Once Autumn hits, I begin to crave Ann Arbor, Michigan. My mind automatically drifts to its quiet, tree-lined streets, brick facades and wide-open spaces. I even start to yearn for the feel of its cold, sharp winds on my Los Angeles-bred skin.
My husband Josh grew up in the über-liberal college town (often referred to as the Berkeley of the Midwest), so I’ve spent almost of decade of Thanksgivings—and a few days most summers—there. I’ve been at least a dozen times, which is why I was pretty shocked when I learned about Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger on the Ann Arbor edition of Man vs. Food.
Of all places.
“Over 2,147,483,648 burger combinations? What! Why have you never taken me there?!” I gasped, turning to Josh with what most certainly was a fevered look of betrayal.
He’d been good enough to introduce me to Zingerman’s, the deli to end all delis; perfect falafel at Jerusalem Garden; and late nights at the townie/political radical hangout that is the Fleetwood Diner. But Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burgers? Never! Instead I have to find out about it on a food show…like some common tourist.
He just laughed and promised to oblige me this Thanksgiving.
The moment of truth finally came on Saturday after a particularly depressing Michigan-Ohio football game. Full of beer and giddy anticipation, we entered the burger joint, which has been an Ann Arbor institution since 1953. It’s a small place with a long counter and a few tables. There are also a lot of rules—you have to order your own food, and you have to do it right.
Starting at the end of the counter, our first step was to relay our french fry order to the teenage deep fryer. Blimpy fries are cut thick with crispy outsides and perfectly-mushy insides. Josh’s sister and her husband were also in tow, and they got the mixed veggies—zucchini, onions, mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower dipped in a thick batter for an audibly-crunchy, golden-brown effect.
Next step is the grill. Here’s where things can go wrong. You must tell the cook (a very entertaining and surly middle-aged woman on our visit) the following, in this particular order:
1. How many patties you want. They’re thin, so they make you get at least two unless you’re a kid.
2. What type of bun you prefer—plain, onion kaiser or pumpernickel.
3. Any grilled items you want. Choices include onions, bacon mushrooms and a fried egg.
You shouldn’t mention cheese until you’re asked, as I learned when the cook yelled, “I don’t care about your cheese!” at a 10-year old who piped up too soon. However, when the time is appropriate, the options are aplenty: American, Swiss, feta, cheddar, provolone or blue. Once the basic burger is constructed, the cashier slaps on your condiment choices before ringing you up.
The burger pictured here had egg, blue cheese and grilled onions. I chose 3 patties with American cheese, grilled onions and bacon (pictured at the top of the post). I kept the condiments to a simple mix of mustard, ketchup and mayo. Let me tell you, my months of anticipation were rewarded deliciously. The thinness of freshly ground patties allowed them to stay really moist and juicy. Once stacked on top of the crispy, super-salty bacon, we’re talking glorious-ness of the burger kind.
My only regret: I didn’t add pickles. Next time, and there will be plenty of next times!
Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger
551 S Division St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104