Apr 182008
 

Well people, I made it. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing when it comes to places in Johnson County these days, but I seem to be really making the rounds out there lately. I’m still gunning for the third district spots, believe me, I just can’t really do it during the work week.

In a nutshell, Grandstand makes me a little jealous of Johnson County. And just to get things straight, the stretch of road that houses this humble little burger shack is not cupcakeland. It is total blue collar all the way. What amounts to “downtown” Merriam is little more than some auto repair shops, a lumber yard, a place that sells pavers and so forth, and a little hole in the wall that sells one of the best burgers in the metro.

Yes, I’ll admit that the mystique of the place contributes a lot to its appeal. You can fit approximately 5 people inside the place before you have to start exchanging phone numbers. Most people eat out on picnic tables, with a plastic bottle of ketchup and a handful of overly skimpy napkins. And this place cranks out the burgers. I was there about 1pm yesterday and they were doing a stiff business, half of which was carryout.

Ok, down to brass tacks. The bun is grilled. Condiments come on the sandwich and include lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, pickle, onion, and mayo. I always forego mayo because I think it is disgusting. I will never smooch anyone who likes mayonnaise. The cheese is American and prominent in the flavor symphony of the burger. The patty itself is clearly hand-formed and is the perfect size. Personally I don’t like thick “restaurant-style” burgers. I like them thin, and these are fairly thin but really a good size compared to places like Max’s and Town Topic. They offer double and even triple cheeseburgers as well. Wanna see the whole menu?

I ate my cheeseburger in, like, 38 seconds. I just couldn’t stop myself.

I do have a (minor) quibble with the fries. The are cheap, out of the bag, crinkle-cut fries. They cook them as well as you can possibly cook them, by which I mean they don’t undercook them, which everyone seems to do in this town.

No one likes a flaccid potato.

They just seem like cheap fries somehow. I mean Chefburger also uses frozen fries, but you get the feeling that they tried a lot of varieties and chose the best one. I think Grandstand just went for the cheapest that Sysco had to offer. The cheapness comes through in other ways too. For instance, I’m pretty sure that they are rockin’ the generic ketchup in those red bottles. I can just tell. Anyhow, next time I go for the tater tots.

You know elsewhere in the country it is rare to see tater tots on a restaurant menu. No shit. I came to KC a couple years back and all these goddamn places had tater tots–that totally kick ass. Does anyone know why? Does anyone recognize this for the cute little local culinary identifier that it is? Is this a nationwide trend that I only noticed just now?

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Best burger

 Posted by at 10:29 pm
Mar 202008
 

I just noticed that my informal, unscientific, and truly silly Best Burger in KC poll is closed and here I am to provide thought provoking analysis of the results.

In a nutshell, Westport Flea Market beats the shit out of everyone else.

This is not too surprising because it is just too well known as a good burger joint. I think it’s also probably wrong, but i really need to do some more empirical research on the subject. Oh yes, in second place? Who do you think?

None of the Above.

This was by no means an exhaustive list, but I thought I included all the important ones. So c’mon, leave a comment with your favorite places for a hamburger, especially if it didn’t make the list.

I was also surprised to see that Red Robin got a few votes. Red Robin people? What the hell? i know they have these crazy burgers with crazy toppings like avocado, pineapples slices, olives, can o’ corn, french onion soup….whatever…jesus, it’s chain food: DISQUALIFIED. But if you really love Red Robin and think their burgers are truly the tops, please, I’m begging you, please write an impassioned defense of the establishment in the comments. That would be hilarious.

Lastly, no one voted for “yer mama.” I was expecting at least one smart-ass to read this blog.

Feb 132008
 

Exterior

Pretty much everyone loves this place, there are accolades all over the web, extolling the virtues of its ambience, uniqueness and mostly its hamburgers. Without question, the Flea Market is one of Kansas City’s most interesting lunch spots, and well worth a visit for those who have not been there. It’s also a decent place for happy hour, dinner and late nite carousing.

But it’s not perfect, people.

For first-timers, the following is an important aspect of the dining experience to be aware of. While the tables have menus on them and there are plenty of waitresses about, food must be ordered from the register at the end of the bar. Unless you happen to arrive at a slow time, you’ll see the line. You pay for your food at the register, and pick it up from a window when they call your name over the annoying loudspeaker. Waitresses operate only to serve drinks, and these must be paid for in cash on the spot, like any self-respecting bar. The beer selection in excellent, and they offer upwards of 20 on tap if I’m not mistaken. It is basically a bar that allows an external vendor to sell its wares within the confines. In fact, I think that is exactly the situation. The wait for food can be lengthy but not unreasonable for a lunch spot. The menu (pdf) has lots of stuff to offer, but it’s the burgers that are their bread and butter.

Anyone who says the flea market offers the “best burger ever” is just fooling himself, and probably doesn’t get out of town a whole hell of a lot.

Let’s talk burgers for a moment. Burgers are about the whole package–the glorious assemblage of perfect meat, bun, toppings and condiments. There is also the very important notion of how it is cooked. Burgers can be grilled, fried, steamed, barbequed, oven-roasted, submerged in boiling oil, poached, oven-roasted and baked. Well, maybe not poached, that’s gross. Anyhow, this is just to say that even the simplest of foods carries a lot of complicated decisions about ingredients and preparation. Anyone who watches the goddamn food network with any regularity knows that, in order to create the “perfect” anything, you need to consider every last detail. And in the end, the overly perky host always chalks it up to something hokey like “heart,” “love,” or the ubiquitous “it’s in his blood.”

While the burgers at WFM are excellent and I crave them periodically, they lack the complete package. The meat is excellent, freshly ground from McGonigles and has a texture and a flavor that is hard to parallel. But condiments and toppings are a do it yourself affair; the Flea Market has a fixins bar with the usual assortment of toppings: tomatoes, lettuce, onions, pickles, etc. But the bar pretty much sucks in terms of quality. It features shredded iceberg lettuce (ever try keeping that on a bun?), and the lamest pale, thin-cut tomato slices ever. The whole bar is vaguely unappetizing, with the contents of the tomato container veritably disintegrating into a mass of disjointed, flaccid flesh. Thick cut, yellow onion slices don’t really do it for me either. I usually just get some pickles and make my way back to the table. Likewise the bun is unremarkable, slightly undersized and doesn;t seem up to the task of delivering this wonderful meat slab into your mouth.
The ‘flea market burger’ is quite large, and difficult to finish even for someone of my appetite and ever-increasing girth. I typically go with the mini-burger and some onion rings. The rings are excellent, not overly breaded, very crispy and taste like they didn;t come frozen out of a brown paper bag. The curly fries are what they are. Kind of boring, but with all the hallmarks of being homemade. Definitely try the deep fried pickles–the best I’ve had.

Oh, did I mention that there is a flea market? yeah, and quite a sizable one at that. I don’t know the history of the place, but it definitely is incredibly original as a concept. It’s neat to have a few beers and a burger, then walk around the stalls looking at old stuff for a while. Also a great way to kill time while yer food is cooking. Like most flea markets, the booths are slightly overpriced, and the proprietors seem lacking in most social graces, but it’s fun nonetheless.

A few years ago, the Westport Flea Market was in danger of going away, subsumed by the onslaught of westport gentrification. But apparently some kind gent bought the place and pledged to keep it going in the same vein as before. By all accounts, this effort has been successful. So even if the burger isn’t perfect, it’s still damn good and worthy of your discerning little mouths.

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