A co-worker at The Pitch turned me on to the greatest new burger shack in town: the Burger Joint at 3212 Merriam Lane in Kansas City, Kansas. I fell in love with the place the minute I walked in and saw that they mix up milkshakes -- including hard-to-find flavors such as caramel, cherry and butterscotch -- with real ice cream, and that the cheeseburgers are nearly as big as the wheel on a wheelbarrow. The Burger Joint, which opens weekdays at 7 a.m., serves breakfast, too.
Owner Chris Lang's 14-month-old diner isn't very big: there's a counter with four stools and four tables in the pint-sized "dining room." There are a few outdoor tables, too.
For nearly a century, this building was a family-owned Dairy Maid (a popular soft-serve competitor to Dairy Queen in the late 1950s and '60s). Lang rented the building out for a while, but finally decided to run his own business and spent months cleaning up the place, putting shiny corrugated steel on the walls, fixing up the old grill, figuring out exactly what kind of dishes would sell well. I tasted a few of his top sellers, including the $4 taco deal (you get four and they're very good), the double cheeseburger (which is so thick you need two hands just to hold it all together) and the beefy chili, cooked with Kansas City-made Williams seasonings. A friend of mine, a true chili fanatic, gave it a resounding thumbs up.
Lang doesn't use frozen burger patties -- each burger is made with a third of a pound of beef. I could barely finish off the double burger, so I don't know how anyone could tackle "The Works," which has two burgers and two layers of ham and bacon, plus pickles, lettuce, ketchup and onion. There's also a Monster Chili Burger.
I haven't eaten breakfast there yet, but just wait -- I'll be reporting on that shortly. Is the place hard to find? No, once you pass the House of Rocks, keep going west. You'll smell the onions about a block before you get there.