never frozen. The beef isn't ground to order, but after it's smashed on the griddle in two heavily seasoned patties, it transcends its simple roots. Ann's seasoning is unlabeled and perhaps homemade; it tastes of Lawry's with a hint of cayenne, maybe a dash of cumin. They fry the bacon in the deep fryer so it crisps up well. The chili is sweet and smoky, the cheese American. Lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mayo are optional. It takes over ten minutes for this to cook the burger slowly on the griddle so it doesn't dry out.
You can ask politely for rare if you'd like, but I opted to let them make it standard, and I wasn't disappointed with the resulting juiciness. The only way to attack it is with knife and fork, cutting it in half so it will fit in your hands without spilling into the plate, which it fills. The seasoning helps with the crust on the outside, but the strong beefy flavor mellows it out so the spices don't overwhelm it at all. How the bun manages to stay together, I don't know. This is a burger epic in size and classic in flavor, a burger like your mom might make—if you were a lumberjack. They serve different variations from Plain Jane to a coleslaw-topped burger reminiscent of a Memphis-style BBQ sandwich. You can also get their fries topped with chili and/or cheese.
Although I've had better burgers—made with ground to order sirloin or brisket—there's something about a big griddled burger done right that's always touched a certain nostalgia in me. Ann's Snack Bar makes that kind of classic roadstand monster burger that's been unchanged for decades and doesn't need updating. Best burger in America? That's subjective. But I can call Miss Ann's Ghetto Burger the paragon of the American roadstand burger, the epitome of burgerdom, by which we can explain the phenomenon to those unfortunately uninitiated. —tommysalami
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