First Look: Grindhouse Killer Burgers and Wonderful World of Burgers
Atlanta's burger renaissance
The adult renaissance of the hamburger isn’t difficult to explain. Nothing (besides maybe pizza) comes close to fulfilling an aging population’s insatiable appetite for nostalgia. And God knows baby boomers are nothing if not nostalgic.??Then, too, there’s the recession. (I’m referring to the little depression that we keep reading is over.) Hamburgers are typically inexpensive, which is why McDonald’s is prospering in a wretched economy. Still, it’s a bit mysterious that if you scan the average menu of a full-service restaurant, the burger will usually cost less than dishes that have cheaper ingredients and require less time to prepare. I suppose the burger has simply retained its rep as cheap, no matter the quality of the contents. ??The latest in the absolute epidemic of burger joints to open here is Grindhouse Killer Burgers (209 Edgewood Ave., 404-522-3444) at Sweet Auburn Curb Market. ??The new café occupies the space that Red’s, a favorite soul food venue, vacated a few years ago. The young owner, Alex Brounstein, is a former lawyer and real-estate developer, and the opening of Grindhouse is one of those follow-your-bliss projects informed by a vision larger than is immediately obvious. He wants to be part of an effort to revitalize the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, which really is unique in Atlanta but has been on the verge of financial collapse as long as I can remember. ??Brounstein’s original plan was to grind the meat for his Angus beef and turkey burgers on the premises, but that proved impractical. So Southern Foods is delivering freshly ground meat three times weekly. He does, however, mix the beans and quinoa to make the veggie burgers. ??All three burgers cost $3.99 for a single, quarter-pound patty, and $5.99 for a double. You select your ingredients – everything from chili and bacon to various cheeses and veggies. All are served on a fluffy, buttery, toasted potato bun that holds up much better than I expected.??The menu includes five house-designed burgers, most of them under $6. I’ve tried three of these and my favorite has been the Apache, featuring roasted New Mexico green chiles, grilled onions and American cheese. I don’t remember the last time I ate American cheese – you can substitute something else – but it worked well with the slightly crunchy, piquant peppers. ??I’ve also sampled the Euro, layers of browned mushrooms, Swiss cheese, mayo and mustard. I chose the Angus patty for both these burgers and I was happy not to encounter heavy seasoning. I want to taste the beef when I eat a hamburger, not a lot of spices. ??I ordered a turkey burger in the Cowboy style, too. The patty was layered with thick bacon, shredded cheddar, Vidalia onions and barbecue sauce. The turkey burger does, as usual, feature slightly stronger seasoning than the beef and has far better flavor than the usual around town. The secret ingredient? The patty includes mango chutney. But, I swear, you really cannot taste the chutney.??Someone else will have to report on the veggie burger. Please try the Hypocrite, which features a veg patty covered with beef chili.??Your primary worry, I know, is size. These are not pub burgers or “smashed” burgers like you get at Ann’s Snack Bar. But they’re significantly larger than sliders, served fast-food-style in their own little paper wrapper. Truth is, though, that even with a side of fries, you probably want to order the double burger. ??Speaking of which, the crinkle-cut fries were hot, crispy and salty. I admit I ate them on the way home with a takeout order. The Vidalia onion rings are the only thing I encountered that needs serious work. These are cut extremely thin – think Durkee’s – which means they don’t hold the batter well but do absorb extra quantities of oil.??Grindhouse offers milkshakes in various flavors. I ordered a coffee milkshake with malt added. The restaurant is using a canned coffee drink, Whynatte, to flavor the shakes; it really doesn’t convey enough flavor in the dose I received, but the effect of the malt was delicious anyway. They’re also serving Zesto-like ice cream blended with goodies like Heath bars. ??This place is terrific. You won’t spend much over $10. But beware of cravings. I was on my way to the gym when my car insisted I stop for a burger and shake the other day.??In Emory Village??Meanwhile, the Tin Drum folks have gotten in the burger biz and opened Wonderful World of Burgers & More (1561 N. Decatur Road, 404-373-8887) in Emory Village.??The place was deserted when we visited on a Saturday night, while Doc Chey’s, across the street, seemed swamped. You could blame the limited menu, the lack of specials on weekends, or the less than eye-catching interior, whose walls feature what looks like rough-wood wainscoting. The communal tables are also very "Little House on the Prairie." It’s not bad, exactly, but it’s not a décor that invites you to kick back.??Everything on the regular menu is under $3. (There are weeknight-only specials, like kimchi stew with hanger steak and Chinese-style braised pork shoulder, and they are only $3.75.) I asked the people at the counter where you order if the $2.75 burgers were sliders. “No, they are bigger than sliders. Two is good for you.”??Wrong. I could have easily eaten three, but I likely would have had to duplicate something. I ordered the “WonderfulBurger,” a tasty but unremarkable classic cheeseburger, and the veggie burger made of mushrooms, carrots, taro, green beans, onion, bread crumbs, sesame seeds and topped with avocado sauce. The latter had the usual problem: gooiness and not much of a crisp exterior. ??Actually, the best thing we ordered was not a burger at all but a hot dog with teriyaki sauce, Japan’s famous kewpie mayo and roasted seaweed. It looks absurd but tastes great. Just pretend you’re eating green sauerkraut if seaweed’s a problem for you.??We also ordered a grilled chicken sandwich (over-seasoned, even for Wayne’s spicy-hungry palate), terrific Yukon Gold fries and decent, thick-cut onion rings. ??I definitely suggest you go on a weeknight, so you can sample the daily specials.