I LOVE burgers. I think they are as close to a perfect food item as one can get. Cheap to make (relatively) and infinitely customizable…unless you’re a vegetarian, the world is your burger.

(Yes, I know there are veggie burgers, tempeh burgers, etc…but for the purposes of this post, a “burger” is a hamburger, made with ground beef.)

Sidetrack burger and an Oberon - a summer fave

Burgers are everywhere. They are the foundation that fast food was built on. A greasy diner-style burger can be a real treat. Celebrity chefs, most notably Bobby Flay, have jumped on the burger bandwagon (chuck wagon?), with Flay even creating an entire chain of restaurants based on burgers.

It’s common these days to find “classed up” burgers on the menus at high-end restaurants. These burgers are usually made with Kobe or Waygu beef, served on a freshly baked bun made with artisanal ingredients, and feature exotic or expensive condiments and dressings, such as duck poutine, banana ketchup, and pickled zucchini.

I’ve never been much for fast-food burgers myself. I am known to indulge in the occasional diner-style greasebomb (hello, Blimpy Burger). As for the classy burgers, some work and some don’t.

I’m a believer that the best burgers are found in bars. You’d believe this too if you grew up in the town that houses Sidetrack. A good bar burger is thick and juicy, cooked to order, and pretty substantial. Plus, burgers and beer go together like ramma lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong (yep, that’s a  Grease reference).

Sidetrack is consistent and used to be a treat when I was home from Connecticut. Spike’s Keg O’ Nails in Grayling does a mean burger as well. Bub’s Burgers in Carmel, Indiana (recently featured on “Man vs. Food”) was pretty tasty, though I like Sidetrack and Spike’s a bit better.

However, my Uncle Tom has long been telling me that Dan’s Downtown Tavern in Saline has a burger AT LEAST as good as Sidetrack, if not better. Last weekend, Noe and I decided to meet up with Tom, his wife Christine, and their kids Grace and Jack to test the theory.

Photo: clickondetroit.com

Dan’s was hoppin’ we when arrived – it’s a pretty small, narrow space – but we immediately liked the atmosphere. Very bustling, busy, a little dark, and definitely bar-like. One side of the room was completely dominated by the long bar and stools. The grill was behind the bar – awesome.

Photo: Dan's Facebook Page

We ordered a variety of burgers. Tom went with the classic “American” – cheese, raw onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles:


Noe opted for the Mo Burger, which almost qualified as a breakfast sandwich with its toppings of ham, bacon, and – best of all – a fried egg. By the way, if you ever really want to weird out a group of kids, order an egg on your burger – my cousin Jack in particular had a hard time with this concept.  

The Mo Burger

Although tempted by the Mo, I eventually ordered the Chicago Burger, with grilled onions and bleu cheese (maybe the only thing better on a burger than an egg). I also added something – bacon. And it was amazing.

Chicago Burger plus bacon

Dan’s burgers are all made with fresh ground beef from Knight’s in Ann Arbor, so we knew the meat would be good. (Totally random realization: I’ve never had a burger at Knight’s Restaurant – I always get distracted by the steaks.) The question was would everything else live up to expectations?

No worries – these burgers were great. I agree with Uncle Tom – at least as good, if not better, than Sidetrack. They were perfectly cooked to order (and we had a variety of doneness preferences at the table), the buns were fresh, and the toppings were perfect. My burger had just the right amount of bleu cheese – too much is overwhelming, and too little is, well, not enough. Dan’s hit the nail on the head.

Noe and I are sold on Dan’s becoming a favorite spot for burgers. Saline isn’t that far from Ypsi/Ann Arbor after all, and it’s nice to get out of town every once in a while. I’m looking forward to trying more delicious topping combinations. Great suggestion, Eberts family – and great burgers, Dan’s Downtown Tavern!


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