Burgers and Beers for 30 Years!

Although Crunchy’s was a mere “Other Worthy Contender” in MLive’s Michigan’s Best Burger search, they’re right about one thing:  “The MSU contingency swears by this institution.”  I concur – Crunchy’s is definitely my favorite burger in East Lansing.

Like most great burgers, a meal at Crunchy’s is about the whole experience.

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It takes most people a little while to figure out how to get into the building their first time.  You park out back and have to enter through the alley.  You can spot a regular by their confident stride into the dingy alley.

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When you enter Crunchy’s, the lights are dim, but you’ll immediately notice graffiti everywhere.  Carved or scrawled onto the walls and booths, it provides a testament in a transient college town to those who have gone before us.

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The Famous Crunchy Burger is known around town – half a pound of chargrilled meat covered in American cheese.  Weekdays from 11 am to 4:30 pm, the Burger Special will get you a Crunchy Burger, French fries, and a pop for a mere $5.49.  It’s easy on the tummy and the budget!

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As tempting as the Burger Special is, my heart belongs to the Salmon Burger – a perfectly round patty of grilled salmon, covered with a slice of American cheese and paired with a Dijon horseradish sauce – although it’ll never measure up to Grandma’s Good Friday salmon patties.  I always dip my finger into the Dijon horseradish sauce to test it out before pouring too much over the cheesy side of my salmon.  A heaping serving of French’s yellow mustard graces the underside of the salmon.  The lettuce, tomato, and pickle garnishing the burger are removed and eaten separately, not to tarnish the delicate mix of flavors, and the onions are simply disposed of as quickly as possible.

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I always get my Salmon Burger on a pretzel bun, and every once in a while, I’ll add one of Crunchy’s nine Signature Toppings.  My favorite options for the Salmon Burger are the Bacon & Cheese (bacon, cheddar cheese), the Olive (black or green olives, American cheese), and the Western (bacon, Crunchy’s Stout BBQ sauce, mozzarella cheese).  The burger comes with a bag of Better Made Original Potato Chips.  Usually I substitute tater tots for the chips, but with Thanksgiving dinner the next day, I didn’t want to spoil my appetite.  The Dijon horseradish sauce that comes with the Salmon Burger doubles as a zesty dipping sauce for the tater tots!

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The only downside to Crunchy’s is the lack of parking onsite, which means you have to park at a meter and have enough quarters on you to pay for an hour of parking.  Or, you park on campus and walk four miles to Crunchy’s, which is typically my solution when the weather permits!

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Local Dive is a Pleasant Surprise

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I’ve only been to Jackson, Michigan, a few times, and never for a burger, but I thought I would see what all the hype was about in the burger rivalry between the West Point Lounge on Spring Arbor Road and Schlenker’s Sandwich Shop on Ganson Street.

At first sight, the West Point Lounge looks like your typical small-town, hole-in-the-wall – a local favorite that’s not trying to pretend to be anything more.  The absence of windows feels like a tribute to the bars of our parents’ twenties.  When you walk in, the scent of stale cigarettes hits you like you’re at a bar four years ago before Michigan banned smoking in public establishments.  The neatest feature inside is a fish tank above the bar itself, running the length of the bar.

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The Monday special is two Coney dogs for $1.75, which is an awesome deal.  Although I was tempted, I couldn’t be swayed from my mission.  I was there for a burger.

I decided to be adventurous and try the Chili Swiss Cheese Burger – topped with chili, Swiss cheese, and onions (I ordered mine without the onions, of course!).  Labeled the “Craig Playford Special” after the high school football coach, the menu cautions that you’ll definitely need a knife and fork to tackle this burger.  I opted for the basket, which comes with fries and either coleslaw or cottage cheese, and since it was my first meal of the day, I upgraded my fries to cheese sticks to satisfy my rumbling tummy.

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Andy opted for the less unusual Bacon Extra Burger, which is topped with a large serving of bacon and your choice of two cheeses.  Unfortunately, although Andy asked for Pepperjack and Cheddar, the Cheddar seemed to have gotten lost somewhere between his order and the plate’s arrival.

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My burger was delightfully messy, chili spilling over the sides of the burger onto the plate.  The chili added a sweet little kick to the burger, which I opted to eat open-faced style.  It’s not the prettiest sight, but there’s more to a burger than its outward appearance, right?

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I sliced my open-faced burger like a pizza pie, into eight wedges.  By this point, most of the chili was surrounding the bottom bun on the plate.  I had ordered the burger well-done because I don’t like to see any pink in my meat, and it was quite well-done.  Weighing in at a quarter of a pound, the Chili Swiss Cheese Burger was enough to make me 80% full, which was a nice change from typically massive servings.

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Overall, I’m glad we stopped by the West Point Lounge for lunch, but I don’t think I’ll be making another special trip down there in the near future.  I look forward to seeing how Schlenker’s Sandwich Shop stacks up against the competition!

The Best Burger in Michigan?

“I have the simplest tastes.  I am always satisfied with the best.”  ~Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

 

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I consider myself a burger enthusiast, so when I saw the Top 10 List of Michigan Burgers for 2013, I was a little skeptical that my favorite burger in the world wasn’t at the top of the list.  So I had to find out for myself.

Laura’s Little Burger Joint is located in a small building on the side of M-51 in Decatur, Michigan.  If you blink, you’re going to miss it.  Be aware:  if you’re using a GPS to find Laura’s, the GPS will locate the address a bit further west than the restaurant is actually located!

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There are three picnic tables on the patio in front of the window where you can choose to “dine in.”  If you visit in the fall, be sure to bring a sweater because it gets a little chilly eating outdoors.

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The folks are friendly – both those operating the establishment and those partaking in the delicious food!  A couple of gentlemen tried to convince my friend and me to try The Chapman burger as we walked up when it was clear from my picture-taking that it was our first time.  They didn’t have to twist our arms very hard!

Of course, Laura’s features a variety of burgers for the satisfaction of all taste buds, but I had my eyes on the prize.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on The Chapman.  For less than $10, it was a dream come true – two half-pound patties, piled with bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, grilled onions, covered with two bold slices of pepperjack cheese (plus fries!).  The meat is juicy from start to finish, and all the flavors melt in your mouth.

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It came out steaming hot, but if you let it cool off for two to five minutes before you dig in, it’s just the perfect temperature; it’s less likely to fall apart on you, and you never have to put it down.  No matter how hard you try, however, you’re going to get messy.  We found that it helps to turn the burger upside down if you start to get overwhelmed!

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The “icing on the cake” is that each picnic table has a marker next to the condiments.  Patrons are encouraged to leave (appropriate) messages all over the tables.  It’s as much fun to see who else has sat in your seat eating a burger as it is to write your own message!

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The moral of the story?  I can’t yet say if The Chapman at Laura’s Little Burger Joint is the best burger in all of Michigan.  I can say that it was delicious and well worth the trip!  So what are you waiting for?!  Go get one!  They’re only open April through November!

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