Jaws Jumbo Burger

8 02 2011

Address:  29216 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills, MI

Distance off I-75:  12.5 Miles



Rating:  * * * ½

Although this restaurant is a bit far off the highway, if you are in the metro Detroit area and have a huge appetite, Jaws Jumbo Burgers may be the right place to stop for a burger.  The store relocated form a location much closer to I-75 and is currently best accessed off I-696.  Located in an unassuming strip mall in a busy suburb of Detroit, the exterior of the restaurant is unspectacular and easily overlooked.

The interior is a standard fast-food counter service restaurant modified from a sub sandwich shop.  The walls are covered with various movie posters — think family-oriented blockbusters from a decade ago.  Think Jaws.  For that is where the name of the restaurant is from — the owner’s love of Jaws and other popular action films.  Every conceivable wall and corner of the small restaurant is covered with a TV screen showing one of the several movies.  It is hard to look anywhere and not see a screen assaulting your eyes.  The restaurant is too loud and too small to actually sit and watch a move, so the only purpose these movies serve is multimedia wall art.  And who doesn’t want to watch an oversized shark gruesomely ripping apart a screaming swimmer limb from limb as they bite into their juicy burgers?  Joking about the TV’s aside, the interior is everything you would want in a fast food restaurant: neat, organized and impeccably clean.  On one wall sits a large fish tank filled with small sharks, which provides interesting viewing and is kept very tidy.

They call it Jaw Jumbo Burgers because the burgers are big — at least in diameter.  The bun itself is enormous, and much larger than your average hamburger bun.  It must be held in two hands or be cut in half to be manageable.  What isn’t so large is the amount of meat on the burger — a single patty is smooshed down so far that it becomes paper thin.  This is so that the patty can equal the size of the gigantic bun.  If you order a single you will taste mostly bun and whatever condiments you put on your burger.  In order to full get the taste of the meat, I recommend a double, because you will want to taste this meat — perfectly cooked and so juicy.  I’m not sure what seasoning it is that they shake on every hamburger patty, but whatever wonderful secret spice blend they keep in their magical shaker, I want to sleep in a bed filled with it so I can wake up every morning with that amazing taste in my mouth.

Due to the large size of the burger, the price of the burger is also large — a single cheeseburger combo coming in above $7.  The price is higher if you want to add bacon or extra burger patties.  The combo is standard, coming with fries and a drink.  Other menu options include fish sandwiches and a variety of sub sandwiches, including a veggie sub.

The other shining star of Jaws Burger is the homemade lemonade.  It is fresh-squeezed in house, perfectly sour, perfectly sweet, and may be the finest lemonade I have ever had.  It tastes like the sour tears of angels.  And it is kept in one of those school cafeteria-style plastic fountains that sprays the lemonade into the air only to hit the lid and fall back down again to the bottom to keep everything mixed.  Everything tastes better from a fountain, right?

The first time I went into Jaws I was greeted with a friendly “Hello, good to see you again Larry!”  I immediately was taken back as I a) had never been to Jaws before and b) most certainly was not named Larry.  When I informed the employee of her mistake she first thought I was joking with her.  After insisting that I was serious, that I was not Larry, she told me in amazement that I look exactly like one of the regular customers, not surprisingly named Larry.

Since that day I have become a regular at Jaws myself, stopping in when I am ready for one of their delicious, unmanageably large burgers.  And although I have yet to see Larry there, I hope to one day run into my long-lost twin at Jaws, sit down, and share a burger and lemonade with him.


Kewpee Burger

12 07 2010

Address: 1350 Bellefontaine Avenue, Lima, OH 45804 (map)

Distance off I-75: 0.3 Miles


Website: None

Rating: * * * * *

I will start this blog with what is my favorite stop for hamburgers along this stretch of I-75, Kewpee Burger in Lima, Ohio.  Located just off exit 125, this location is convenient and consistently delicious.  If you are looking for a quick stop, this one is just a scant 0.3 miles off the highway.

Driving into Lima (pronounced like the much reviled bean, not the Peruvian city), which was made famous by Television’s hit show Glee, you may be expecting chipper students dancing in unison on well-groomed streets, singing sanitized versions of popular music.  You will be disappointed.  What you will find is a thoroughfare of corporate logos surrounded by a slowly progressing blue-collar decay.  What the part of Lima directly off the highway might be missing in small-town charm is more than made up for in an explosion of affordable cheeseburger bliss.

The dingy, industrial, vaguely yellow building sits at the point of a fork in the road.  Take either way; you’ll still end up at Kewpee.  If you are looking for a Kewpee Burger with a more quaint and charming exterior, try the original location in downtown Lima.  It has an art deco exterior and a giant Kewpee doll over the door.  I find the food to be the same in either location, so if you are focused on the flavor, stick to the off-the-interstate location for a quick on and off.

Upon entering, waves of unpleasant nostalgia will wash over you as the interior will undoubtedly remind you of your school cafeteria.  Several rows of fake wood tables line the seating area with attached chairs, each an off-red faux-Eames mid-century modern style seat that is so popular currently.  Seating is definitely plentiful here as two of the outer walls have counter-style seats that face out through the windows into the parking lot with a stunning view of the neighboring Dollar General.

The long counter at the opposite side of the restaurant is where the food is ordered and it should be noted that line-ups can start at either end.  Behind the counter you will notice  two types of employees — young people who are working their first job and elderly people who may have been working here since the shop opened.  No one in the restaurant is likely to great you with a smile, neither workers nor fellow customers, and everyone seems a bit surly.  It’s as if they are unaware of the miracle of bun and beef that sits before them.

The cheeseburgers at Kewpee cost a mere $1.90.  It’s as if the prices are also stuck in time.  Kewpee locally grinds its beef daily and you can taste it in the burger.  The flavor of the meat is so perfect, you can hardly wait to dive in.  It’s a good-sized burger as well, and although they also offer a double on the menu, a single will satisfy most people.

Not only is the meat fresh, but the burger toppings are as well.  Once, in the dead of winter, I had a tomato on my burger that was so fresh I almost broke down into tears of joy.  It was as if the tomato represented the promise of a new spring.

Legend has it that a young Dave Thomas worked at Kewpee Hamburgers growing up and “borrowed” the menu when he opened his little burger chain called “Wendy’s.”  So it should come as no surprise that the menus are similar: Burgers, fries, malts (Frosties) and chili.  Walking into Kewpee it’s as if a Wendy’s location never went corporate and still tasted homemade.

The menu does deviate from the typical fast food menu.  Making an unexpected cameo as a burger topping — green olives!  Surprise!  And the pies, my god, the pies.  All homemade with a rotating seasonal selection.  A slice is only $1.60.  Last time I went the current seasonal pie was Raisin Pie.  I didn’t realize raisins had a season, but it was so good I didn’t care.

And the fries?  They’re ok.  Nothing special.  However, Heintz finally got around to packaging their ketchup in the BBQ sauce-style packages that you get with chicken strips. This was the first place that I saw this style of packaging.  Why did it take them so long to figure out that this was the cleaner and more efficient way of delivering ketchup rather than having to rip open filthy packets with our teeth and having ketchup squirt out everywhere, on the table and on our faces and in our hair.  Bravo for finally delivering the perfect dipping packet.

Also found on the menu is a vegetarian option of a “veggie sandwich.”  Although I have not had this I would imagine it consists of everything you would find on a hamburger, but without the meat, rather than being a meatless gardenburger.

A word of warning for those of you who intend on using Kewpee as a pit stop: upon entering the men’s bathroom you will encounter another fork in the road.  Turning left you will see an ordinary urinal and sink setup.  However, turning right will result in an encounter with an open campsite-style stall with no door on it and no indication as to whether it is currently occupied.  Hopefully this warning will help keep you from making a wrong turn.

Overall Kewpee has everything I look for in a stop on one of my trips — a quick on-and-off, delicious hamburgers, and consistency. Every time I have been there the burger quality has been top-notch.  Hopefully you will find the same to be true when you visit.