I finally gave in to the hype machine
On Monday while at work, just before the lunching hour, I began to consider my lunch options. I only wanted to spend a few dollars, as I am increasingly fiscally responsible (read: I am not making as much money as I used to). I was thinking $3 would be my target price. Which put me squarely in the Wendy's/McDonald's realm, an odious place to start the week (for me personally).
Precisely when I was at my lowest pre-meal self-loathing state of mind, I had a brilliant idea. I could spend twice as much as I had a allotted in my arbitrary budget, and for 6 dollars (probably) I could seek out a culinary experience to be proud of, lo... to blog about.
And just as quickly as I had decided to venture to the much-vaulted Lumpy's Burgers, I was plotting out the best route for my drive from North Valley workplace to West Central lunchspot.
My search for 5240 Central Ave. NW was an interesting one, as the only clue to its exact whereabouts that I was able to glean from the pages of DCF, was that it was across the street from our fair burg's attempt at an In-N-Out Burger clone, Stop-N-Go Burgers.
My mission was set- find Stop-N-Go and Lumpy's would magically appear across Central. Not so much. I must have been looking in the wrong place because the little shack and long drive-in style carport escaped me as I went back and forth up and down Central. It's not across CENTRAL from Stop-N-Go, it's across 55th St. from it. So now you know it's at the southeast corner of 55th and Central
By the way, this is what the Stop-N-Go Burgers dining establishment looks like at lunchtime. The parking lot was empty and there were two people inside. This feeling is nicely echoed by the "N" missing from the east face of their establishment sign, "Stop- -Go". The landscape is new and lame (over-gravelled with depressingly undersized small shrubs, but at least they're trying?) and it just screams bad idea. But maybe it's great, I dunno, I can't rightly say until I try it.
As a semi-corollary aside, one can tell the quality of a lunch place by the presence of any of the following: city "road crew" type workers, Firemen, Policemen, or an odd dude in suit and tie (not lots of them mind you, just one thrown in for good measure) The situation at Lumpy's at 10 minutes until Noon looked like this:
(Please note for future instructional reference as well the left hand side of the above photo.)
Lumpy's is more than a burger, it's an experience. The first thing that you do upon arrival, is to go up to the work tables and signage at the left, and grab a paper bag and a pen. On the lunchsack-like bags is a menu option checklist that's been hand stamped into place. It's quite simple, but subtly intimidating, even though there's a sign there to guide you.
The more astute of you readers may notice that step two says, "Choose Potato". Seems like an odd instruction at a burger joint, but Lumpy's allows, nay beckons the customer to pick their own futurefries from a farmstand-like display of DIY potato pickage...
Did you see the sweet potatoes? Sweet. I ordered them and they were yummy. I also chose my toppings from their checklist- and all toppings are free. I forewent lettuce (as I always do on my burger) and onions (I assumed they were raw, but never asked if I could get them grilled- something to look forward to in ensuing trips) as well as "Cali Sauce" (seemed too "Animal Style" In-N-Out copycat style). I got Cheddar, Green Chile, Pickles, Tomato, Ketchup and Mustard. This was the end result.
Now, about the quality, taste and feel of my burger: One can order from the very simple menu
in three sizes- Wimpy, Lumpy and Plumpy. I went for Lumpy, a half-pound of Angus goodness. Incidentally, I read on wikipedia
that when an establishment says "Angus Beef" that it's likely just smoke and mirrors and marketing-speak that has no true significance in terms of quality. There's no implied quality statement unless you see a sign that says "Certified Angus Beef", and even then, it's really just a "branded-beef program" established by ranchers to give the impression of consistent, superior taste. That kind of snake oil approach to burger advertising and marketing still can't dissuade me, though.
The distinction between the three sizes of burger comes in the form of number of patties. I incorrectly assumed that the half-pounder I ordered would be a thick, juicy burger. It wasn't. It was two stacked thin chargrilled patties. Which is not to say that it didn't taste great, because it did. However, let it be known that the three sizes are essentially differently-named variations on a single, double and triple.
The toppings were fresh and good,. The cheddar cheese slice was the thickest I have ever had on a fast food burger, much more reminiscent of a "gourmet" burger of the $8-$10 dollar ilk. The pickles, tomato and green chile were all top quality- the chile was hot, but not too hot (I know that heat level is relative and subjective, but I could taste the kick). It was messy but not exceedingly so. The bun was not the smooth-topped forgettable type, but rather closer to the kind that you would get from a local bakery, grainy and a bit dry, not at all spongy or airy.
Lastly, the sweet potato fries were great. But please remember one thing about sweet potato fries- they hold the grease far more than standard fries, and are therefore a bit more visually offputting and seemingly not of high quality at first glance or grab. I mentioned on one of my previous posts
that I once worked at Bartley's Burger Cottage
and we served up some delish sweet potato fries there. I remember the "Corner Guy" (the fryer was in the corner of the cramped space behind the counter right between the grill which was manned by the son of the owners and the "Board" which was manned by yours truly) used to lovingly and firmly dab all the sweet potato fries with paper towels when they came out of the oil, because, as he told it, they would just continue to soak that oil up thru and thru and get soggier and soggier as your meal went on. So there's a bit of that soggification going on if you order them at Lumpy's. But I enjoyed them and would definitely order them again and again.
As I mentioned, the best part of Lumpy's may not even be the food, but the experience of it all, the picking of your potato, the waiting in line, the watching of the West Central happenings, the eavesdropping on the conversations around you. The delicious burger and fries are really the icing on the cake, or the cheese on the burger, as it were.