(My baconless double @ Blimpy Burger in Ann Arbor, MI)
The boyfriend and I were on the last leg of our summer vacation. We said goodbye to Chicago and were headed to Ottawa on an ambitious 14 hour drive. Not wanting the American regional food experience to end we stopped in Ann Arbor for lunch at Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger. During the course of this trip we'd been to several small but popular restaurants that have specific ordering instructions created to make ordering easier so you can get your food faster. Although you might be teased for missing a step you wouldn't be ridiculed, yelled at or become entertainment for other patrons. At Blimpy Burger you do. It was also the first burger joint where I was afraid to order bacon on my burger.
Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger has been serving Ann Arbor award winning doubles, triples, quads and quints since 1953. The patties, which are freshly ground daily, start off as meatballs the size of golf balls. When an order is placed the cook throws the balls on the grill and smashes them into thin patties. Here, a double is the minimum you can order and the single is reserved only for children. Through a simple routine you order your bun, cheese, grilled toppings and cold toppings.
I'll take you through Blimpy Burger's ordering process. If you're eating in you get a tray. You cannot order for someone else and you cannot share trays. You will be asked if you want to order anything from the fryer - you have an option of onion rings, french fries or vegetables. Then you'll place your burger order - double, triple, quad or quint. Wait till you're asked, don't volunteer information before you are asked. You'll have to decided on a bun option next: plain, onion or kaiser and if you want to have any toppings grilled (this includes bacon!). If the griller gives you any instructions/commands, you listen and obey. Just as your burger is coming off the grill you will be asked what kind of cheese you'd like: blue, cheddar, American, swiss, provolone, feta - any, none, some or all. Finally, the cold toppings will be added by the cashier before you pay. If you've managed to survive this process you will hand over a small amount of money for a fantastic burger and get strange change back. I got an American 50 cent coin and a $2 dollar bill.
(At Café du Monde in New Orleans)
We had just arrived in New Orleans after driving through Tenessee and Alabama. Instead of making a beeline for the boozy slush drink vendor we walked to Café Du Monde in the Fernch Market for their well known coffee and beignets. The café, which operates 24/7 except on Christmas and during the occasional hurricane, was booming with customers. The takeout lineup was daunting while all of the tables in the eat in section were taken with people looming nearby ready to snatch the next available - whether it was coated in the previous customers powdered sugar or not. With a little luck and determination we got a table and it wasn't that sticky and sugar coated. The boyfriend and I sat down, ready for our first taste of New Orleans.
It took a long time for the waitstaff to acknowledge us. After giving several waiters 'the eye' and several pathetic 'excuse me?'s we put our order in and eagerly waited this New Orleans delicacy. The beignets themselves are simple - fried square pieces of dough that have powdered sugar poured, not sprinkled, on top of them. The coffee, served plain or as a hot or cold café au lait is blended with chicory adding a chocolate flavour to the dark roast. Since it was hot and humid I ordered an iced café au lait and my own order of beignets (each order contains 3 beignets). When they arrived I was shocked at the amount of powdered sugar - maybe there was someone new making the beignets today and they didn't know how much sugar to put on. Maybe the container of sugar fell over on my beignets. Or maybe they were giving me sugar for my café au lait, just on my beignets. But no, this is how sugary they are supposed to be and part of the experience is walking away a little sticky and sugar coated.
I didn't like it. I didn't like the slow, inattentive service, I didn't like how sticky and dirty the café looked and I didn't like choking on powdered sugar while trying to have a midnight snack with the boyfriend. There are many other restaurants and café's to visit in New Orleans, save your money and avoid this hot tourist spot and try Louisiana's state doughnut elsewhere. Or get a boozy slush drink or two and have a fun walk back to the hotel.
Three weeks is a long time to be away from home. Now that I'm back I'm thinking of traveling more - day trips, weekend trips, maybe even another giant road trip. Before I start getting excited about booking hotels I have a lot of stories to tell about shooting guns, biking burning in Austin and getting yelled at while ordering a burger. In the meantime, here are some things I've learned in the past three weeks: