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Ann’s Snack Bar: Ghetto (Fabulous) Burger

By • Nov 24th, 2009 • Category: Burger Blog

According to a 2007 Wall Street Journal article, the best burger in America is served at a ramshackle 8-seat diner in a sketchy East Atlanta neighborhood.  I’m embarrassed to admit that, despite living in Atlanta since 1994, I hadn’t even heard of the place until Raymond Sokolov’s list came out.  But this past week, I finally made my pilgrimage to an honest-to-God burger shrine… an absolute must-visit for any true cheeseburger chowhound… Ann’s Snack Bar.

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The first thing you need to understand about Ann’s is that there are rules.  Rule #1?  Get there early.  And even then, you may be in for a wait.  Ann’s opens at 11:30, but by 11:00, the line has already started forming in the screen porch outside the front doors.  Inside, a 66-year-old woman barely visible over the counter busily preps for the day’s lunch rush.  Should you be so clueless as to walk right in to claim one of the 8 barstools, Miss Ann will give you a sharp reprimand and send you back out to the screen porch and the knowing, snickering looks of your linemates.  Odd, but I love places where they yell at you.

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When a seat finally opened up at 12:15 (after an hour-plus wait on the porch), I asked about the difference between the “World-Famous” Ghetto Burger and the slightly more-expensive ‘Hood Burger.  The Ghetto is a double cheeseburger served with chili, lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon, ketchup, and mustard.  The ‘Hood swaps out the lettuce and tomato for slaw.  I’m not a slaw man, and I’m not a fan of tomato, ketchup, or mustard, either.  But my one question had already clearly tested Miss Ann’s patience and thrown her a good thirty seconds off schedule, so I didn’t push my luck with a special order.  I politely requested a Ghetto Burger exactly as advertised.

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Watching Miss Ann work is like dinner theatre.  She moves through the impossibly tiny kitchen with the careful precision and astonishing efficiency that only years of practice can produce.  She grabs enormous fistfuls of ground beef (I’d guess each one to easily be three-quarters of a pound) and smashes them onto the hot griddle.

She deftly slices a huge onion, dropping the thick rings onto each burger.  I use the term “burger” rather generously, because these aren’t hand-formed patties.  They aren’t patties in any sense of the word, actually.  Piles of beef become loose patties only after Miss Ann has pressed them into the griddle’s surface, heavily seasoned them, pressed them again with a spatula, flipped them repeatedly, and pressed them some more.  Slices of good ol’ American cheese are unwrapped and laid atop each burger.

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During all of this, homemade chili has been ladled onto each open-faced bun.  Bacon has taken a dip in a deep fryer.  Condiments have been swirled into place.  Then the absurdly-large, cheese-blanketed patties are double-stacked and the final assembly takes place.  The result is a monument of breathtaking burger beauty.

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Although Miss Ann cuts each Ghetto Burger in half before presenting it, just picking it up requires something of a plan.  It’s supremely sloppy and massively messy.  Once you get it off the plate and to your lips, though, you quickly realize, even before the first mouthful is gone, why this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hole-in-the-wall has garnered such heavy-duty buzz and hype.  The Ghetto Burger is earth-shakingly, ground-breakingly, life-changingly phenomenal.

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It’s so good that I ate it with the ketchup and mustard and tomato perfectly intact.  As previously stated, I simply didn’t have the stones to ask Miss Ann to customize my Ghetto Burger.  But watching her work, I suddenly felt like it would be downright disrespectful to ask her to change her recipe for me.  The woman has single-handedly made thousands of what the Wall Street Journal called “the next level in burgerhood” for longer than I’ve been alive; who am I to argue with how she dresses it?

Ann’s Snack Bar is not for everyone.  Many won’t venture into “that” part of town with its liquor stores and razor-wire-topped chain link fences.  Many find the long wait to be absurd and intolerable.  Many find the place to be dirty and trashy.  Many are offended by Miss Ann’s strict, the-customer-is-rarely-right rules.

But I defy you to try the Ghetto Burger and tell me that it doesn’t instantly deserve a place on your all-time Mount Rushmore of Cheeseburgerdom.

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9 Responses to “Ann’s Snack Bar: Ghetto (Fabulous) Burger”

  1. 1
    Raiders757 Says:

    The burger does look pretty damn good. I would try it, if the chili doesn’t have beans. If so, then I do have the stones to ask for it my way. I’m not a big fan of being told how I should eat something that I’m paying for. Those burgers look like they would be very tasty with just the meat and cheese only.

  2. 2
    john elkhay Says:

    can I signup for mailings?

  3. 3
    scrabblequeenbe Says:

    That looks so good. I wish I were in Atlanta right now. I would go with the cole slaw. WOW!!!

  4. 4
    TyD Says:

    I live in Atlanta and have been there. Great Burgers for sure, but a pain in the arse to get your hands on one. To Raiders757, you might have the stones to ask… but I guarantee Mrs.Ann would not listen to you and more than likely kick you out. There’s a list of rules when you walk in and she’s pretty strict about them. Be sure to watch the curse words around her, because she’ll kick you out.

  5. 5
    Lauren Says:

    Just don’t ask for the Ghetto Burger without chili or a Ghetto Burger without bacon. She has a name for that and it ain’t “Ghetto Burger.” It’s only a Ghetto Burger if it has both bacon and chili.

  6. 6
    Shontay Says:

    You might as well turn your cell phone off, b/c she does not like cell phones being used in there Either. I was scared to do anything in there. Mrs. Ann was mean mugging everybody the whole time, even her help, but the help was extremely nice. “TOTAL OPPOSITE” The food was down right—— G-O-O-D—- I would go back in a heartbeat! That Ghetto burger was worth the wait. My husband and I order two Ghetto Burger Specials…..along with the Kool-aid and all. We could’ve shared, but why not have your own to hover over. ************DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE AREA OF TOWN IT’S IN I BELIEVE MRS. ANN WILL KEEP YOU SAFE******** ;o)

  7. 7
    Bob Says:

    This is absolutely the BEST Burger I’ve ever tasted. I live in Germany and whenever I visit family in Atlanta, we make a point to visit Ms. Ann’s. I’m white, and I’ve never had a problem going to “that” part of town. I’ll even stop by the Liquor Store next door to pick up a package while I wait.

    The best time to go is after the lunch rush. We usually visit her around 2:30. She’s not that mean and loves to talk about local politics during that time.

  8. 8
    Tony Waller Says:

    OMG I went here on the 1st of March 2011 after I was told of this establishment through my mother. Last month my mother called me from DETROIT and said that she say this special on MSNBC on “Ann’s Snack Box”. My mom asked me if I had ever heard of it and surprisengly I had not. So I was determined to find Ann’s and expierence the “GHETTO” Burger. I waited an hour in line, but it was well worth the wait! My colligue and I desided to dine in to enjoy the “TOTAL EXPIERENCE” and I must say it was well worth it. There are just 8 bar stools lined up at the counter and Ann greet every customer and ask for their name and takes the orders straight down the line, then she starts cooking. Her assistant Miss Idel was a hoot, I broke the ice in the restaurant, as Miss Ann is very DIRECT and strictly business. I asked Miss Idel, “Is that Pineapple UpSide Down Cake”? She said “It’s Pineapple and when you turn it upside down, you will have your upside down cake”. The room fell out in laughter. I will recommend you expierence Ann’s restaurant. I will be back in 3 months, I do not eat red meat often so it will take that long to digest the 1/2 of the cow that I ate!

  9. 9
    sydney Says:

    reminds me off a small place over by us here in cassopolis michigan, an old man runs a tasty twirl and even though its another hole in the wall the burgers are YUMMMMMMMY and he toasts the buns on the griddle with butter so thier light yet buttery and crisp, best thing ever!

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