Cheap Eats - Grindhouse Killer Burgers

Tuesday November 3, 2009 10:00 am EST

To most people, a burger is just a burger — a timeless American treat worth the occasional caloric splurge. Playful flavor combinations and fancy deconstructions are exciting, but there’s something to be said about a spot, such as Grindhouse Killer Burgers (209 Edgewood Ave., 404-522-3444, www.grindhouseburgers.com), that skips the pretense and gets straight to the beef.

Owner Alex Brounstein (a real estate developer and attorney) chose the Sweet Auburn Curb Market as the restaurant's location for many reasons. The market already has a captive audience of shoppers with food on the mind, and the overhead is much cheaper than a traditional bricks and mortar space. What's more, the restaurant’s presence helps revitalize a historic Atlanta food-centric landmark.

Amid the hustle and bustle of the market, tucked away in a corner, sits a curving counter surrounded by stools. The seating faces a semi-open kitchen and a makeshift movie theater where kooky action movies such as Kung Fu Hustle are projected on the wall.

You choose your patty (certified Angus beef, turkey, or bean and quinoa veggie), how many patties you want (one is more than enough), a style, sides and a drink. Nothing fancy. Just plain burgers with a little personality on pillowy potato buns. Each patty is ground and cooked to order, so don’t expect a turn-and-burn pace here.

Of all the burgers I’ve had during my visits — and I’ve had them all — the Apache with beef kills it every time. The righteously greasy and therefore naturally juicy patty is smothered in roasted green chilies, sweet grilled onions and a blanket of gooey pepper jack cheese. A little mayo makes it extra naughty. I wouldn’t throw the Euro — sautéed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, mayonnaise and mustard — out of bed, either.

On the other end of the spectrum is the veggie burger. While I appreciate a housemade vegetarian patty, the combination of quinoa and black beans is too mushy, which means there's little contrast between the bun and its fillings. The sliders — an excellent choice for the kiddies — use a smaller steamed version of the potato buns that are lighter on the constitution than their buttered and toasted counterparts.

Crinkle-cut french fries are fried to a serious crisp then covered with a generous helping of seasoned salt. The chili cheese version is the stuff midnight cravings are made of. The chili is perfectly savory, beefy and slightly sweet. Long homemade sweet potato kettle chips are normally crisp, but the occasional greasy batch is enough to put you off for good. The onion rings were feathery onion strings on one visit and a thick-cut Vidalia style on another. The strings were better, but Grindhouse has settled on the Vidalia version because they travel better when taken to-go.

If you like to eat your burger old-school — i.e., with a milkshake on the side — Grindhouse has you covered. The kitchen doesn’t complicate the guilty pleasure with fancy-schmancy ingredients. Instead, they use the classic ingredients — like regular Hershey’s syrup — that made you fall in love with shakes long ago, and rely on technique to achieve a texture that resembles a Wendy's Frosty. C’mon what’s a few more calories when you’re splurging?

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