Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger
551 S Division St, Ann Arbor MI 48108 (map); 310-823-7526; blimpyburger.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Dirt cheap, no frills, crisp, beefy, and delicious.
Want Fries with That? Pass on the soft steak fries, but load up on onion rings and battered fried veggies.
Prices: Double, $2.65; Triple. $3.40; Quad $4.40; Quint $5.10; medium fries, $1.85; fried vegetables $3.45
Notes: Here's a tip: know what you're going to order before you get to the front of the line, and don't mind the attitude. It's just an act.
I remember the first time I went to Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger. It was last November, and I was in Ann Arbor for one night en route to Hillman, Michigan, for me, my best friend, and his father-in-law's soon-to-be-annual manly-men-hunting-deer weekend (in reality, all we do on those weekends is sit alone in trees, freezing our a*ses off while counting the minutes until we can get back to build a bonfire, grill some steaks, drink some whiskey, and talk about the 12-point buck that got away). He'd told me about this fantastic burger joint where the standard burger comes with two patties, smashed really thin and stacked on top of each other with whatever crazy toppings you'd like.
"You mean it's just like a Five Guys?" I asked.
"Kenji, you always have a way of making me feel inadequate about my restaurant choices."
You needn't have worried, Clay. Krazy Jim's lived up to the not insignificant praise that Hamburger America has heaped on in it.
Yeah, the walls are marked with slightly tired witticisms ("We have a low-fat item on the menu. It's called water," or their motto: "It's cheaper than food"), but as anyone with good taste or from Texas will notice, they've got both Dr. Pepper and Cherry Coke on tap—an automatic plus in my book. Waiting on the fast-paced, student-filled line, you get an ear for the ordering style here: the grill cooks, who double as cashiers sling out the attitude as fast as the burgers, soup-nazi style. It's all quite clearly tongue-in-cheek, and easy enough to enjoy.
Burgers are cooked in what I refer to as the "super-smash" style. The 1 1/2-ounce balls of chuck (ground in-house daily) are not just pressed into the griddle once—they are smashed and smashed and smashed until you can literally see holes in them. What this does is absolutely maximize the surface area browning, giving you far more crispy bits per bite than your average burger—doubly so because each sandwich comes standard with two patties.
You'd think that the smashing technique would rob all moisture from the patties, but don't worry—the burgers are plenty greasy. Adding cheese between each patty certainly helps up the goo-factor. While it's never going to be as juicy as, say, a 1-inch thick, medium-rare pub-style burger, that's not really the point here; you come here for the crispy, salty, super-beefy bits that the burger is made of.
The menu here is all about choices, and you better know what you want before you get to the front of the line—the cooks don't abide by dilly-dallying. You start with a basic double burger, then add up to three more patties (a "quint"), a choice of four different buns, a few different cheese, and dozens of cooked and raw toppings. The cooks get visibly excited when someone places an outlandish order. Say, a quintuple burger with a mountain of blue cheese, mustard, and pickled jalapeños—it's about four times the size of the bun, and guaranteed to be a mess, no matter how expertly the it's constructed.
Personally, I prefer the simple combo of American cheese, raw onions, and pickles. It's classic, and utterly delicious—the burger that every Five Guys burgers aspires to be.
Fries are of the thick-cut English chippy style: pale golden, and slightly greasy. Much better are the onion rings, with a thin, whispy, super-crisp batter. They use the same batter to cook their excellent fried vegetables.
And as they advertise, the food really is dirt cheap. For under $5 you can get a double burger with fries, and for a measly $10, you can get a full five-patty quint, an order of onion rings, and a drink. How's that for a value meal?