Atlanta: Burgers to Die For at Grindhouse Killer Burgers

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Apache style burger. [Photographs: Todd Brock]

Grindhouse Killer Burgers

1842 Piedmont Avenue NE, Atlanta GA 30324 (Map); 404-254-2273; grindhouseburgers.com
Cooking Method: Flat-top
Short Order: Juicy Burgers! Exquisite toppings! Cheesy Poofs!! All in a quirky and cool setting that explodes in Technicolor!!!
Want Fries with That? They're better than the onion rings—or skip the side and get the Cheesy Poofs app instead
Price: Single Burgers, start at $3.99; Double Burgers, start at $6.50; add fries & drink, + $2.50; other side, + $0.50

When Grindhouse Killer Burgers opened their first location in 2009, everything about it was quirky. An honest-to-God lunch counter with just 18 bar stools and service from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. only and set inside an urban farmers' market in a slightly sketchy (for some) part of downtown, a simple burger run to Grindhouse was anything but. When plans were unveiled to open a second store in a more accessible, hipper part of town, it was a good-news/bad-news scenario. Sure, more folks could sample the "killer" burgers and experience the trippy Grindhouse vibe, but would going mainstream strip this cult favorite of what made it so unique to begin with? Stay tuned—this story has a happy (and tasty) ending.

In a larger space, the options for Grindhouse grew exponentially. This second location ("Son of Grindhouse?") is open from 11 a.m. to "late" seven days a week, with ample seating both inside and outside under a covered patio that sheltered a car wash in a former business life. The menu grew, too, to include an extensive alcohol selection and a few new eats, including one that blew my mind. Boys and girls, can you say "Cheesy Poofs?"

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The fried pimento cheese nuggets are basically balls of pure bliss all by themselves. But add the "sticky hot dipping sauce" on the side (my food-and-beverage-industry-veteran brother ID'd it as "sweet Thai chili"), and they're maybe even better. A shame that these miniature flavor bombs aren't available as a side, but they're well worth the extra five bucks as an app.

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The Apache Style is Grindhouse's breakout star among most reviewers. Like all their burgs, this starts as a quarter-pound patty (which you can—and probably should—double), griddled diner-flat to medium, and served on super squishy Martin's potato rolls. The Apache is topped with pepper jack, grilled onions, and roasted New Mexico green chiles. Killer, indeed. The mild heat of the chile hit me right away, quickly giving way to the beef. And while calling it "medium" may be a stretch, this was some of the juiciest and tastiest beef I've had in some time. Even a single patty stands up to the toppings and bun.

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Yankee Style features bleu cheese spread, thick-cut bacon, grilled onions (which I 86'd), and lettuce. Again, the beef itself exploded with flavor and was only elevated by primo-tasting toppings and that sublime bun.

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The same can't be said for the sides. The crinkle-cut fries were passable—improved by a liberal dose of seasoned salt—but not a main attraction. I had higher hopes for the hand-sliced Vidalia onion rings, but was disappointed by a batter that, although zesty, tended to fall off. Most of my rings went untouched as I concentrated on the remaining Cheesy Poofs.

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I loved, loved, LOVED the burgers...and most of the grub. But what about that vibe? Part of what makes the original location so cool-kids hip is that location inside the farmers' market, next to a butcher's counter, no less. Seated at one of the stools, you're literally eight feet away from buckets of chitlins and tripe, with whole hogs staring at you as they dangle from meat hooks. Add the schlocky '70s features and campy monster movies (a nod to the "Grindhouse" name) they project onto the tile wall behind the counter, and it's a burger experience unlike any other.

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The new place thankfully loses the display of raw pig parts, but retains the picture show element (I caught the tail end of a subtitled kung fu flick, two classic Adam West episodes of Batman, and the beginning of C.H.U.D.) showing on the "blood-spattered" wall and on a few flat-screens strategically placed around the industrial-cool interior (the bar is made from recycled dumpsters).

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But there was also a baseball game on a few TVs, plus the NBA Finals—and while I dig sports as much as the next guy, I thought it watered things down. I like the idea that a place like Grindhouse exists in a B-movie bubble, where everything is old-school hip and retro-funky and ultimately just a little quirkier-than-thou. I don't want it to also be a half-assed sports bar on the side. If you're going to go with "Grindhouse" as your theme, stick to that unflinching bad-assitude and do it all the way. (Although it's probably wise to not show true "grindhouse" movies; no one wants to watch I Spit on Your Grave or Cannibal Holocaust while tucking into a greasy double cheeseburger.)

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The original location remains a bucket-list destination for burger lovers in the ATL, but it's not the kind of place I'd make return trips to. The new Grindhouse Killer Burgers, on the other hand, has been added to my regular burger rotation. Just be sure to sit facing the movie screen instead of the ballgame...and order extra Cheesy Poofs.

About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and recently penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.

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