The Blimpy’s new location is larger than the old one, but you still can expect to wait in line. The line gives you an opportunity to do your homework, which is to figure out exactly how you want your hamburger, plus – and this is crucial – how to order it.
The first question you will be asked by a counter staff is if you want something fried. This refers to side-dish vegetables, including broccoli stalks, steak fries, and big, irregular onion rings in self-detaching crust. Next, tell the burger cook how many patties you want. At ten-to-a-pound, two is minimal. Next, name your roll: Kaiser, regular, or onion? Want cheese? Say cheddar, Swiss, provolone, American, bleu, or feta. Fifth question: Any extras on top? These include fried eggs, bacon, salami, grilled onions, banana peppers, and mushrooms. Finally, when everything else is settled, give the assembler a list of condiments you want applied, naming the wet ones first. By this time, you are at the cash register at the end of the line. The fried things have arrived in overflowing cardboard boats and your burger, precisely built to your specifications, is wrapped in wax paper and ready to be eaten.
According to generally accepted rules of griddle frying, Blimpy hamburgers are cooked all wrong. Each glob of freshly-ground chuck, about the size of an ice cream scoop, is squished flat on the hot iron, slapped and flipped, sometimes hit so vigorously that it disintegrates like Iowa loosemeats (but is reintegrated with a deft spatula), finally leaned on hard before getting topped with cheese, et. al. and bunned. Call it burger abuse, but these hamburgers are fatty enough to take it and still come off the griddle oozing juice. No doubt, a single plain Blimpy on a bun would be boring. But no one gets a single, and the only reason to get one plain is if you’ve given up condiments for Lent. A triple, quad or quint, layered with cheese (on each of the patties), piled with onions, bacon, banana peppers or olives (green or black?), festooned with romaine leaves, tomato slices, mustard, mayo and pickles and sandwiched in a superb onion roll, is an enormous feast that transcends greasy-spoon ignominy. A full-bore Blimpy costs more than a fast-food dollar meal; but getting it and eating it at Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger is a hamburger epiphany.
Note: As of Spring, 2020, all business is carry-out and customers are asked to wear face masks.
Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger has been an Ann Arbor institution since 1953, and has a winning motto: cheaper than food. That may not be quite as much the case as it was in the beginning, but you can still get a great lunch for around $5, and the quality of the ingredients are part of what makes Blimpy Burger so special. The meat is fresh and hand-ground, and the golf ball sized patties are pounded into submission on a grill with a lovely, well-seasoned surface. That grill has seen a lot of burgers, but also onions, mushrooms, bacon, eggs, and crispy cheese bits that ooze off the sides of the patties.
Blimpy Burger meets several of the qualifications for a Roadfood establishment. Blimpy’s has been in business for a long time, doing one thing particularly well, and has maintained a loyal customer base despite (or because of) the cantankerous and quirky service. The small building’s interior resembles a diner, with walls covered with “Best of” awards and photographs of the manager’s amazing snow sculptures of burger-loving polar bears that grace the storefront every winter. Another important characteristic of a Roadfood place is the predominance of a SYSTEM. Blimpy Burger’s is posted on signs that make more sense after you’ve gone there a few times. You must approach the line in an orderly fashion, take a tray whether you’re ordering a meal of your own or not, turn off your cell phone, and answer only the questions put to you.
First, do you want anything from the fryer? We heartily recommend that you say yes. The fries are of the steak variety, just moments out of the oil and generously heaped into a paper container. Lots of people love the breaded and fried vegetables, which include mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini and onions. Depending on your onion ring loyalties, you may find these among the best ever. They are just how I like mine: thin and crispy with a lacy coating that bears no resemblance to the thick, one-bite-and-the-onion-falls-out variety.
Next, do you want a double, triple, quad or quint (I’ve heard that each burger ball weighs about a tenth of a pound)? Regular bun, onion, or kaiser (we like the regular, which doesn’t overwhelm the beef)? Accompanied by onions, mushrooms, fried egg or bacon? Salami?? We like to get doubles with cheddar and onions (I once heard a guy order a quad with bacon, but I was not so bold). The beauty of Blimpy is that the burger appears well-balanced at both the low- and high-octane versions. After the grill cook slings your patties around for a while, you are asked about cheese; Swiss and cheddar appear to be popular choices, but we also saw someone receive a healthy pile of feta on theirs.
If all goes well, you can manage to avoid the scorn of the proprietor and the line cooks–but don’t count on it. The system is venerated more than communicated, and you are bound to mess it up. But trust us, the derision you risk if you ask for things out of order (condiments, by the way, are dead last) is nothing compared to the joys of the meal that awaits you. The patties are flavorful, with crisp edges that contrast pleasantly with the juicy, greasy, beefiness. The condiments, which are assembled at your request, are fresh and skillfully arranged. The fried items are so hot that you risk injury unless you restrain yourself. We recommend that you enjoy your tray of food on the small but leafy outdoor deck, which is often crowded with a mix of University of Michigan undergraduates, local workmen, and be-suited professionals in search of a meal that is friendly to the stomach (if daunting to the heart).