Saturday, February 7, 2009

BurgerQuest, Vol. 2: Ann's Snack Bar

Attention all burger enthusiasts:

We've all seen the local and national press lauding Ann's Snack Bar as the best burger in Atlanta, perhaps the nation. However, I'm sure that very few of us have summoned the intestinal fortitude (or sheer space for that matter) to venture into Sketchville--1615 Memorial Drive to be exact--for one of Miss Ann's burgers.

For the uninitiated, Ann's has rules, and you'd best abide by them. First and perhaps most importantly, Ann's is a lunch counter that only has eight stools. If you are not occupying one of those stools once all eight are filled, you are to wait on the porch until she summons you in. She seats the counter in waves, then cooks everyone's order at once. You are not to lean on any surfaces in the restaurant. Do not put a child on the counter. Do not speak to her unless she addresses you first. Cash only. Do not come up with special orders for her--one couple who wanted half iced tea and half lemonade were denied because Miss Ann said that it would have messed up her costing. Do not talk on your cell phone while indoors. And for your own sanity, bring a book or something, because you could be waiting for quite a while. Any violation of the above rules will transform you from an eager diner into hapless entertainment for the rest of the patrons. And finally, you will likely be hit up for money by someone wanting $2.32 to buy some crack, I mean, a kid's meal from the neighboring Checkers. Contribute at your own desire.

Now, the food at Ann's can be separated into two categories: burgers and hot dogs. Any of these can be served plain or with any combination of cheese, bacon, chili, and slaw. But the cornerstones of Ann's Snack Bar are the Hood Burger, and most famously, the Ghetto Burger. The Hood Burger is a double cheeseburger with bacon, chili, cheese, slaw, onions, mayo, mustard, and ketchup. The Ghetto Burger is also a double cheeseburger with chili, onions, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo, mustard, and ketchup. They cost $8.50 and $8.00, respectively; with combos (fries and drink) costing an additional $1.25.

When I arrived, there were only two people seated. I meekly took an empty stool, hoping I wouldn't be banished to the porch by the stoic Miss Ann. She immediately took my order--one Hood Burger combo and one Ghetto Burger--and went to work on it. In one of the greatest displays of excess I've seen in recent memory, Miss Ann procured a large pot full of loose meat and pressed four softball-sized mounds (for 2 burgers!!!) onto her tiny flattop griddle, manipulating half of its space. The meat had a pale pink hue, and was more than likely just ground beef--it certainly couldn't have been anything leaner than ground chuck. As she pressed the patties out, she liberally sprinkled them with her special seasoning "shake." And as with any proud fried chicken cook or BBQ cook, she will likely not be giving you her recipe. Asking her would probably violate one of the aforementioned rules. It seemed like something of a pumped-up seasoning salt (think cayenne and paprika, etc.) and tasted great on the fries as well. The first portion of my order to be ready and placed in front of me was the fries. They came from a frozen bag, but I really didn't care because they were just the opening act before the headlining burgers took the stage. As I was scarfing down my fries, I think I giggled a few times watching her assemble the burgers in all their ridiculous splendor. The men that had sat down next to me asked if I had planned on eating both of them in one sitting (I was sharing with others). Ann's doesn't even have a heated porch--I doubt that cardiac fibrillation would have been an option.

The two burgers themselves were simply scrumtralescent; however, in my opinion, I would give the nod of superiority to the Hood Burger. I think that the slaw provides that extra richness that carries all of the other flavors. But let's not kid ourselves here, the star of the show is the meat. There had to be a NET weight of at least 12 to 16 ounces of meat per burger. It was well seasoned, but ultimately tasted as it should--like meat! Each of the condiments were in a perfect proportion to the meat: much like the Commodores to Lionel Richie. The fact that she can make all of this magic happen on equipment and food that could easily be found in a supermarket is simply amazing.

So go to Ann's. Go soon. That is all.

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