Foodie Friday: Biking to Ann’s Snack Bar

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I don’t like beef. Not that I dislike it, I just do not choose it or crave it as some do. But when a local burger joint consistently appears on top ten national lists, visiting once is a requisite.

One such establishment is Ann’s Snack Bar, a ramshackle shack rammed between a Checkers drive-through and an auto detailer in a not-quite-Stepford Atlanta neighborhood known as Kirkwood. Miss Ann is the proprietor, and she has been flipping patties on her stainless grill since she opened her doors to the hungry masses in 1973.

The luncheonette has eight bar stools, three on one side of the register and five on the other, and patrons are only allowed to enter from the screened porch once a seat becomes available. When the weather is decent, visitors have come to expect as much as a two-hour wait. Once seated, guests may choose from a variety of burgers and dogs on the laminated menu, though most opt for the ubiquitous Ghetto Burger, a mammoth of a sandwich with two seasoned fresh, never-frozen patties, chili, deep-fried bacon, generous cooked onion, lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mustard. And a somewhat irrelevant seeded bun. Ten bucks buys the beast flanked with a plate of yellow fries and a cup of homemade sweet tea or lemonade.

As many artists and geniuses have, Miss Ann earned herself a persnickety reputation by insisting on certain decorum from her patrons. Ten rules are posted prominently above the bar — no cell phones, no leaning on the bar, no cussing, and the like. But Miss Ann is no Soup Nazi; she is quiet older lady who respectfully has served her customers for four decades, and she simply expects a respectful posture in return.

Just back from a Christmastime extravaganza of cookie ridiculousness, January 1 rendered me seven pounds heavier than I was on December 1. Yikes. I promised myself a diet and exercise regiment in the new year that would return me to my svelte weight of 160 pounds. What then was I doing saying ‘yes’ to an invitation to join a couple of friends for a lunchtime calorie throw-down at Ann’s? Well, I have been itching to sink my molars into a Ghetto Burger for years, and sometimes the carpe simply must be diemed.

If I was to fly in the face of my new years resolution and consume two days worth of calories in the course of a half-hour, I figured I ought to compensate by riding my bicycle from the burbs. So I packed my gear, along with my Marta transit card for backup, and headed down the drive toward the famed snack bar.

Like any first-timer would, I ordered the Ghetto Burger, and it did not disappoint. Each half of the gargantuan sandwich was larger than a Big Mac, with both sides cloaked in a swirly mix of peppery chili, melty orange cheese, yellow mustard, and tart ketchup. A tangle of cooked onions coated the deep-fried bacon strips with tangy sweetness, and the fresh tomato and crisp lettuce added a cooling counterbalance to the pile of savory flavors.

My friends asked for foil to wrap half of their burger for later as I gnawed at the last dribbles of chili on my plate. I had conquered the Ghetto Burger, fries and all, and I received a handful of congratulatory remarks from my fellow diners as I handed my cash to Miss Ann.

With nearly a quarter cow in my belly, I wobbled myself out the door and unlocked my bike. Each pedal stroke was painstaking as I oozed up the road toward the suburbs. With Ann’s Snack Bar a half-mile behind me and my driveway about 28 miles ahead, I threw in the towel. $2.50 bought me a subway trip home, and I delighted in sitting still as the thoroughfares of Atlanta whizzed by my window.

In this BlinkPacker’s opinion, Ann’s Snack Bar is a serious contender for best burger in America. What other establishments would you place in the running? Next time I am in your neck of the woods, I will gladly pay a visit.

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