Judging by the crowd at lunch on a recent afternoon, there’s already a big buzz about Grindhouse Killer Burgers.
A dining critic, a magazine editor and a couple of local foodies rubbed elbows with Grady Hospital workers and Georgia State students. And everyone seemed to be enjoying the sudden scene this retro burger bar is creating inside the historic Sweet Auburn Curb Market.
Owner Alex Brounstein is a real estate attorney and developer, whose background brought him to the Curb Market, where he helped secure a community development stimulus grant that will be used to revitalize the 1920s-era building. Brounstein’s passion for burgers led him to create the Grindhouse concept, which he says takes a page from New York City’s popular Shake Shack.
As unlikely as the setting seems for a hip, fast-casual restaurant, the mix of old-school food stalls selling meat and produce and the urban Atlanta setting somehow works to add to the experience. Order at the counter — and don’t forget to get your parking ticket validated. Find a stool at the bar, fashioned from reclaimed wood, metal and butcher block. While you wait for your food, delivered quick-time by the solicitous staff, take in a flickering 1970s exploitation film projected onto the vintage subway tile walls.
Of course, none of that would make much difference if Grindhouse didn’t live up to the “killer burgers” brag. In fact, the freshly ground certified Angus chuck and brisket burgers are very good, especially for the price — $3.99 for a single quarter-pound patty or $5.99 for a double. They can be loaded with lots of toppings, some free and some that cost extra (50 cents to $1 each). But if you can’t decide, there are five “style” combos, starting at $4.99.
As is the practice at many burger places lately, everything is cooked to medium or well-done. But the loosely formed patties are nice and juicy and a tad crumbly. The soft, buttered and toasted Dutch potato roll works well to contain the meat and toppings without overwhelming anything.
The signature Grindhouse Style burger is a winning melange of flavors reminiscent of a Big Mac, in a good way. Lettuce, grilled onions, pickles, gooey American cheese and the special Grindhouse sauce make for an easygoing, bright, pickley snap.
In contrast, the Apache Style is not for wimps. Topped with house-roasted green chiles, grilled onions and pepper Jack cheese, there’s a flavorful burst of heat and spice in every bite.
Other choices include the Euro Style, with sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, mayo and mustard, and the most expensive ($6.25 single/$8.25 double) is the Cowboy Style, with thick bacon, crispy Vidalia onions, cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce.
Fries and sides
For purists, the only sides a burger joint needs are really good fries and maybe some onion rings. In that regard, Grindhouse goes beyond the usual with sweet potato kettle chips, smokey beef chili and three kinds of salads, including Asian cucumber and an iceberg wedge.
If you like Zesto’s crinkle-cut fries, you’ll like the kind at Grindhouse, which are thick, a bit limp and plentiful.
The Vidalia onion rings are still a work in progress, tasty, but not always crunchy.
Soft-serve ice cream, shakes and malts, and fountain soft drinks round out the offerings.
But the burgers are what you’ll come back for.
Grindhouse Killer Burgers, 209 Edgewood Ave., 404-522-3444
Signature dish: Burgers
Entree prices: $3.99-$8.25
Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.
Credit cards: Yes
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