I heard that they had remodeled, and after checking out nearby Gimme a Burger, I thought I'd see what was new. If you remember the previous exterior photo we had here; from the outside the place looks pretty much the same. The door is painted blue, but it still doesn't quite fit. Inside, it's still pretty much a dump. They have a counter in the rear now, and the cheap vinyl tablecloths are gone and they have some nicer tables and chairs. There's a couple of seats at a stainless steel bar.
They've raised their prices a little, and they sell craft beers. I'd gotten a really good burger here before; and I'd just had a burger, or at least part of a burger, so I decided to try their new chicken sandwiches. I ordered an El Diablo; you can get the chicken grilled or buttermilk battered and fried; I opted for grilled.
They give you a number and you wait. They have a bunch of chairs in front of the counter. The wait was ridiculous. At 3:30pm and not much of a crowd, it shouldn't take over 20 minutes to grill a piece of chicken. Adding insult to injury, the counter people weren't really paying attention. A dude was on the phone for 10 minutes, and the girls were busy eating and socializing while my order sat ready to be wrapped. Then they brought it out on a tray, even though "Take Out" was written prominently on the ticket. They shoved the sandwich in a bag and gave it to me with no napkins; it's a good thing I had some napkins in the car.
Charm City El Diablo Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Now Charm City (the same owners as El Jefe Lucador) tout their chef-worthiness, but this was hardly culinary genius. A handful of jalapeno's, some hot sauce and some white sauce on a bun. They don't seem to believe in melting the cheese in this place; you'd think in 20 minutes that the cheese might have melted. This sandwich was "ok"; no better. It's not something I couldn't make at home, and for the size of the cutlet for $6.50 it should come with something.
One thing of note is that this is a Kid's operation; run by kids, staffed with kids and marketed to kids. It's no place for adults or a family.
The word "charm" is not exactly the word you'd be thinking of as you approach this place. With "parking in the rear", they have a sign claiming the best burgers around leaning against a dumpster overflowing with garbage bags. It sets the stage for an adventure in perseverance. One that is ultimately worth the journey.
Inside, theres a long, lean room with cheap tables and chairs with vinyl plaid tablecloths. The walls are adorned with cutesy artwork. Its mid-day on a Saturday and there are quite a few people eating here.
Charm City Burgers Interior
Not looking to tackle some monster burger, I order their basic burger, the Good Ole, medium rare, with the works. The hard sell on the combos follow, but I resist. "Just the burger". They give you a number and you sit at a cheap table and wait for them to call your number.
The wait is tolerable, and soon a paper bag is ready. Grab it and go, out past the dumpster and back into civilization.
Opening the bag, its a pretty big burger. A sturdy sesame seed bun, piled high with onion, lettuce and secret sauce.
I take a bite. Wow. This is really good. I need another bite. The flavors are layered in a way that you don't expect from a burger. No additional seasoning is required. Its really fantastic. As a saltaholic, I tell you don't ruin this burger with salt or ketchup before tasting it. They have it down.
Is this the best burger I've ever had? I don't know. But its the best burger I've ever had for $5.25. Is it worth a 20 mile drive? Maybe not. Or maybe it is. Its a close call.