Not only is Blimpy Burger the oldest burger joint in Ann Arbor, it’s also one of the most famous places in town. The humble little shop on the corner of Packard and Division Sts. is voted best burger year after year by a variety of publications and they’ve even been featured on Food Network’s Diner’s Drive-In’s and Dives which somehow I missed.
I was in Ann Arbor the Big Ten Baseball Championships and needed to find lunch before crew call at U of M. I had heard of Blimpy Burger and thought it would make a good lunch. Apparently, half of Ann Arbor thought that too. The line weaved around the tables inside and right to the door. The building is small. There’s only room for a handful of tables that line two walls and a couple free stand tables next to the counter. The service is described as cafeteria style. You actually walk up to a counter where the cook asks you what you want and he cooks it right there in front of you.
Ordering is a tradition in itself at Blimpy Burger and something I thought was going to be really intimidating. On their website, they give you instructions for ordering and those same instructions are posted in the restaurants. For the most part, they’re just to keep the line moving. It starts out simple. Everyone who’s ordering must order themselves. You can’t just send Mom up to get food for everyone. Your first stop in the process is the deep frier. A fry cook asks if you want anything deep fried. Your choices are fries (which are steak fries) or vegetables like onion rings or mushrooms.
After you get your fried food, you make your way to the grill. The cooks actually put on quite a show and this part can be fun to watch. The cook will first ask what you want. Adults have to get at least a double and they go all the way to quints (that’s five burger patties) and beyond. All the meat is fresh. What they do is take a disher and make little balls out of fresh beef. The cook puts those balls on the grill then slams them down into patties. He had probably five or six orders going at one time with all of them being at least triples. The patties aren’t huge. Once slamed down, they’re pretty thin, so a triple isn’t as huge as you’d think.
After the cook asks what you want, the next question is “Do you want any grilled items.” By this, he means bacon, onions, etc. Don’t say cheese. Cheese isn’t grilled. The guy in front of me made that mistake. I didn’t want anything, so he moved on to buns. The regular bun comes standard, but they also have choices of onion or Kaiser rolls for an additional charge. As the burgers are just about done, the cook turns around again and asks if you want cheese. They have five choices. I went with cheddar although the bleu cheese option was there. The burgers cook a little longer then they are passed on to the cashier who finishes the burgers off with condiments. There’s even a correct way to handle this process. Wet condiments first then everything else. I passed altogether as I just wanted to taste the burger. The cook appreciated that. He turned around and said most people don’t do that, but they really should.
It took me about a half hour to get through line. I elected to take my burger to go since the place was packed, but quite a few people were grabbing trays to stay. Once I got to my destination, I chowed down. The burger was delicious. Blimpy Burger is NOT all hype. They really do have good food. The triple was about the size of a double most places. The cheese was melted into the burger and the burgers were so moist they were just falling apart. I actually had a hard time finishing the burger and fries which almost never happens. I just got the small order of fries and with the sandwich, the total was just over six dollars.
Blimpy Burger is an absolute must in Ann Arbor. Make sure you have plenty of time as I imagine it’s always busy like it was the day I was in there. This place lived up to the hype as a classic burger joint. Their slogan is “cheaper than food”…..they could also add “better than food”