Indianapolis: The Hubbub is Deserved at Bub's
Bub's Burgers and Ice Cream
210 W. Main Street, Carmel IN 46032 (map); 317-706-BUBS (2827); bubsburgersandicecream.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: The burgers are as delicious as they are straightforward
Want Fries With That? The frozen fries are not close to worthy of being served with the burgers
Price: 1/4-pound burgers, $5.85 for beef, $6.95 for elk; 1/2-pound patties, $7.85 / $10.15; 1-pound burgers, $14.55 / $19.95
Over the past couple of years, virtually every time Indianapolis has been mentioned on AHT, a couple of locals have chimed in to sing the praises of Bub's Burgers and Ice Cream in the upscale suburb of Carmel. ndfanwabashman has done so three times and deeoh1 has spoken up twice. On Saturday, on perhaps the nicest day in Indianapolis in 2011, I joined a few hundred locals in making my way to Bub's for some excellent burgers.
Burgers can be made from cow or elk. In both cases, the meat is delivered each morning from a "secret source." It arrives already ground but is shaped into patties in-house. Bub's sells both types of burger in three sizes. The "Big Ugly" is 22 ounces when goes on the grill and a pound when it comes off. The walls inside the restaurant are covered with some of the approximately 14,000 people who have polished off the entire thing. For those looking to live a little longer, the half-pound "Not So Ugly" and quarter-pound "Settle for Less Ugly" are also available (both weights are post-cooking).
From the beef portion of the burger menu, I went with a half-pound "Not So Ugly" topped with blue cheese in addition to the lettuce, tomato, and onion that are included. The meat was well salted, had a nice crust, and delivered a solid punch of beefiness tinged by the char from the open flame. The crumbled blue cheese added a moderate tang that I thought was great. The buns, delivered to the restaurant every morning, are large but light and don't get in the way of the beefiness at all.
The menu warns that customers are order burgers less done than medium well at their own risk, but Bub's is willing to cook to whatever temperature people want. I asked for the burger rare and got one that meets a loose definition, no easy task when cooking the volume of relatively thin patties that Bub's turns out every day.
Like the more common buffalo, elk delivers something akin to a low-fat version of beef. In went with a quarter-pound "Settle for Less Ugly" and was not surprised to find the healthier burger was not as flavorful as its beef counterpart. But, adorned with a piece of cheddar cheese and every bit as nicely salted and char-laden as the regular burger, this piece of elk was pretty delicious.
Sadly, the fries, onions rings, and malt failed to come close to the standard set by the burgers. The fries had a crisp exterior and a soft interior but had minimal discernible potato flavor. The oddly sweet strips of onions were surrounded by a crisp batter that tasted of nothing but oil. The chocolate malt was thick and both the chocolate and malt flavors came through strong. Unfortunately, the whole thing was completely riddled with ice crystals.
Given the success of Bub's and the fact that "ice cream" is in its name, I assume my flawed malt was an anomaly. The fries and onion rings, on the other hand, are going to be problematic until Bub's changes suppliers or, better yet, starts making them fresh. I can't remember the last time I went to a place with such a disparity between the quality of burgers and the sides. That said, since burgers count for about 90 percent of what I care about when visiting a burger joint, the flaws in the sides barely registered with me.