Thursday, September 11, 2008


So, while we were in Ann Arbor two weeks ago, my father insisted that we should hit one of the classic haunts of pre-football crowds at Michigan games—Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burgers. I hadn't been there in years, at least not since sometime in the nineties. This is odd considering a pilgrimage to Blimpy's was practically an essential part of the Michigan football tradition. We'd park in the lot near West Quad and the Union and stop at Blimpy's on our way down to the game, picking up our greasy footballs of burgers and some fried zucchini or french fries to go with it. In the later fall, there might be soup and hot cider. And there was always the line, which snaked out the door. Now, the line snakes out the door and down the sidewalk. Beware anyone who tries to make a quick trip of Blimpy's on a football Saturday: you will end up standing next to this sign for a while.

While we were waiting in line, a neophyte couple behind us asked many questions. They were, in Blimpy parlance, Blimpy virgins. There is, in fact, an annotated menu for Blimpy virgins to explain the ordering process. Put simply, every person (including young children) has his/her own tray. The first order put in is for drinks and sides. Then the burgers are ordered as singles, doubles, triples, quads, or quints. You have your choice of extras, cheeses, and rolls, and you order from the fry cook. The fry cook, mind you, has worked at Blimpy since she was 14, since 1969. She is as much an institution as the place itself. She berates and abuses the customers, but it's the classic heart of gold hiding behind a rough exterior. She will do whatever she can to make your meal the best it can be. While we were eating, in fact, she prepared a grilled cheese for a boy who didn't want a burger. When the condiment-man/cashier shoved it past with a shrug, she loudly said, "Just because it's a damn grilled cheese doesn't mean it doesn't get the same treatment every other sandwich gets. You give him whatever he wants. You show him he matters too." I appreciate this level of service not just because it indicates the care she has been taught and exhibited for almost forty years, but because I have benefitted from it too—for as many years as I can remember, I have asked for Tabasco on my burgers, and she has always obliged, even though there isn't a single Tabasco bottle visible behind the counter and it's not on the menu. But, regardless, this isn't just about me.

With that great (albeit surly) service, comes a great result. My apologies the the vegetarians and vegans who read this blog, but I still love my burgers. And Blimpy's serves up a damn fine burger. A triple with grilled onions, provolone, and Tabasco on a kaiser roll. And on the side, fried broccoli and a big bottle of (pretty good) root beer.