From whence mighty burgers grow

Published 6:57 pm Friday, September 10, 2010

You might say we are burger deficient here in Bainbridge. In fact, according to a recent survey, many communities with burger alleys such as ours, may be burger deficient too, and didn’t even know it, or could care less.

The latest edition of Consumer Reports magazine polled 28,000 readers, asking them to rate the tastiness of the last burger they consumed, then rank them on a taste scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest.

Of 18 burger purveyors listed, In-N-Out Burger, not on Shotwell Street, received the highest ranking nationwide, yet only reached 7.9 on the tasty scale. There’s no In-N-Out Burger in Bainbridge. Maybe the Development Authority could look into it.

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Now, if you travel up and down Shotwell Street, we have McDonald’s, Wendys, Hardees, Burger King, all listed in the 18-burger roster. Also included in the roster, but not on Shotwell Street, was Sonic Drive in, out there on the way to Walmart. (incidently, the new Walmarts now display their name as one word – Walmart. No hyphen.)

By volume of sales of all their menu items, particularly the new coffees, the largest fast food restaurant in America is McDonald’s. They rank far and away from any of its competitors in sales from all its menu items. But guess where their hamburger ranks in the survey? Last. Yep, last.

McDonald’s burger only received a 5.6 ranking on the 10-point scale.

Unless you have plans to visit the southwest, you are not going to find the In-N-Out burger anywhere around here. But you can find in Tallahassee and Atlanta the second ranked tastiest char broiled burger coming from Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

Last fall, the spouse of the house, led two bus loads of eighth graders from Bainbridge Middle School on the school’s annual five-day Georgia Studies tour. One of their lunch stops was at Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Atlanta. Phoned ahead weeks in advance that about 60 people were coming for lunch, the buses arrived on time, found their lunches bagged and ready to go.

Asked to describe the burger, the spouse of the house had one word of description – “Wonderful!!!”

She went on: “It was a thick juicy paddy, char broiled, smelled and tasted wonderful, and it had all the toppings I like in a burger.”

(She gave it a 10).

OK Shotwell alley burger lovers, so how did the other burgers along the strip rank among the 18 listed?

Coming in eighth out of 18 was Hardee’s. Wendy’s came in 12th. Sonic, out by Walmart, ranked 13th. Burger King 16th.

Seventeenth, one spot up from bottom winner McDonald’s, was Jack In The Box, a former Bainbridge burger alley emporium. If you remember, it was located where the current Taco Bell asks that you think “outside the bun.”

In case you are wondering which other burger servers were in the taste test, here are their results: Fuddruckers, third; Burgerville, fourth; Back Yard burgers, fifth; Culver’s Frozen Custard, sixth; Whataburger, seventh; Carl’s Jr., ninth; Checkers Drive In, tenth; White Castle, 11th; A&W Restaurant 14th; Krystal, 15th.

Now you have to compare the prices of these burgers, because that will make a difference in the taste. In the burger wars, the one ongoing between McDonald’s and Burger King, really now, how much burger bang do you expect to get for a buck? And at that price, how great do you expect it to taste? Load on the toppings.

At Five Guys, the “wonderful” burger costs 5 bucks. There’s an economy version at $3.50. Order it with any of 15 toppings at no extra cost including grilled mushrooms and jalapeno peppers.

If you must spend $5 for a burger, the Five Guys in Tallahassee is in Capital Plaza Shopping Center, 1872 Thomasville Road.

It would be nice to mention home-owned restaurants in Bainbridge which serve a wonderful burger. Many of them do. But mentioning one local purveyor other than those listed on the survey, might leave a deserving name off the list. So let’s just say, you can get a great burger here in Bainbridge.

My favorite comes topped with swiss cheese covered in a mushroom gravy. Ask for a knife and fork setup, a frosty cold mug of draft Millers or Coors, push the bun aside, and dig in. Yum yum. Wonderful.

Jim Smith is a former editor of The Post-Searchlight, and can be found on his way to Arizona ASAP seeking an In-N-Out Burger location.