Of course we love our mom & pops, and our favorite burger joints around the country are pretty much all independently owned, but there are certain times in life—overnight layovers, hungover Sunday mornings, all-day shopping trips at the outlets—that the only options around are the chains. Chain Reaction is here to help you decide when to go for the burger, and when you're better off sticking with the chicken fingers.
915 Garrison Avenue, Ft. Smith AR 72901 (map); (479) 784-9233
31 other locations in Oklahoma; visit boomarangdiner.com for a full list
The Schtick: Classic Route 66-style diner serving up burgers, sandwiches, fries, and breakfast for the nostalgia crowd
The Burger: A classic griddle-fried smasher with cheese on the bottom and a toasted bun
Want Fries with That? They're extraordinarily crisp, best with a dusting of spice and some ketchup.
Setting: Booths, stools and tables in chrome and green pleather, surrounded by album covers and memorabilia from the '50s and '60s
Price: Original Boomarang 1/4-pound burger, $3.49; 1/2-pound, $4.69; Famous Burger Basket w/ fries, $4.79
You've probably never heard of Boomarang Diner—unless you live in Oklahoma. Its 32 locations are centered around the original location in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and just one crosses the border into Arkansas in the city of Fort Smith.
The premise is simple: American favorites just like you'd find at your local drive-in restaurant in the '50s and '60s, served up while listening to The Four Tops, Elvis and Chuck Berry. The restaurant chain brags that everything they serve is fresh and made to order.
Their burger options include a basic quarter or half-pound burger (topped with cheese, jalapenos, bacon, or chili for extra) and four special burgers: the K.V. Burger (mushrooms, Swiss, and mayo); a hickory cheddar burger, a patty melt, and the Super Chili Cheeseburger Supreme (an open-faced double-patty burger smothered in chili and cheese).
The Famous Burger Basket comes with a quarter pound burger and french fries. The cheese comes on the bottom, a slice of American that glues the patty to the toasted white seedless bun. A bit of mayo is smeared on the meat, then topped with thin slices of white onion, hamburger dills with ridges, tomato slices, and a pile of shredded iceberg lettuce.
Unfortunately, you're not given a choice on how you want your burger cooked—it's going to be cooked medium rare. The loose-packed meat is smashed relatively thin, which gives it a bit of broken-edge griddle crust and tends to keep it from being very juicy. The beef is flavored with a paprika-rich spice, a shaker of which is available on every table. Other than paprika, the meat has the common flavors of grill char, salt, and pepper. All together, there's a nice classic feel to this burger, with just enough saltiness in the residual griddle grease to give it a bit of tang.
The fries are very crispy, pencil-thick, and come straight-from-the-fryer hot. Though they're satisfying crisp, they lack seasoning and benefit from a few shakes of the provided paprika seasoning.
The real surprise for me is that for a classic diner, Boomarang doesn't serve shakes. Instead, strawberry shortcake stars on the dessert menu.