The Great American Sandwich Trail® finds great sandwiches and features the fine establishments serving up these delicious dishes so you can try them no matter where you are in the US. ==================================================================================
Burgers and More Great Sandwiches Abound in College Towns
At Sandwich America® we have a fondness for college towns. That fondness – in no small part – is because a college town is a great place to find some of the best sandwiches in the United States.
And, if you desire a great burger (perhaps America’s favorite sandwich of all), Bloomington, Indiana is not only the Home of the Hoosiers, it is the home of a great burger shop. Bub’s Burgers and Ice Cream® opened in Carmel, Indiana in 2003 (and later opened an outpost in B-Town) as a family-friendly restaurant with a focus on quality, fresh food. “Bub” is not only a family nickname, but it also plays a starring role on a simple, yet tasty menu.
In the mood for a classic burger before leaving Bloomington recently, we decided to make a last minute trip to check out Bub’s® for ourselves. The fact that they have received multiple ‘Best Burger in Bloomington’ Awards also played into our decision.
A Classic Burger Joint With a Twist
There’s no mistaking that Bub’s® is predominately a burger joint. As soon as we walked into the restaurant, we faced a deli-style cooler displaying different size pre-cooked burgers and buns. All of the burgers are hand-pattied from fresh ground chuck – or elk. (While we did not try the elk, one of the college kids who ate with us swore it was the best burger he ever had.)
You might ask, “why do they display their buns and burger patties pre-cooked?”
Unlike most restaurants, the burgers at Bubs® are ordered after-cooked weight. This means the aptly named “Big Ugly Burger” starts at a whopping 22 ounces pre-cooked. This cooks down to a one pound burger. This is the monster burger that greets you upon entering.
When asked why they feature and serve burgers at pre-cooked weight (versus how most restaurants do things), the manager told us the restaurant “can’t emphasize quality, value and service enough”. They bring this to life by “giving the customer the most value possible”.
The Big Ugly Challenge
The decor is simple: cement floors, brick walls and a few TVs.
But, it’s actually hard to see the walls because of “The Big Ugly Challenge”. Everyone who orders a Big Ugly Burger with all the toppings – and finishes it – gets their photo put up on the “Champions of the Big Ugly” Wall of Fame. While it’s not (pardon the pun) a huge gastric feat to conquer the Big Ugly Burger, it’s quite an undertaking.
It’s this challenge that put the original location of Bub’s® in Carmel, Indiana on the national map in 2010. That’s when they were featured on the TV show Man vs Food. One Bub’s® burger was not enough of a challenge for host Adam Richman. He attempted to eat FOUR in one sitting – something 42,000 people had never done at the time.
Emphasis on the word ‘try’ as he was only able to eat just over two before giving up.
Not So Ugly Burger
After our waiter brought out everyone at the table tasty shot-glass sized samples of their house chili, we took a look at the menu. There are four sizes of burgers on the menu: One Pound, Half Pound, Quarter Pound and Eighth Pound.
Showing some restraint, we decided to try The “Not so Ugly”® Half Pound burger with grilled onions, lettuce, BBQ sauce and pepper jack cheese. And, a side of sweet potato fries with marshmallow dipping sauce.
The burger came on a custom-made, baked-fresh daily bun from a local bakery. The bun was perfectly toasted, slightly sweet and buttery which really added to the flavor of the burger, but was not overwhelming.
The well-seasoned and flame-grilled burger had the right fat content that ensured a juicy – but not messy – burger. Cooked medium, the burger was crusty on the outside and more rare in the middle.
Just the way we like it.
The grilled onion was a good addition (versus the raw onion that is typically served with the burger) adding extra flavor and depth when combined with the tangy barbecue sauce.
The burger was delicious.
Perhaps next time we’ll try the Elk Burger, too!