Flint, Michigan: Angelo's Serves A Killer Diner-Style Cheeseburger

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Angelo's Coney Island

1816 Davison Road, Flint MI 48506-4428 (map); 810-233-4000; angelosconeyisland.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Excellent thin, crisp, diner-style burgers
Want Fries with That? Nope
Prices: Coney Island Dog, $1.95; cheeseburgers, $2.29; fries, $2.29

Check this out: Two reviews in one. Hey!

Driving through Flint, Michigan, on our way from Ann Arbor to Hillman last month, my hunting buddy Clay and I decided to make a pit stop at Halo Burger—a local chain with a reputation for being better than the national chains (every region has such a chain). We should have kept driving. Asides from the decent onion rings and surprisingly excellent homemade chili, the burgers were a total bust. Dry and floppy with that acrid fake-smoke flavor reminiscent of Burger King, they weren't saved by the big scoops of olive salad they came with.

I asked the cashier, "Where would you go to get a decent burger in Flint?"

Her response: "Definitely not here. We'll just serve you any old crap." Ah, honesty. Instead, we were guided to Angelo's, an old-timey counter-service restaurant specializing in Coney's—Michigan-style hot dogs topped with mustard, onions, and a mild beef heart-based chili. Founded in 1949, they've since expanded to a whopping two locations, earning them the self-applied moniker "The McDonald's of the Coney Island business."

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Now, dude, there's a name no-one would self-apply where I come from.

Luckily, the food is of an entirely different caliber. Their signature Coneys are made with Koegel's Viennas, the locally-made, natural casing hot dogs that have quickly become one of my new favorites. The chili is texturally spot on, with a fine, tender grain. Flavorwise, it's relatively mild though. You'll want plenty of onions and mustard to buttress it. Their fries are fluffy and crisp, but otherwise unremarkable.

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Surprisingly, the best thing on their menu isn't their dogs, it's the burgers—a classic diner-style burger if there ever was one. When you place your order, the cook slaps a small handful of fresh ground beef down on the well-seasoned griddle and smashes it flat with a wide metal spatula. A few moments later, after a substantial crisp crust has been built up, the diminutive patty is flipped and the second side is just kissed by the griddle before being slipped into a pillowy white bun. It's like the Shake Shack cooking method taken to the extreme.

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By letting it cook for the majority of the time on one side (fancy pants chefs use this technique for skin-on fish and poultry and call it cooking "unilaterally"), the result is ridiculously crunchy edges with some pretty awesome textural contrast. Just check out that crust!

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And incredibly—for a burger this thin—it manages to maintain a pale pink center with more than a modicum of juiciness. You can get it with their Coney sauce spooned on top, but I can't imagine it being any better than the diced-onioned-and-pickled version I had.

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Afterward, the friendly waitress coaxed me into ordering a slice of their homemade chocolate pie. It tasted like chocolate pudding in a frozen pie shell, but I have trouble holding anything against someone who's just delivered such a spectacular burger to me.

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