Thursday, February 2, 2012

Burger joint of the week: Feltner's Whatta-Burger, revisited

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2012 at 7:29 AM

BETTER:  Feltners Whatta-Burger has reclaimed some of its spark.
  • Kat Robinson
  • BETTER: Feltner's Whatta-Burger has reclaimed some of its spark.
I keep two restaurant phone numbers in my cell phone — Star of India and Feltner’s Whatta-Burger. The former is for emergency curry therapy when I am ill. The latter is for trips along I-40 to our west.

I’ve received a good deal of flack from folks irritated that I dare say anyone’s better than the Russellville mainstay — whether it’s CJ’s Butcher Boy Burgers across the interstate, Feltner Brothers in Fayetteville or anyone else. I got called on not putting Whatta-Burger in my 50 Best Arkansas Burgers I Ate in 2011; frankly, I am not 100 percent certain I even ate at the location all of last year, thanks to all the other burgers I consumed.

But I still like the place, and on my most recent visit to the area I decided that I needed to go back again and give the burger another try. Or, more succinctly, I wanted an orange shake.

I called in my order and arrived 15 minutes later. I did have to wait a few minutes for the woman in front of me to finish ordering; she didn’t understand the way things work with Whatta-Burger, but that’s all right, everyone has to learn somehow. A couple of times the girl at the window nodded her head at me, perhaps acknowledging that I had indeed arrived for my order or maybe assuring me I would not be forgotten.

My turn at the window. The two white paper sack order was picked up and placed on the counter, the clothespin removed. My counter girl picked up a couple of cups, shot some orange syrup into one, filled both cups half full of ice cream and squirted chocolate in the other. She filled them both with milk and blended them, topped them and handed them out the window in exchange for my money.

You can’t stand there in the window and watch those burgers assembled and smell that griddle without needing to check things out. So, even though I had just over an hour’s drive before I could deliver burgers to hubster and girlchild at home, I found my Sissy and pulled it out. Yah. Miracle Whip type salad dressing, lettuce, tomato and American cheese surrounding a John Garner flat griddle-fried patty between buttered and griddle toasted seedless buns. The cheese glued the patty to the bottom bun, the whole thing still hot and juicy.

And… okay, this? This was an improvement. This was so much more like Old Man Feltner’s burger than I had enjoyed there in a while. And I could pin it down exactly. The griddle flavor was right. The seasoning had been bumped up just a tiny bit and the bun was buttered just right. It’s still not 100 percent where it was back in 1993 or so… but it’s close.

And then there were the fries, which I always mention. All these years, and the fries have never changed, still bright yellow and super crispy. But this time, they were accompanied by several of those new-fangled Heinz dip packs of ketchup. Win! The size of the order? Still large enough to feed the three of us with leftovers.

It would take a lot for me to take Feltner’s Whatta-Burger off of my phone. If you’re in the area, check it out. That number’s (479) 968-1410.

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