Sunday, August 3, 2014

I ♥ Detroit - Greene's Hamburgers

While I've been to White Castle a few times as well as a Krystal outlet in the past, I've been curious of trying out some of the local independently run burger businesses in the Detroit area after coming across a slideshow tour on Serious Eats of Motown's Sliders. Further reading a few posts on my friend Kaszeta's great Offbeat Eats blog sealed the deal that these would be a personal must-try if I'm ever back in the city.

Kaszeta does an excellent job of explaining what a true slider is and some history of Detroit's taking of White Castle's model on his posts on Telway and Bates. Both recommended reads if any are interested in the subject, but the gist is that the delectable, somewhat greasy smaller burgers are far from the oversimplified description of various popular miniaturized burgers you see on menus of trendy restaurants these days. Was also surprised to find the current wikipedia page of the term doing a very poor job as well.

Sliders are indeed small in size but more so identified by a specific method of cooking to be properly categorized. It starts first with a rather conservative amount of ground beef smashed flat on the griddle along with a generous amount of onions for some initial char, then left to steam by the cooking onions that also parts flavor to the entire thing all together with the squishy buns. Further with melted American cheese and few slices of pickle coins, the result is a soft, steamy and moderately greasy gem of casual snackage that locals often purchase by the sackful to-go. In similar vein to street tacos here or hot dogs, there is not a whole lot fancy or gourmet about a slider, prices of a single cheeseburger usually hovering well below the $2 range. Now having had a chance to taste a few of the city's fine examples, I'm officially a fan.

First up, Greene's Hamburgers was easy to pick off as it was only 15-mins from my hotel, in fact it's the only place that I was able to visit multiple times as they are open 24/7, also having a separate breakfast menu during the morning hours. I've learned Greene's used to have three locations but currently only the one off of Orchard Lake Rd in Farmington is in operation which happens to be the oldest, in business since 1957.

My first visit was well past midnight (partially due to some jet lag) and there was something unexpectedly dreamlike about the view of a glowing white pill-box diner on the corner of a darker, calm stretch of road (at least at night). I had ordered a single patty cheeseburger ($1.85) with side of onion rings ($2.75).

This isn't a burger for a person hung up on seeing some pink in the middle of the patty -- the principle I generally agree for larger pattied burgers, but the fact is that there are many types of burgers and as for a (true) slider, it's all about the cohesive oneness of steamy aromatic and sweetness of onions webbed into the sliver of moist beef with additional flavors of some nice char (which I consider a type of seasoning) and in this case oozy American cheese. The simple bun also infused with some 'slider essence' cradling it all together.

While visually may remind of something from McD's, I can guarantee it's nothing like. How I might describe the experience to at least my Asian friends would be perhaps imagining a deconstructed cheeseburger version of the Nikuman, though that would still be quite a bit of a stretch. After a few tries I found I liked best with couple pickle coins and only a small squirt of yellow mustard, sans ketchup.

The onion rings although fast food style was far superior to most large chains. Made to order, came out crispy hot and the batter had a nice flavoring.

A second visit I had a double cheeseburger ($2.65) which had much better meat ratio, but I somehow still could see myself having two singles instead. I think it's that marriage of strands of griddled onions to the beef that gets me hooked.

I ♥ Greene's Hamburgers and I ♥ Detroit sliders and the small businesses that still bother to produce them right. Looking forward in sharing a few more.

Greene's Hamburgers, 24155 Orchard Lake Rd, Farmington, MI 48336


K and S said...

sounds delicious!

caninecologne said...

Great photo of the restaurant at night! It looks "vintage", because it is!!!!

Mary said...

Oh man those look delicious, especially with the onions all smooshed into the patty. It looks like the perfect ratio of burger, onions and melted cheese. I even like the simple building they're housed in.

kaszeta said...

Awesome. Glad my reviews were of assistance, and looking forward to your other posts.

Never thought of them being like nikuman until you said it, but yeah, I kind of see it.

Dennis K. said...

Was pretty good Kat!

Hi CC! Yes, this place was very unpretentious and authentically cool. :)

Hi Kaszeta! Always enjoy your posts.
The wiki page for Sliders (sandwich) needs a serious overhaul. Maybe you can help? ;)
I admit the Nikuman analogy was a bit of stretch but was trying to think of something that was savory, steamy, fully-cooked yet held a lot of moisture and flavor. I guess there aren't a whole lot to compare to a true slider. :)

Dennis K. said...

Hi Mary! Really enjoyed visiting and eating at the few spots I managed to check out.

kaszeta said...

That wikipedia page has been one of the more brutal "edit wars" I've been in. Culinary history be damned, there's a large contingent of wikipedia editors that believe that "slider" = "small burger".


Next thing you know we'll be defining "barbecue" as "cooked meat".

Dennis K. said...

Ditto on the sigh Kaszeta! :(