Despite being the largest building on this strip of Duchesne, it's easy to accidentally pass JJ's Restaurant with it's faded street sign and side entrance. It stands alone in the midst of a sea of strip malls. Open the door and your first impression is of a movie theater lobby as you're inundated with the smell of fresh popcorn and the sound of 50’s music.
Instead of a theater, JJ’s is a local sports bar with some individual character. Tin roofing lines one wall while mirrored alcohol advertisements line another. Assorted state license plates and bits of Cardinal's and NASCAR memorabilia are sprinkled in between home printed flyers advertising a schedule of cruise car nights.
My waitress offered me a pitcher of fresh popcorn as soon as I sat down. I’d been warned the burgers were big, so I decided to forgo carby temptation in order to leave more room for the good stuff. The short lunch menu featured a chicken wrap and a pot roast sandwich, frisco melt and a dubious looking strawberry salad, but I was here for their signature item: a hamburger.
JJ's $9 burger menu had sixteen savory options including the smashed potato burger (topped with mashed potatoes, gravy and grilled onions), the rowdy burger (with onions, jalapenos, ham, hot sauce, and optional pepperjack cheese), the blue blitz burger (with sauteed onions, bleu cheese and bacon) and the taco burger (topped with cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, black olives, sour cream and a side of salsa.)
I almost gave in to the temptation of the mashed potato burger, but at the last minute I decided I should try their burgers in the purest form so I wouldn’t get distracted by toppings and variations. Therefore, I chose a cheeseburger and onion rings.
The service was lightning fast. My waitress had a glass of ice tea on my table less than a minute after ordering. My burger and onion rings were out five minutes later. Looking around the room, I saw a fast table turnover as people cycled in and out for a speedy sit down lunch. The friendly, attentive service with that kind of speed pressure impressed me.
But let’s talk about the good stuff, and yes, it was very, very good. With a better bun, this burger could have been a perfect specimen by which all other burgers are judged.
If I seem a little excessive in my praise, I was recently very disappointed by the offering at Pujols 5 at Westport. In fact, until JJ’s, the last dazzlingly good burger I had was in Louisville.
Not everything was amazing. The massive fluffy white sesame seed bun simply wasn't up to the task of containing so much awesomeness. It fell apart in my hands as I tried to eat. Within three bites I’d given up on any pretense of keeping the burger together and ordered some extra napkins to keep my hands from getting too greasy as I soldiered on. It was worth it.
The two beef patties inside were grilled to crispy perfection on the edges while the interior was incredibly, wonderfully juicy. This is the kind of burger your grandfather enjoyed before meat fillers and low fat diets. It’s full of delicious fat, glistening, juicy, and rich with flavor, all held in by the seared crispy exterior. The cheese was melted directly into the meat with an extra slice thrown in between the two patties for good measure. Sweet sliced white onions and crisp iceberg lettuce added some texture contrast.
It's easy to forget that good beef doesn't always need a lot of extra seasonings. All I tasted here was the well seasoned grill, the char of the meat, and the natural delicious fat of a burger that hasn't been stripped of all it's flavor. It’s what other burgers want to be.
Instead of fries, I ordered some onion rings because I'm the kind of person who likes to throw them on my burger. The addition of the crunch and salt made a good burger even better.
The onion rings themselves were delightfully crunchy, well drained and free of grease (unlike beer battered onion rings, which frequently end up making me feel like I need to wash my hands).
I felt unfair rating them on only two items, so I decided to give in to the dessert menu. It included bread pudding, pecan pie, fried cheesecake, and my choice of coconut cream pie. My slice was a nice but unexceptional rendition with a pleasantly firm custard and smooth cream topping laced with just enough coconut to give it a nice texture. It’s not the stuff dreams are made of (unlike the burger) but it was a nice, sweet finish.
The total came to $15.69 for a constantly refilled iced tea, slice of coconut creme pie, massive burger and generous helping of onion rings, plus a $3 tip for excellent service. I took home half the pie, half the onion rings and a quarter of my burger and still left feeling excessively full. JJ’s is a great value for the money. Plus, they’ll make you fall in love with hamburgers again.
I'm giving JJ's an A-. A solid, durable bun with a bit of it’s own flavor which could stand up to their juicy burgers would bump the rating up to a solid A. Be prepared to eat your burger with a knife and fork. If you love hamburgers, you owe it to yourself to give theirs a try.
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