Monday, October 5, 2009

A Simpler Choice - CJ's Butcher Boy Burgers in Russellville.

I have to start off and acknowledge, Whatta-Burger holds a special place in my heart -- not the chain, but Feltner's Whatta-Burger in Russellville. Like all Tech kids, I spent way too much time there, living off of the bag of fries (a full size bag could last days).

Whatta-Burger isn't the only place in Russellville where you can grab a decent burger. There are local spots like the Big Red Drive-In that cater to locals, and places that serve pretty good upscale burgers like Stoby’s. Mr. Burger and Main Street Drive-In may be long gone, but there's still lots of places to snag a burger.

There's another burger joint in town, though, that has a great product and it deserves a little print, too.

CJ’s Butcher Boy Burgers sprang up nearly four years ago on the north side of I-40 in an old Waffle House location. The white and red building on the north side of I-40 looks pretty plain on the outside, but inside there's a humbly simple menu any burger lover would enjoy.

Because when you go in and order, you order at a meat counter. No joke. The makings of your lunch or dinner is right there -- chuck steak slabs, burger ground from same slabs, rolled balls of beef... there you go. You get to see the whole process right there.

Just like other 50’s and 60’s style burger joints, you order at the counter and pick up your order there, too. There aren’t many choices -- in fact, it’s down to a science, or math, of eight numbers. The choices here are easy -- burger, fries, drink, shakes. That’s it.

And if there are fries on your order, once you’ve made your selection you get to see your fries made right then -- from scratch. One of the handy crew grabs a spud, makes sure it’s well washed, pumps it through a fry frencher into a fry basket and drops it in the grease. On the other side of doneness, it’s sprinkled with spicy salt and dropped into your basket.

Burgers are plucked from the meat counter when they’re ordered, hand-patted into shape, and grilled to doneness before being topped with your choice of lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, and condiments. For an extra 20 cents, you can have your choice of Cheddar cheese, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, or jalapenos on your burger. Bacon’s an extra 79 cents.

My traveling companion and I both went for the #1 -- the 1/3 Pound Burger Combo ($6.98 with fries and drink). Neither of us completely finished our baskets. Maybe it’s because the meat is chuck rather than regular ground beef, so more of that 5 1/3 ounces of beef ends up on the burger instead of lost in the grease trap. Or maybe it’s the plentiful toppings. Or the load of fries. What we all agreed on, though, was that the burger was not overly spiced but quite savory, the fries were spot-on delicious, and the service was quick and polite. And we were all impressed by the restaurant’s cleanliness.

Of course, curiosity gets the better of us all, and I went for a Chocolate Malt (#7 represents shakes and malts on the menu, and they like the drinks only come in one 20 ounce size). Took both of us to finish the thick dessert -- which passed the standing straw test and included a generous malting.

CJ’s Butcher Boy Burgers may not be your first choice for a burger stop in Russellville, but for interstate travelers it's right there with an easy on and off at Exit 81. You'll find CJ's Butcher Boy Burgers at 2803 N. Arkansas in Russellville. Call ahead if you're in a hurry -- (479) 968-2300. They're open from 11 in the morning to nine at night. Oh, and if you're dining in, check out the free jukebox, stocked with lots of great hits from the '50s and '60s.

CJ's Butcher Boy Burgers (N. Arkansas Ave) on Urbanspoon

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