As the Atlanta burger craze picked up steam, a small counter in the corner of the Sweet Auburn Curb Market opened in the fall of 2009 to nearly universal fanfare. Owner Alex Brounstein’s Grindhouse Killer Burgers immediately hooked aficionados with their no-nonsense burgers and shakes.
So, when Brounstein took over an old car wash on Piedmont Avenue to construct a full-service location, fans rejoiced. Unfortunately, months of construction delays pushed the opening back to April, and from the looks of the packed patio and long lines, the opening couldn’t have come soon enough.
Grindhouse’s kitschy aesthetic, complete with retro sci-fi toy robots and a rotating selection of ’70s cult flicks projected onto the wall that would keep Quentin Tarantino glued to his seat, remains intact. And while most of the menu remains the same, some changes have been made.
Of the new additions, the boozy milkshakes ($8.50) take top prize. Their soft-serve shakes get a kick of the hard stuff and a few get a roundhouse kick of booze that would knock Chuck Norris’ beard into next week.
The Booty Shake, a minty shake with a bourbon mixer, is the booziest of the bunch, followed closely by the Monkey Wrench, a malted rum-spiked chocolate, banana and peanut butter concoction. For those that don’t want to breathe fire with each sip, stick to the milder El Duderino, made with vanilla ice cream, vanilla vodka, and Kahlua.
Unless you customize your own toppings, I highly recommend going for the double patty ($2.50 extra) in nearly all circumstances. Most of the pre-set burger styles add up to such a stack of fixings that the beefy flavor of a single patty can get lost in the mix. When in doubt, double up.
Fans of the original location can still find Grindhouse’s Apache burger ($6.25/$8.75) on the menu, and it remains the best of the bunch. The roasted New Mexico green chiles and pepperjack cheese add a kick of spice without scorching the tongue, and the sweet grilled onions round the Apache out nicely.
Despite being cooked to medium at the rarest, the high-fat content in the griddle-style patties cascades juiciness with each bite, though this is sometimes the burger’s undoing. The soft potato buns normally hold up against the stacks of toppings, but the moisture is their Achilles heel. Once a little grease hits the bottom bun, these go from fluffy to mush in seconds. However, if the mush is tasty enough, I can look past it.
The best example of this mushy exemption is the Hillbilly burger ($5.50/$7.99), topped with pimento cheese, onion, jalapenos, and their competition-style beef chili. As I peel back the wax paper around my burger, I see that the chili has all but soaked through the bottom bun, making this an unwieldy burger at best. But once my bib is in place, the flavorful chili and heat from the jalapenos make for one of the tastiest burgers on the menu.
The non-beef eaters in the bunch have the choice of a turkey or veggie patty as well, though beef remains their forte. Unlike most bland turkey substitutes, the mix of cilantro and onion in the grind surprises with flavor. Similarly, the veggie patties, a well-seasoned mix of beans and quinoa, offer a lot of flavor, but lack in texture. Differentiating between the soft buns and the patty is nearly impossible.
Not all of the new additions are winners, though. The nearly flavorless fried green tomatoes ($5.50) work as a starter when buried under Carolina cole slaw and pimento cheese. As a topping on the Dixie burger ($6.50/$8.99) along with pimento cheese and cole slaw, the tomato fails to bring anything to the party.
During my five visits, I didn’t experience the service issues that many have reported, but I observed them. From my regular seat at the bar, where service is attentive and the delivery time impressively quick, I often witnessed an unmoving disgruntled line out the door and a completely empty dining room behind me, so expect a wait during peak hours.
Though some kinks still need working out, the bigger, better Grindhouse is a great destination for neighborhood burger fans to get their fix.GRINDHOUSE KILLER BURGERS 1842 Piedmont Ave. NE, Atlanta, 404-254-2273 Food: Burgers and shakes Service: Prompt when not overwhelmed, off-peak hours are best Best dishes: Apache burger and El Duderino milk shake Vegetarian selections: Veggie burger and a few salads Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover Hours: 11 a.m.-late daily. Children: Welcome Parking: Cumbersome; at peak hours expect to park on the neighborhood street behind the restaurant Reservations: No Wheelchair access: Yes Smoking: No Noise level: Moderate to loud Patio: Large outdoor patio Takeout: Yes