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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Burger joint of the week: Chip's Barbecue

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 10:15 AM

SMOTHERED :  Hickory Burger at Chips Barbecue
I have many times enjoyed the pie at Chip's Barbecue, and the cheese dip and the Muffin Special. But how does the burger at Chip's rate?

It hadn't occurred to me until I drove by one day and glanced at the sign, which was promoting its 100% beef burgers. It might as well have been a challenge.

There are several burgers offered at Chip's; the hamburger comes with mustard, the cheeseburger with mayo. The Hickory Burger... well, it comes with barbecue sauce and Cheddar cheese, and I decided what the heck, I'd try that.

After placing my order, I had a seat and waited. Chip's at lunchtime is always a bustle. Chip's at seven in the evening is a quiet place. There were a few regulars, but the place was winding down and it was quiet save for one mumbled conversation in a corner and the TV turned to the final moments of "Wheel Of Fortune."

I briefly considered changing my order. I had decided on a side salad rather than an order of fries or a slice of the marvelous pie. Well, I needed to watch my weight, after all.

My order number called, I went to the counter and claimed my tray — a large tumbler of iced tea, a nice-sized bowl of salad and... well. We will get to that.

I dug straight away into the side salad ($2.75), a salad that bears mentioning mostly for its value and difference. The side salad at Chip's comes with Cheddar cheese, black olives, tomatoes, red onion ringlets and carrot slivers on a bed of iceberg lettuce. It also comes with your choice of homemade dressing; I chose the Blue Cheese, and I chose well, with a nice clumpy dressing on the side. It came accompanied by crackers, no croutons, yet was substantial. It would have been just about enough for a light lunch.

But I wasn't there for the salad. I was there for the burger. The Hickory Burger ($5.20) was served up on a toasted seedless bun, a single robust half pound patty smothered in barbecue sauce and shreds of Cheddar. And when I saw it I remembered something I should have considered before I ordered. I'm not a huge fan of Chip's barbecue sauce. In fact, when I order a sandwich there I usually have the sauce left off, so I can add just a tiny touch of it to the bun.

This? My error. But a correctable one. I simply took the butterknife that came with my tray, scraped the sauce off onto the side of the plate and ate the rest. And it was good.

The beef patty is a tight packed ovoid cooked to medium well with a sincerely strong smoky flavor. I would suspect that it had been taken from the smoker, which would explain the soft crust on the outside of the patty and the level of doneness. But it was still a juicy patty, with a nice light Cavender's style spice.

I picked up a cheeseburger a few days later to go... and forgot to shoot it, darn me... but was comforted and relieved at how good it was without the sauce. Once again, a soft crusted burger, but the choice of mayo and cheese and tomato and lettuce between the buns was quite a bit better than the barbecue sauce.

You’ll find Chip’s Barbecue on West Markham a block west of the Markham Street Baptist Church. They’re open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m Monday through Saturday, and like all good Southern barbecue joints they’re closed on Sunday. (501) 225-4346 or check out the website.

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