Decemburger: Flat Top Burger Shop

First came 50 Burgers, 50 Days. Then Novemburger. 2011 wraps up with a burger a day for Decemburger.
Day 22: Flat Top Burger Shop
1900 Manor Road. 391-0936,
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 12.22.11
UPDATE: Flat Top has closed. The El Chile group is opening a bar called Cantina in the space.
Keep your friends close and your businesses closer. For the El Chile Group, that means stocking a quarter-mile stretch of Manor Road with El Chile Mexican restaurant, El Chilito taco stand, Red House Pizzeria and now Flat Top Burger Shop. Carved out of a former gas station, Flat Top is refreshingly free of ironic flash. They cleaned up and refinished the concrete floors, gave the shell a good scrubbing and a patriotic striped paint job, washed the garage-door windows and added tables. Fresh paint and the smell of the flat-top and the fryers. It feels like the burger stand it should be rather than the social experiment some of these reduce/reuse/recycle projects feel like. Flat-Top has been in the works for about a year, but the doors just rolled open Dec. 17.
The burger: Flat Top’s menu is split between regular beef, grass-fed beef, chicken and vegan burgers. A regular-beef half-pound cheeseburger will set you back $6.19. For those of you tracking patties, a half-pounder means two thin quarter-pound patties on a plain toasted white bun with shredded lettuce, plain dill pickle chips and sliced tomatoes. No ordinary onions for Flat Top; these are chopped, then grilled along with the patties for a caramelized sweetness at the edges, long enough for the meat itself to cook all the way through and cross over to the dry side. It tastes like an old-fashioned walk-up burger at a thoroughly modern price. A quarter-pound cheeseburger made with grass-fed beef ($5.39) was cooked past the point of fully appreciating what its source ate for supper.
Fries or rings? Flat-Top cuts its own skin-on fries ($1.99) an art that takes time to develop. These were clean and carried good potato taste, skins and all. The crisp will come. Onion rings ($2.49) are breaded, super-thin slices with a liberal salting and a backbone of pepper served in a white paper sleeve with as many bits and pieces of breading as fully realized rings.
Straw bosses: You know those shakes where you can’t squeeze the big pieces of strawberry through the straw? Flat Top does that, in a big cup with whipped cream and Blue Bell ice cream for $3.99. My 7-year-old also tore through a glass of lemonade ($2.09) with more sweet and less tart, a balance favored by the young and by parents who insist on fresh-squeezed but secretly grew up drinking Kool-Aid.
BYOB: A note from Flat Top: "BYOB until we get our license. Bring your six-pack."
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
Decemburger index
Novemburger index