When I see that there’s a place that serves a burger someone has proclaimed to be the best, I’m gonna take an opportunity to try it for myself. That was the case when I was working in Ann Arbor recently. J made the trip to Ann Arbor with me and picked me up after my game was over. Somewhere, I saw that a bar in Ypsilanti made one of the best burgers in the country. I looked at a map and saw Ypsilanti was near Ann Arbor. So I dragged J to another bar in search of the perfect hamburger.
Sidetrack Bar & Grill is located on Cross Street in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town. Guess what. It sits beside a set of rail road tracks. As I’ve already alluded to, GQ Magazine proclaimed Sidetrack’s hamburger as one the 20 burgers you must eat before you die. It was also featured on an episode of the Oprah Winfey Show. With that much hype, it was something I was looking forward to all day.
We parked behind the building and entered through a back door. There’s a sign that points you to the front door where a hostess took us back through the dining room we just walked through to a table along the wall. The decor is that of an old bar. There’s exposed brick walls, tin ceilings and hardwood floors that have seen better days. The walls are covered with dead animals. There was a big moose head right above my head and some giant penguins hanging above the door. The tables are packed into the space. When I initially suggested a bar for dinner, I was a little worried that we would have trouble getting a table. Word is, Sidetracks is always packed on Friday and Saturday night and this Saturday night, MSU was playing in the Final Four.
J found a drink menu on the table and was intrigued by a drink called Banana Split. She said it tasted like a sipable sundae from Steak ‘N Shake with alcohol. I don’t like bananas so I didn’t try it. Since I had worked a 13 hour day and was a little dehydrated, I stayed away from alcohol and ordered a Diet Coke. I thought I ordered a Coke, but even J said it sounded like I said Diet. The waitress came with a glass of Coke and an old milk bottle full that she left on the table. I didn’t have to wait for her to come by for a refill. The milk bottle provided three refills.
I knew what I wanted before we got in the door, but J needed some time with the menu. She would find something that looked good, keep reading, find something else, and then have to make a decision. She settled on the pulled pork sandwich. The pork is roasted then covered with a homemade BBQ sauce. J said the pork was delicious and so was the sauce. It was a thick, sweet sauce that stuck to the meat. She also called the cleanest pulled pork she’s ever head. Very little fell off the bun and back on to the plate while she was eating. She only wishes she had a little extra sauce for the home made fries that came with the sandwich. If there was one complaint it was the blandness of the bun. It was just a standard restaurant style hamburger bun. Other than that, the sandwich was delicious. She had been craving pulled pork and even though the meat was roasted and not smoked, this sandwich went a long way towards quieting that craving.
I ordered the burger medium with just Cheddar cheese. The burgers are fresh ground and hand rolled. Like J’s sandwich, the burger came on a rather unimpressive bun. Other than the bun, the burger was great. It was a juicy burger that was obviously fresh. The meat was fantastic. There were two slices of cheese. One on top and one on the bottom. It’s just too bad the bun almost takes away from the taste of the burger. On the meat alone, it was one of the best burgers I’ve had, but the overall package left a little to be desired because of the bland bread.
The fries that came with our sandwiches were fresh cut fries and very greasy. They reminded me of a place I used to eat in Peoria and I ate there because of the fries. By the time I cleaned my plate and ate half of J’s fries, I was stuffed. There was a lot of good, greasy bar food.
Sidetrack was delicious and worth the trip. It’s funny to me that they take so much time to do the stars of their menu items the right way then go easy on the bread. Had this burger been on on a fresh roll or something other than an institutional bun, it would be right up there near the top. The atmosphere at the bar was great and it’s worth a trip to Ypsilanti. Our bill was just over $27 even with a $6 drink. I’m glad we went a little out of our way to find this gem in a historic part of Ypsilanti.