@burger – Ann Arbor, MI

Ann Arbor, Food Reviews
If I am ever in search of a quality burger in the Ann Arbor area, Blimpy Burger is the obvious choice. There is nothing better than a burger cooked on a grill that has been seasoned by decades of use.  I don’t care what condiments you add to it.  Quality beef is a worthy substitute to the properly seasoned grill, but I prefer the taste created by age.  Recently, the “gourmet” burger trend has been making its way from the West Coast and Ann Arbor has become a hot spot for these burger joints.  Bagger Dave’s popped up a few years ago, there are plans to add a Five Guys(which originated in D.C., but follows the west coast burger idea) on State St., and most recently a joint called @burger popped up on Liberty.

I followed @burger’s development pretty closely because it was interesting to see a new burger joint pop up in the downtown Ann Arbor area.  When I was a kid, Ann Arbor was all about authenticity.  My Mom would drop us off and we would grab a Flafel sandwich from Jerusalem Garden, sometimes double up with a hot dog from Le Dog, stop in at Discount Records, and enjoy the uniqueness that was Ann Arbor. There were places we could go that you couldn’t find outside of the city.  As the years go by, more and more of these businesses have closed, allowing Starbucks, Potbelly, and Chipolte to move in.  Each time one of these chains moves in, it seems to lessen Ann Arbor’s authenticity.  I’m not saying Ann Arbor has lost the character that makes the city what it is, it’s just that every time a business like Cosi moves in, the more the experience is cheapened.

The first thing that worried me about @burger was that it’s owned by Big Boy.  This is the first location and there are plans to turn it into a national chain.  I’ve had a burger at Big Boy.  Burger is not plural because I never any desire to ever try another one.  What positives could Big Boy possibly bring to the world of burgers?

The more I read, however, the more I thought this might be a quality joint.  The meat is all ordered from Wolverine Packing Co., a Detroit based meat packer, and all of the buns are baked in house.  The “build your own burger” option would be there, with micro brews being available in the near future.  Maybe Big Boy was doing something right?  I was still a little hesitant to accept their modern burger joint concept into Ann Arbor, but I went to check it out anyways.  The things I do for my readers…

The first thing I noticed was the interior.  It’s incredibly cheesy and the designer seemed to be having an identity crisis at the time of hire.  There are multiple plasma TVs on the wall, giving the feel of a sports bar surrounded by modern furniture and minimalist design giving it the feel of a hipster hang out.  As you walk in, the menu is displayed on an LCD screen, then on paper in front of the registers.  The design just gives off an incredibly unauthentic feel.  It just seems a little phony to me.

The menu consists of burgers, one chicken sandwich, salads, and sides which include chips with toppings and fries. They also have Custard shakes.  An employee takes your order at the cash register and you are given a device which tells you that your food is ready.  We ordered the BBQ Velveeta burger, the Caprese Chicken Sandwich, Buffalo Chips, and two drinks.  Our total came to $22.00. Not breaking the bank expensive, but also not what I want to pay for two burgers and some chips.  There are many different condiments to choose from, along with multiple flavors of popcorn seasoning.  This confused me, because I didn’t see popcorn anywhere on the menu.

Your buzzer goes off when your food is ready(it actually says “your food is ready”), but an employee brings your food to you.  Once again, I was confused.  If someone is bringing you your food, why spend money on electronic devices to notify you that your food is ready when someone is going to bring it to you ten seconds later?

When my burger arrived, I was less than impressed.  The BBQ Velveeta Burger comes with bacon, BBQ sauce, Velveeta cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles. The burger as a whole just didn’t look very appetizing to me.  The burger patty was lacking in size and looked a little over cooked.  The cheese was minimal, and I had a hard time finding any BBQ sauce at all.  There was also shredded lettuce.  Seriously, shredded lettuce?  On a positive note, the bun looked impressive, and the bacon was plentiful and crispy.

BBQ Velveeta Burger

Upon my first bite, the first thing I noticed was the dryness of the bun.  It had the feel of a bun that had been sitting around for hours.  Typically that’s not how you want your buns to taste when you advertise that they are baked fresh in house.  Second, the burger was dry and overcooked.  The flavor was good, but there was no juiciness at all which was very disappointing.  Third, the bacon was very crispy and delicious.  I would definitely recommend bacon on any burger you get here.  Past that, the cheese and BBQ sauce were not very plentiful which did not help the dryness of the burger and bun.  I think they have a good concept with the beef and condiments on this burger, but just wasn’t prepared very well that day.

The Buffalo Chips were chips served with Buffalo sauce and Bleu Cheese dressing on top. The chips were crispy and tasted fresh, and the Buffalo sauce was delicious.  I could have used a little bit more sauce on top of the chips, but all in all this is a great accompaniment to a burger.  They have several other types of chips you can order on the side and I would definitely recommend you give them a try.

Buffalo Chips

All in all, this place could be a lot worse.  The decor inside may be a little cheesy and it may be owned by Big Boy, but I think they’re on the right track.  My burger wasn’t very well prepared, but I think if I went back and tried the exact same burger I might get different results.  I still say if you’re looking for a burger you should head to Blimpy’s, but if you’re not a fan of the hole in the wall burger joints and are scared of getting cursed out for ordering wrong, @burger might be a option for you.