Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Field Report: Powers Hamburgers (Ft. Wayne)

I had to make another quick trip to Detroit this week. I was heading up on Monday, and guess what? Detroit had a River Days festival going on with the fireworks that night. Folks from our office told me that downtown would be jammed, so I ended up staying by the airport and heading downtown on Tuesday morning. I had hoped to swing by Greektown this time, but I'll have to wait a bit longer till a return trip there.

Anyhow, on my way home, I decided to look up a place I had read about at A Hamburger Today - a little establishment called Powers Hamburgers in downtown Fort Wayne.

Powers is located in a nice part of downtown Ft. Wayne. It is very close to the minor league baseball stadium, and since I pulled into the lot around 7:40, I think that was a scheduling boon to me, as it wasn't very crowded and that nights game had already started. Any early visitors must have been through. True to the descriptions I had read, it is a neat little building with black and white awnings. This is not a trendy spot. It looks authentic because it is. This is no Broad Ripple shop trying for a vintage feel. The place IS vintage in the way that your grandma's closet is vintage - it has lived through the style changes and not flinched.

My picture isn't that great, but... man, there are some nice exposures found on Google images. Hopefully it is okay to show this one here.

The restaurant seats maybe 20 people maximum. There is a counter in front of the griddle, two small counter areas facing out windows, and one booth in a back corner. The restaurant is located catty-corner from a Lincoln National Life Insurance building, and I wonder if the actuarys have figured out an acceptable number of visits employees can make to Powers in a given year....?

This place serves sliders. And, I guess they are true sliders, not just mini burgers. The meat patty is maybe a quarter inch thick, on a soft bun, and a large pile of grilled onions. I had three cheeseburgers. They come with no condiments. My first bite was unadorned, and... well, it was just kind of average. I love grilled onions. The large pile on this burger was not only a welcome site, it was a selling point. But, in this case, I think the grill chef has so many onions on the griddle that I think some of onions basically only "sweat". What I love is caramelized onions, especially when cooked in butter. Some of these onions were merely white and translucent, and I think in the large pile they didn't get much butter and were cooked only through rising steam. This leads to a less tasty onion flavor. I added some ketchup and plain yellow mustard and that made a world of difference. Once dressed with some condiments, the burgers were considerably better in my opinion. The inconsistency of the onions was a bit disappointing, because sometimes when you got some from the bottom of the pile that had caramelized in butter or oil, man was that tasty. The little burgers are maybe 15% bigger than a White Castle, about the same cost (I think they were $0.85) and better tasting to me.

I also had a bowl of chili. Now, the funny thing to me is that despite the enormous amount of onions used in this restaurant (my clothes were saturated with the smell of onions), the one thing this chili needed was more onions. It is a nice brew of ground beef and beans, with a slight sweet tang to it. I added some hot sauce and it was a nice, filling addition.

When the Better Half and I drive to see her family in Ontario, we usually take I-69 and pass Ft. Wayne. We usually don't stop. So, leaving town, I took a bit of time and found it a nice, well maintained downtown area for a city of its size. I drove out on Washington Boulevard, and parts of that road, with its leafy canopy, really has some potential. As a one time hoops junkie, I knew that Ft. Wayne was the original home to the NBA's Piston's franchise, but I couldn't find any retro jerseys online to link to. If you have time and are wandering around NE Indiana, stop at Auburn, too. That little town amazes me. With the one-time wealth it had from the car company there, there are some fantastic, large old brick homes in Auburn. And, they do a really nice job keep the downtown clean and appealing to visitors.

The verdict: 4 belly rubs (out of 5). A true slider, great appeal to its authentic and timeless style, onions were a bit uneven.

No comments: