Thursday, January 13, 2011

Burger joint of the week: Benson's Grill

BURGER DUO:  Patty Melt, Big Mama Burger at Bensons Grill
  • BURGER DUO: Patty Melt, Big Mama Burger at Benson's Grill
We’ve talked about breakfast at the 24 hour Fort Smith mainstay before, but Benson’s carries a lot more — like appetizers, plate dinners and fried things. When it comes to a burger, though — you can’t get much messier or crowded than a Big Mama Burger.
Benson’s Grill has a lot of different burgers on the menu. They’re all 1/3 pound patties on a variety of breads and with combinations of toppings. There’s a traditional cheeseburger and hamburger, and then there’s Mount Kilimanjaro ($5.39), an open faced chili cheeseburger with shredded cheese and onions. There’s also the Don’s Big Daddy ($6.39) — a half pound patty served on sourdough with Swiss cheese, bacon, mayo and vegetation, served up with chips.
We didn’t eat any of those burgers — though the chili cheeseburger of course was tempting to me. I have a soft spot for them.
The burgers we did try were hearty, tasty warm things that do the diner proud. I tried the Patty Melt ($4.99, another thing I have a soft spot for). This is what diners are made for, specifically the big grill behind the counter. It’s meant to convey the flavors of the grill not only to the ground beef (in this case a third pound of salt and peppered patty-ness, cooked thick and thorough) but to the onions thrown right down on the grill and to the buttery rye grilled on the surface. The concoction glued together with Swiss cheese is one of those warm-you-up, stick to your bones sort of sandwiches that’s prime for hungry college students and blue collar workers. I got mine with hash browns scattered with American cheese and onions as well, truly unhealthy for me but awesomely good for my soul.
Grav tackled the Big Mama ($6.39), a half pound burger on sourdough that cried out “hot mess” to me. When it first arrived he peered carefully at it and realized there were no grilled onions on it. Our waitress noticed his peering, took back the sandwich and handed it to the cook with an admonition to read the menu. I’m guessing he was new.
So Grav gets his burger back. It really was a hot mess… a half pound burger covered in Swiss cheese and bacon, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed and raw onions, tomato and a few shards of lettuce. The chef had apparently overcompensated, throwing on Cheddar cheese on top and dousing it with some mustard instead of the advertised mayo. I mean, it looked so damn messy. Grav voiced concern over the raw onions but decided to try the burger before removing them. I watched him nod and his eyebrows raise.
“It works.”
“It does?”
“Yeah,” he said, reaching for a napkin. “The mustard and the two types of onion work really well together. It’s crunchy and sharp and sweet too.”
There was a clanking in the back and the sound of a plate hitting the floor. The waitress hissed at the cook, “get your head out of your ass!” I think she said it louder than she intended; there was a sophomoric round of giggles that ran through the place.
We also tried the fried zucchini ($3.49) while we were there — a healthy portion of ruffled zucchini slices in a thick cornmeal-enhanced batter cooked long enough to make the zucchini inside very hot but not so long as to make them soggy. They were served up with a bowl of Ranch dressing, which served not only as a flavor enhancement but to lower the temperature enough for consumption. The little green discs inside were quite tasty — but I am predisposed to love zucchini anyway.
You’ll find Benson’s Grill on Rogers Avenue a couple of blocks west of Greenwood. It’s open all the time and serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and whatever else the cook decides to cook up. (479) 782-8181.

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