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» Grindhouse: Atlanta’s Newest Hamburger Hotspot
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Grindhouse: Atlanta’s Newest Hamburger Hotspot

By • Jan 19th, 2010 • Category: Burger Blog

Every January, we turn our eyes toward downtown Atlanta, recalling the world-changing legacy that was born when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. walked these streets.  Well, for the past several months, local cheeseburger chowhounds have been making a pilgrimage to his home neighborhood, where a new hotspot may be starting a legacy of its own.

Grindhouse Killer Burgers opened up in the fall in a most unusual location: inside the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, a 20,000-square-foot indoor market in Atlanta’s most historic neighborhood.

Debuting in 1918, it was a farmer’s market underneath a tent.  The brick-and-mortar structure opened on the same footprint in 1924 as its permanent “fireproof” home.  (“Fireproof” was a big deal, as the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917 is what cleared the land to begin with, and with many old-timers still telling eyewitness accounts of General Sherman’s 1864 torch job.) The “curb market” name refers to the city’s segregated past, when only whites shopped inside, limiting black business to the streetside stalls.

Today, the Curb Market sells fresh produce, just-caught seafood, and meat galore.  I’m talking about any cut of meat imaginable… and many you might not want to imagine. Need turkey necks?  Chitlins?  Tripe?  They boast about selling “every part of the pig but the oink.”  But you’ll also find a few restaurants: soul food, a deli, Caribbean fare, etc.  And Grindhouse Killer Burgers.

A lunch counter featuring 18 stools and obscure B-movies projected on the subway tile wall, Grindhouse has a distinctly unique theme.

“Grindhouse” films from the ’60s, ’70s, and early ’80s favored graphic gore, violence, and sex over traditional artistic merit.   Here, it makes for an odd juxtaposition: serving greasy ground-up beef just feet away from a glass case full of cow feet and whole pigs hanging on hooks.

Despite the blood-spattered logo, Grindhouse doesn’t show true grindhouse titles.  (No one wants to watch “Cannibal Holocaust” while they down a double cheeseburger.) But the schlocky kung-fu flicks and campy cult classics lend a real retro vibe.  One local writer claimed that “Grindhouse makes you feel cooler just for having eaten there.”

You can custom-build your burger from 5 different cheeses, 4 veggies, 6 kinds of sauce, and extra toppings like beef chili, cole slaw, and avocado slices.  Or pick a pre-styled burg: there’s the Euro (sauteed mushrooms, Swiss, mayo, mustard), the Yankee (shredded lettuce, grilled onions, bacon, bleu cheese spread), the Cowboy (bacon, Vidalia onions, cheddar, BBQ sauce) or the Apache (roasted green chiles, grilled onions, pepperjack).

The buzz says the Apache is perhaps the best of the bunch.  I was intrigued, especially after writing about New Mexico’s statewide love affair with the green chile cheeseburger.   But I needed to establish a baseline, so I ordered the flagship Grindhouse double.  It comes standard with Angus beef, lettuce, grilled onions, pickles, American cheese, and “Grindhouse sauce.”

That’s my buddy’s Veggie Grindhouse.  He raved about the bean-and-quinoa blend, praising its texture over most veggie burgs, which he described as monotonous and mushy.

Mine (above) was extremely good.  The grilled onions were a nice touch to a perfectly-greasy, nicely-proportioned burger with a good bun.  Perhaps not earth-shakingly historic in a manner befitting Dr. King’s neighborhood, but that may simply be a byproduct of the unmeetable hype that’s been heaped upon Grindhouse by local foodies.  It is an excellent $7 burger, though, evidenced by the line of folks waiting on a random Wednesday afternoon.

My final verdict?  Maybe the grindhouse theme is perfectly apropos.  I was excited going in, ready for sensory overload.  It was messy, sloppy, and immensely enjoyable as it was happening.  Afterward, I’d decided it could have been more this or less that.  (Damn those pickles.  I tried to cancel them, but they came anyway and tainted everything with their stupid pickle juice.) I then even wondered what all the fuss was about, the way you might feel as the credits roll after a guilty-pleasure B-movie that pissed away eight bucks and two hours of your life.

But now, a week later, I can’t get it out of my head, and I want the sequel: that Apache. A burger joint I can’t wait to go back to?  Maybe there’s another legacy being born in Sweet Auburn after all.

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