Burgers

441. Old Detroit Burger Bar – October 25, 2019 – Troy, MI

October2019OldDetroitBurgerBar1 (3)October2019OldDetroitBurgerBar2 (3)I love a big, juicy burger any day of the week, but especially on Fridays. Because burgers scream “TGIF!” to me!

Old Detroit Burger Bar is serving up the big, juicy burger goodness any day of the week, not solely Fridays. But my recent visit to the local restaurant chain’s Troy location did fall on a Friday – and I was vibing hard on its TGIF-infused aura.

The restaurant’s interior is sleek sports bar with a comfy feel: lots of browns and grays and glossy wood, accented with neon-blue fluorescent lighting. A bar with wraparound seating dominates one section; flat-screen TVs abound and are tuned in to the sport matches du jour.

Old Detroit Burger Bar’s food menu showcases much more than its namesake item: it’s got appetizers, entrée salads, sandwiches, and dishes such as Homemade Lasagna Dinner and The Lake St. Clair (fish and chips, naturally). It even serves its rendition of a Coney dog and a loose Coney burger. But my eyes were zeroed in on its burger section because: see Paragraph 1.

Names of Old Detroit Burger Bar hamburgers have a local slant to them. There’s The Ambassador, The Michigan Ave., the I-75. That last burger, by the way, is a two-pounder loaded with grilled onions, jalapeños, and American, Swiss, AND cheddar cheeses, served with Thousand Island dressing. According to Old Detroit Burger Bar’s website, if you finish one of those behemoths, you can get your picture added to a wall of fame devoted to I-75 slayers.

And there’s the burger I decided to order, The Vernor. The half-pound hamburger is bringing Southwest Detroit-inspired flair with its jalapeños, green peppers, guacamole, American and cheddar cheeses, and sour cream served on the side. I opted for tater tots to accompany mine.

My table’s food came out quickly, and I used the steak knife stabbed into my Vernor burger to cut its hefty form in half. It was everything I’d hoped it would be: juicy, beefy, cheesy, spicy, guac-laden deliciousness! The tater tots were tantalizingly crispy, greasy nuggets of spud.

My Vernor burger was so big that I was easily able to save a chunk of it to take home – though it was so tasty that I did ponder devouring the whole thing then and there (maybe if there was a wall of fame involved, I would have!).

3946 Rochester Rd.

Troy, MI 48083

(With additional locations in Lapeer, Lake Orion, and Clawson)

www.olddetroitburgerbar.com

435. Unburger Grill – September 24, 2019 – Dearborn, MI

September2019Unburger1 (2)September2019Unburger3 (2)September2019Unburger2 (2)Unburger Grill, you phenomenal purveyor of vegan goodness, you had my palate exclaiming “WOW!” over and over during my recent visit to you!

I’m not vegan – or vegetarian – but I enjoy eating plant-based cuisine. Impressive vegan and vegetarian establishments reside in the Metro-D, making the meatless fare taste as good as – or better than – the animal-based originals.

Unburger Grill in Dearborn is one of those impressive vegan establishments. The fast-casual restaurant serves burgers with house-made patties made from plants; Black Bean Portobello, Spicy Chickpea and Zucchini, Sweet Potato and Quinoa, and Ultimate (described on Unburger’s website menu as “using a blend of the best vegan meat alternatives available”) are the varieties offered.

Diners choose what patty and bun they’d like for the style of burger they select at Unburger: Basic, Mushroom Swiss, Southwestern, Mac Style, or Sweet BBQ. The restaurant also serves vegan sandwiches, sausages, salads, soups, nachos, air-fried French fries, and other veggie-based sides.

A fact I didn’t know before the writing of this post: Dearborn has two downtown areas, West Downtown Dearborn and East Downtown Dearborn. Unburger is located in West Downtown Dearborn.

I’d never seen any downtown area of Dearborn and was excited to discover for myself the area where Unburger is located. It’s super cute! My friend who accompanied me to Unburger and I got enthused about exploring it more in the future.

Behind Unburger and some adjacent businesses is a courtyard with tables where patrons can sit and enjoy their meals. After walking into Unburger and ordering our burgers at the counter, we sat at one of the tables outside and waited for our burgers to be brought to us. They arrived quickly.

I ordered the Mac Style burger with a Spicy Chickpea and Zucchini patty and whole-grain bun, plus a side of the air-fried French fries. It was A-MAZING. The Spicy Chickpea and Zucchini patty was SO full of flavor; it was wonderful. It was definitely the best vegan patty I’ve ever had, hands-down!

Honestly, I found myself liking that Spicy Chickpea and Zucchini patty better than a traditional beef patty – and that’s high praise from me, as I LOVE red meat. Unburger, look at you, making me a plant-based burger convert!

It wasn’t only the Spicy Chickpea and Zucchini patty on my Mac Style burger that was deliciously flavorful – the entire burger was, too. The Mac Style burger was – you guessed it – a vegan riff on McDonald’s Big Mac. It was delicious with its lettuce, onion, pickles, vegan cheese, and Thousand Island dressing – and hefty, to boot. Between eating that Big Mac and the crispy French fries, I was stuffed upon leaving Unburger!

Another thing I liked about Unburger was that the staff was really nice. How employees treat me at a place definitely makes a difference in how I recall it; excellent meals can be marred by snotty staff, and I appreciate how lovely the staff at Unburger was the night of my visit. Thanks, Unburger, for being so welcoming – and for cooking up fare that is both healthful and INCREDIBLY TASTY!

22018 Michigan Ave.

Dearborn, MI 48124

www.unburgergrill.com

422. Lovers Only – August 10, 2019 – Detroit, MI

August2019LoversOnly1 (3)August2019LoversOnly2 (2)Lovers Only hooked me with its name.

For months, I’d been intrigued by the hamburger joint in downtown Detroit every time I’d walked by it: what kind of burgers were these, that they were meant to be enjoyed solely by paramours?

Of course, I knew Lovers Only isn’t really for lovers only, but I found the name so whimsical that I had to eat there. I finally did on a Saturday afternoon in August, with friends before our fifth-annual Tigers game outing – during which our previously 4-for-4 winning streak was ceased by a 7-0 thrashing of the Tigers by the Royals. ~Sigh.~

At least our lunch before that game was fantastic! Lovers Only brought the beefy burger goodness on that visit, which I experienced via its Burlington Burger. The meaty, juicy beef patty slathered with a rich cheddar-cheese sauce and topped with sautéed onions, pickle relish, lettuce, and a Dijon mayonnaise was INCREDIBLE!

At Lovers Only, you order at the counter as you would a fast-casual restaurant, and your food is delivered to your table. But the restaurant’s interior is more hip than that of the typical burger joint, with mod-retro vibes cast by its checkerboard-tile floors, globe lighting, and old-timey black-and-white menu board hanging above its order counter.

Lovers Only also sets itself apart by serving alcohol. Cocktails, craft beer, and boozy milkshakes are available (as are non-spiked shakes).

In addition to serving four types of burgers and booze, Lovers Only offers entrée salads, including a take on a local classic (The Maurice) and a kale salad packed with seed-and-grain-and-legume goodness (the Power Salad). Its menu also includes a couple of sandwiches, a hot dog dubbed the Recession Dog – and of course, French fries and onion rings.

So the mystery has been solved for me: the kind of burgers served by Loves Only are DELICIOUS burgers, burgers that aren’t meant to be enjoyed simply by paramours but also by friends, cousins, coworkers, solo folk . . . in short, everybody!

34 W. Grand River Ave.

Detroit, MI 48226

www.loversonlydetroit.com

372. Royale with Cheese – October 18, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018RoyalewithCheese1 (2)October2018RoyalewithCheese3 (2)October2018RoyalewithCheese2 (2)Last month, in between visiting Sfumato, a perfumery by day, and Castalia, its cocktail bar alter-ego, a friend and I hit up Royale with Cheese, a Midtown/Cass Corridor-based burger joint.

OMG, had I been eager to try this place! Photos of its beefy burgers exuberantly laden with sides had enticed me from its Yelp profile for months, so it was exciting to finally be immersed within the Royale with Cheese experience.

I got in line at the counter of the fast-casual restaurant and scoped out the overhead menu. I decided on the namesake burger, the Royale, with its pulled smoked brisket topped with cole slaw, avocado, caramelized onions, corn relish, a gouda fondue, and Royale sauce (how’s that for decadence?). I added a side of tater tots – because tots make my heart happy – and my friend and I paid for our food and found a seat in Royale’s dining area to await our orders’ arrival.

Admittedly, I thought the Royale was going to be a burger, with a traditional beef patty and pulled brisket loaded on top of that, so when ordering I’d asked if a cooking temperature was taken for the burger and gave my preferred doneness of medium. But while awaiting my order, I was approached by a kitchen staff member and asked whether I knew the Royale didn’t contain a beef patty – it was pure brisket – and whether I wanted to change my order upon knowing that information.

Whoops – apparently I’d been amiss in my interpretation of the menu. I was a little disappointed to realize I hadn’t ordered an actual burger but decided to stick with the namesake sandwich in the name of exploration – and also in gratitude to the staff member who’d come out to clarify things for me (why make his job harder by changing my order on the fly?).

The food came out promptly thereafter, and I wasn’t disappointed in my decision. Generously coated in rich barbecue sauce, the pulled brisket on the Royale was a tender, flavorful base for the other indulgent ingredients, specifically the creamy avocado and the gouda fondue. Mmm, mmm, mmm, MMM! The tater tots were irresistibly crispy, as well.

After relishing our meals and feeling satisfyingly full, my friend and I agreed that we needed to return to try Royale’s milkshakes. I am thinking the shakes with their house-made custard-ice-cream bases would be meals in themselves – and what sumptuous meals they would make with such flavor options as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cookie Butter and Nutella, and Chocolate Espresso!

In addition to burgers, sandwiches, and shakes, Royale with Cheese offers salads, soup, and Bites, appetizer-esque snacks that threaten to rival the desserts and main courses in their richness: see the Fried Mac & Cheese and the Nacho Cheese Ravioli, the latter of which is described on Royale’s online menu as “handmade deep-fried Doritos Ravioli filled with Jalapeño Nacho Cheese, ‘New World’ Roasted Tomato Sauce.” Dang! Royale with Cheese is NOT messing around in the decadence department!

4163 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.royaledetroit.com

369. Basement Burger Bar – October 7, 2018 – Detroit, MI

October2018BasementBurgerBar1 (2)October2018BasementBurgerBar4 (2)What do mac ‘n’ cheese bites, dried cranberries, peanut butter, and grilled pineapple have in common? They’re all burger toppings available at Basement Burger Bar in Detroit.

Recent celebrations of my birthday included a Sunday lunch with friends at the downtown-based location of the local restaurant chain. I’d wanted to dine at a place known for its great food and casual, pub-like atmosphere; Basement Burger Bar checked those boxes.

The interior of the Detroit location of Basement Burger Bar is certainly glossier than your typical basement. I’d call it industrial-chic-meets-laid-back-sports-bar. There are plenty of flat-screen TVs situated about so you can focus on the day’s sport offerings; the Lions played (and won!) while we were there, and the raucous cheering of football fans adjacent to us enhanced my enjoyment of the meal (their energy was infectious!).

The drink menu included plenty of Michigan-made craft beer offerings (including the Founders Rubaeus raspberry ale I enjoyed) as well as signature cocktails and a selection of wine. My main focus, however, was the food menu, which included loads of appetizers, entrée salads, and a few featured burgers. But the pièce de résistance dominating that menu was the build-your-own-burger section.

This custom-burger menu is the most extensive I have seen to date! Seven steps are involved in the crafting of your dream hamburger:

-Step 1: pick a patty. Basement Burger Bar is getting creative here, with more than just your standard ground-beef patty as an option. You can also choose from bison, American Kobe beef, poultry (turkey burger, grilled chicken breast, and breaded chicken tenders), pulled pork, and vegetarian options (falafel, black-bean patty, and portabella mushroom cap, respectively).

-Step 2: denote a burger cooking temperature, from rare to well.

-Step 3: select your bun. Brioche, nine-grain, pretzel, and gluten-free varieties are available (the latter two going for an extra charge), and you can choose to go no-bun (the menu says you’ll receive “extra veggies” with your burger if you do so).

-Step 4: opt for a sauce. One is free; each additional sauce costs 25 cents each. Most of the sauces (or “spreads,” as they’re referred to on the menu) are noted as homemade, including the hummus, basil pesto, and buttermilk ranch.

-Step 5: gather your toppings. The first five are free; each additional topping thereafter is 25 cents. Most of the toppings listed here are pretty standard – tomato, pickles, red onion, relish, for instance – but some, such as the carrot strings and aforementioned cranberries, caught my eye. A sub-category of this section is the premium toppings, which are each an additional designated charge. These are the truly delectable toppings: your homemade guacamole, hickory-smoked bacon, grilled pepperoni, Detroit-style chili, mozzarella sticks, Frickles (which I can only assume are fried pickles) . . ..

-Step 6: choose your cheese. No vegan cheese here; this is all straight-up dairy, from Gouda to feta, nacho cheese to Swiss.

-Step 7: designate your sides. Sides are an additional cost, but how can you resist the siren song of beer-battered fries, onion rings, and my personal favorite, tater tots? Side-salad and coleslaw are included in this section in case you are feeling virtuous – as are toppers of nacho cheese, chili, and what’s designated as “The Works” (sour cream, bacon, and onion) in case you are not (chili-cheese tots would be LIFE, wouldn’t they?).

With all of the decision-making involved in this burger design, it would’ve been easy to get overwhelmed as I filled out my menu card. But I decided to keep it relatively simple, not going overboard with the toppings. The result did not disappoint me.

Imagine a hefty ground-beef burger cooked to a juicy medium perfection and nestled within a pillowy brioche bun along with thick-cut red onion, juicy tomato, crunchy pickles, creamy guacamole, spicy ketchup, and jalapeño jack cheese, accompanied by irresistibly crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside tater tots. YUM, YUM, and more YUM: this burger was INCREDIBLE!

So while I didn’t opt for the zany factor while designing my burger at Basement Burger Bar – no peanut butter, carrot strings, or Frickles for me – I found its rendition of a pretty-much-classic cheeseburger (jazzed up with that spicy ketchup and guacamole) ideal as it was, and I enjoyed the heck out of it – as I did the relaxed ambiance and prompt service. This one is a keeper!

1326 Brush St.

Detroit, MI 48226

(With additional locations in Canton and Farmington)

www.basementburgerbar.com

287. Burgrz – October 19, 2017 – Rochester Hills, MI

Oct2017Burgerz1 (2)Oct2017Burgerz4 (2)Oct2017Burgerz2 (4)I had totally dismissed Burgrz. I’d seen it around, in downtown Royal Oak and in Rochester Hills, and I was like, OK, this totally has to be a corporate nationwide chain. I mean, Burgrz with a “z”? I totally judged that “z,” man.

Then one of my coworkers recommended we go to lunch there because it was one of his fave area restaurants. Its burgers and waffle fries were awesome, in his opinion. And I was like, OK, I’m down. I went on the Burgrz website and learned that it is indeed a locally-owned establishment, with the now sole location in Rochester Hills (the Royal Oak one has closed); knowing that certainly piqued my interest. New-place time!

I stepped inside the fast-casual restaurant to discover a clean, modern vibe, with brick, wood, and chrome décor accents, red booths, and black-and-white cityscape photography displayed on the walls.

Scoping out the colorful chalkboard menus above the counter, I decided on the California burger with its bacon, tomato, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, avocado, and lettuce. I nixed the lettuce and subbed spicy mayo for the regular mayo, and my coworker and I ordered to share a large side of the Sweet & Salty Combo, a platter of both regular and sweet potato waffle fries.

Our food was delivered to our booth quickly. The California burger was WOW. It was juicy and flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth delicious on its own, and with that creamy avocado, spicy mayonnaise, meaty tomato, and rich cheddar cheese and bacon, it was next-level. Truly, truly, truly an awesome burger.

The Sweet & Salty waffle fries were great, too: perfectly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and accompanied by a spicy ketchup, which has to be up there in the list of best inventions ever. I mean, how did I ever eat fries without spicy ketchup? It added a nice zing to the fries, especially the sweet potato fries.

So yes, Burgrz may be a casual establishment that looks like a generic chain with that “z” in its name, but the verdict is in: it cooks up a DAMN GOOD burger – the kind of burger you think about for days afterword (that’s always the mark of a good meal to me: will I dream about it for days after eating it?). And it’s clean, and the staff is attentive, and the ambiance is nice, and those waffle fries with the spicy ketchup! It’s a local gem that should not be dismissed.

3204 Walton Blvd.

Rochester Hills, MI 48309

www.burgrz.com

201. Ale Mary’s Beer Hall – October 14, 2016 – Royal Oak, MI

20161014_23081520161014_232613Happy Saturday, everybody! After several days of rain and gloom, it’s blue skies and sunshine this morning here in the D, and I can’t wait to get out into the world!!! I spent all day yesterday in my house during a much-needed work-from-home day, but now I’m ready to break out.

Maybe you’re ready to break out, too. If you’re local, why not take a visit to Ale Mary’s Beer Hall in downtown Royal Oak for its excellent pub grub and expansive selection of craft brews?

Last Friday night, I met a friend I haven’t seen in a while in Royal Oak for a tea date at Goldfish Tea. Translation: we both wanted a cheap night.

(Goldfish Tea is lovely, by the way. It’s not cheap for tea – they do tea right! – but it’s cheap in the general scheme of life.)

And then my friend was like, “I could really go for a hamburger!” That was all she had to say to sell me. My financial resolve went right out the window at the mention of a greasy meat sandwich. We decided on Ale Mary’s because neither of us had been there (a woman after my own heart! – and one of the many reasons we are friends).

The long, narrow interior of the bar, done up in the popular industrial-chic style of the area, was noisy and crowded. We were able to convince two girls at the bar to scoot down a seat so we could grab two stools. After much deliberation (everything on the menu sounds AMAZING, especially at 11 p.m. on a Friday night) and feedback from our bartender server, I ordered the Cuban, a beast of a sandwich loaded with ham, pork, Swiss cheese, cracked mustard aioli (sooo good!), and McClure’s pickles and accompanied by crispy beer-battered French fries. My friend ordered the Beer Cheese Burger, which I tried; it was excellent.

I saved half of that Cuban sandwich and had it Sunday afternoon for lunch, after toasting it in the oven, and it was phenomenal – possibly better than it initially was. So so so so good.

Neither of us drank (I know, sacrilege!), but I was tempted to, because Ale Mary’s offers a fine assortment of craft beers, including some local brews.

316 S. Main St.

Royal Oak, MI 48067

www.alemarysbeer.com

 

178. Joe Suds – June 19, 2016 – Warren, MI

Joe Suds is a dive bar. It’s nothing too special to look at on the inside. But the burgers! I had one of the best bacon cheeseburgers there, perched at the bar, celebrating Father’s Day with my dad and also with one of my aunts who was in town from Denver. It wasn’t exactly the place I expected to spend Father’s Day (actually it wasn’t too far off; I expected to be eating Sunday dollar burgers at my dad’s favorite bar, Freddy’s), but the location worked for everyone involved, and hey, it was a new place to visit. I enjoyed it!

And what a cheap date! It was about $37 for three burgers, a side of onion rings, a side of fries, and four drinks. Plus, the service was good; there was one bartender hustling around, serving a rail full of people and possibly even cooking our burgers in the back, we think. And if (unlike me) you’re motivated enough to engage in recreation when you drink, Joe Suds has a bunch of classic basement games scattered around, such as pool and foosball.

13791 E. 13 Mile Rd.

Warren, MI 48088

161. Mercury Burger and Bar – January 24, 2016 – Detroit, MI

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Glorious Southwest Detroit burger with chorizo, avocado, jalapenos, pickled carrots . . . out-of-control good! 

I’m OBSESSED!!! Ok, I say that about a lot of places I visit lately, but I truly am experiencing feelings of obsession around Corktown’s Mercury Burger and Bar and the AMAZING Southwest Detroit burger I had there about a month ago. Seriously, it was glorious. It was PERFECT. It had to be one of the very best burgers I’ve ever had.

That weekend was the weekend of burgers for me, apparently. I’d visited another peddler of excellent burgers, Luxe Bar and Grill, just two days prior. The trip to Mercury was part of a Detroit Day – one of my very favorite days in the world! – on which a good friend and I spend an afternoon jaunting about Detroit, exploring establishments we’ve never been.

Not only was the burger I had amazing, but so were the poutine tater tots (poutine tots!!!). Another plus: the interior of the diner is so bright and cheerily Detroit-centric, with a friendly, welcoming bar staff if you decide to perch along its rail and enjoy a local craft ale with your meal as we did. All in all, it is almost impossible not to fall in love with this place.

2163 Michigan Ave.
Detroit, MI 48216

www.mercuryburgerbar.com

160. Luxe Bar and Grill – January 22, 2016 – Birmingham, MI

20160122_20450520160122_191948Tiny doesn’t begin to describe the Birmingham location of Luxe Bar and Grill. On the Friday night that I was there, waiting 40 minutes for a table in the cramped confines of the dollhouse-sized lobby/bar area took a special kind of endurance (there is NO way I could be a server there. Seriously, they must all be wonderful souls with monk-like patience, because there is no way I could push myself through packed throngs of people waiting everywhere on a regular basis without going insane). Fortunately, the food was amazing and made it well worth the wait in that purgatory of a floor plan. I came for Luxe’s specialty, the burger, and I was not let down. The barbecue bacon one I had was awesome – and massive! I washed it down with a side of chili-cheese fries and a delicious craft cocktail and TGIF!-fueled sentiments hummed happily through my veins.

525 N. Old Woodward Ave.
Birmingham, MI 48009

(Location in Grosse Pointe Farms, as well)

www.luxebarandgrill.com