Dining Out

  • Nothing to mock at lunch stop
    It had everything I could want in a sandwich place. It had a streamlined – but diverse – menu with about as many locally sourced ingredients as possible.
  • New look for stellar 'Garden'
    It was almost like visiting a new restaurant. And given all that Sandra D's Italian Garden in Auburn has gone through this year, the restaurant is sort of in its grand-opening period once again.
  • Familiar Mexican flavors feted in Huntington
    It was a place my wife always wondered about along U.S. 24 in Huntington.

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Honorable mentions
Local finds
•Acme Burger: Acme Bar and Grill, 1105 E. State Blvd.
•Cheeseburger (dipped in sauce): Coney Island, 131 W. Main St.
•Chicago Burger and Big Buster: Hall’s Old Gas House, 305 E. Superior St.
•Double cheeseburger: Durnell’s Food and Spirits, 2502 Broadway
•Pat E. Melt: Black Dog Pub, 6230 Covington Road The chain gang
•Wisconsin Buttery Burger: Steak n Shake (3 locations in city)
•Regular (i.e., double) cheeseburger: 5 Guys Burger & Fries, 801 Northcrest Shopping Center
•Butter burgers: Culver’s, 3510 E. Dupont Road and 6527 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Head chef Shawn Thornton tempts with Henry’s signature burger. Get it rare if you like.

Boss burgers

Prepared and served uniquely, these local beauties stand out

Ryan Duvall | The Journal Gazette
Gardner’s-style double, Lunch Box Café on Coldwater Road
Ryan Duvall | The Journal Gazette
A stack of burgers from Powers on South Harrison Street
Ryan Duvall | The Journal Gazette
The Stadium Burger, Stadium Bar and Grill on Goshen Road
Ryan Duvall | The Journal Gazette
Hoosier Burger, Tower Bar & Grill on West State Boulevard

I swore I wasn’t going to go there.

It just seemed too cliché and dated.

But we are talking about burgers here.

Ah, what the heck …

“Where’s the Beef?”

To answer the question made famous by the legendary Clara Peller – may she rest in peace – I have chosen my Top 5 burgers in Fort Wayne.

And, just as the old Wendy’s ad pointed out, all of these burgers aren’t lacking in the signature ingredient.

1. Henry’s Burger

Henry’s Restaurant, 536 W. Main St.

Cost: $8.99 ($9.99 with bacon)

Beef: 8 ounces; 81/19 lean-to-fat ratio

Bun: Aunt Millie’s onion Kaiser roll

Cooking method: Char-grilled

The juicy part: The smell that hits our office when someone brings one of these beauties in from across the street is intoxicating. And when I walk to my car and the aroma hits when several are being grilled, it is like one of those cartoons where a smoke hand forms and drags Wimpy to the sandwich.

The patty is always juicy and full of flavor, the bun is always fresh and, for me, the best part about them is that I can get them rare. Not many places will do a burger that way anymore, but Henry’s does it to perfection. Topped with Swiss, American or jack cheese, it comes with spicy brown mustard and lettuce, tomato and onion on the side for you to add to your liking.

2. Stadium Burger

Stadium Bar & Grill, 2607 Goshen Road

Cost: $8.95

Beef: Two 6-ounce, 80/20 patties from Dave Hill’s Meat Market, 3031 W. Washington Center Road

Bun: Aunt Millie’s sesame

Cooking method: Flat-top griddle

The juicy part: If there were a way you could look up “big, fat, greasy, messy cheeseburger,” this burger’s picture would be next to the description. These patties are done on a griddle but are never pressed by spatula, so they hold all the juice. Add on a load of bacon, Swiss and American cheese and toppings – sautéed onions and mushrooms, lettuce, tomato and mayo – and you have one hot delicious mess.

3. Powers

1402 S. Harrison St.

Cost: $1.08 ($1.19 with cheese)

Beef: 85/15 from Tim Didier Meats, 3205 N. Wells St.

Bun: Aunt Millie’s dinner rolls

Cooking method: Flat-top

The juicy part: The smallest and most historic on my list and the most uniquely prepared, the Powers burger has been a late-night favorite for 71 years. Patties formed into balls are placed on the griddle, which owner Mike Hall said has been in use since the place opened. The cover for this tiny cooking surface is seasoned, to say the least; Hall said it hasn’t been replaced since “sometime in the ’80s.”

Shoestring Vidalia onions are heaped on top of the burger balls and are smashed into the meat during cooking to caramelize (the place goes through about 150 pounds of Vidalias each week). Buns are placed over cooking burgers and onions to steam. These sliders are the perfect end to a night out and, really, are perfect at any hour. Who needs a White Castle?

4. Hoosier Burger

Tower Bar & Grill, 2403 W. State Blvd.

Cost: $7

Beef: Half-pound (quarter also available); 80/20

Bun: Soft buttery buns from Gonnella Baking Co., Chicago

Cooking method: Char-grilled

The juicy part: This burger no longer appears on Tower’s menu, but it can always be requested. The thick burger has plenty of flavor on its own but it’s really accentuated by the egg on top – if that egg is ordered over-easy so the runny yolk creates a rich sauce for the sandwich, which is also topped with gooey melted American cheese and the usual lettuce, onion and tomato.

5. Gardner’s-style double

Lunch Box Café, 8814 Coldwater Road

Cost: $5.50

Beef: Two 4.5-ounce patties; 95 percent to 97 percent lean

Bun: Aunt Millie’s yellow Kaiser roll

Cooking method: Flat-top

The juicy part: Original Lunch Box owner Gerhard Heinecke insisted on making his burgers the way he learned to make them while working at the famous downtown drive-in. The patties are pressed thin on a flat top to get a nice sear and a little crispness on edges. I go with a double because, well, why not, but singles are available. Another secret to its deliciousness is the Gardner Sauce, a sweet mayo or tartar sauce of some kind. You have to ask for it Gardner’s-style to get the sauce, however.

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter (@DiningOutDuVall) and he can be heard every Thursday from 3 to 4 p.m. on 92.3 FM, The Fort.