Fuddruckers: Build-Your-Own-Burger ParadiseBy Todd • Sep 24th, 2009 • Category: Burger Blog
My first time at Fuddruckers, I was visiting cousins in the big city of Minneapolis in the early ’80s. At the time, to a 10-year-old from small-town Indiana, Fuddruckers was pure sensory overload. The buzzing, beeping, and strobe-light flashing of a bank of arcade games. Eye-popping neon everywhere. Random posters and pictures and musical instruments and old-time gasoline pumps hanging on the walls. I recall a separate dessert counter serving up chocolate brownies that could double as life rafts. And, of course, monstrous cheeseburgers that you topped yourself.
Seemingly a million toppings were all displayed proudly on a mile-long salad bar, the raw ingredients for my own outrageous one-of-a-kind burger creation… all glistening with possibility under a Plexiglas sneeze guard. I mean, the door handle to get in the place was a giant hamburger! It was like Willy Wonka decided to break into the burger business.
But then I grew up, and Fuddruckers became one of those places that, even though they’re in 34 states, never seemed to coexist in the place I called home, until I moved to a big metropolitan city of my own. And by then, the charm was gone. I wasn’t interested in the video games anymore, and I could certainly do better than any of the chains that now had garage sale crap nailed to the walls.
Recently, though, I went back. My wife and I were looking for an easy, no-fuss dining alternative one Saturday night for our two kids. The parents out there know what I’m talking about. “Real” restaurants are just too dicey a proposition with little ones in tow, and fast food seems like a cop-out. My girls had the same reaction to Fuddruckers that I did as a kid, like it’s a cheeseburger theme park. (Note to self: start a cheeseburger theme park and make a gazillion dollars.) And now Fuddruckers is one of those hassle-free, kid-friendly places my wife I call “bombproof.”
So when my daughter’s school shut down this week to deal with some flooding issues, I was looking for lunch options, and thought of Fuddruckers. Some things have changed. The dessert counter is long gone, although they still sell big brownies. The ostrich and emu burgers that I always wondered about but never tried are no longer on the menu (buffalo and turkey remain). But most of what I remember is still there: the fixin’s bar, the pump-style dispensers for everything from ketchup to 3 different mustards to mayo to nacho cheese, the neon and rock-n-roll bric-a-brac… and those big, beefy burgers.
I got a half-pound burg, although they also offer one-third-pounders, two-third-pounders, and full one-pound burgers. I got mine as “The Works,” which translates to smokehouse bacon, grilled mushrooms, and American cheese. There are other specialty burgers you can try, like the Three Cheese, the Inferno, the Swiss Melt, and the Southwest.
The beef is beautifully seasoned. Really quite tasty and juicy. Excellent bacon, a heaping pile of mushrooms, and pretty decent cheese-to-meat quotient. But I had almost forgotten about the buns. Fuddruckers bakes theirs on site every day from scratch, and it shows. Truly great buns, nicely slathered with butter and griddled before hitting your tray. They really are the perfect touch and provide just the right burst of rich, extra flavor in every bite.
Bottom line: Fuddruckers serves up an awfully good burger. It may not be “cool” to anyone over the age of 10, but when fast food won’t cut it and gourmet isn’t an option, you could do a hell of a lot worse.