I reckon I can just about recall the best burger I’ve ever tasted. It hadn’t thought about it until this week, but when my mind turned over its recollection, I could remember it precisely; March 1992, Atlanta, Georgia. I’d just got off of a 12 hour Greyhound bus journey from Memphis, with just about enough time to make a dash across the concourse to grab a bite to eat, before the next bus left heading towards Florida.
It was a – long gone and little lamented – Burger King ‘Barbecue BLT’ and it tasted like heaven between two buns.
Of course, it might not have even been Atlanta. That was 22 years ago and my memory isn’t always totally reliable. Maybe there never was a BK within the Atlanta Greyhound Bus station, maybe I’ve even invented the ‘Barbecue BLT’. But whatever the truth of the matter, I’m not attempting to position BK to some undeserved lofty position of praise (even though I maintain that the chain circa-1992 served considerably better fare than it does today). Rather that context – in this case being freshly released from the feted, stale air of a long-haul bus, empty of stomach – as much as quality defines the strength of memory.
I’m in Atlanta right now, for the first time since that 30 minute long stint, 22 years ago. My job involves a fair bit of travel these days, more-often-than-not, to the US. The tragedy is that in almost every case, I scan Eater or Yelp for suggestions that my schedule ultimately forbids me from ever sampling. This time, I didn’t even bother looking. Had I done so, I probably wouldn’t have found ‘Just Around The Corner’. That I did was just blind luck.
2 blocks from my hotel, 2 blocks from CNN and the massive sprawling Convention Center on a corner plot surrounded by scruffy parking lots, JATC (to give it an awkward abbreviation that nobody will ever use) has that utilitarian look that is impossible to fake and increasingly hard to find. Everything is where it is, and looks like it does through necessity not design. The necessity born from running a short-order business that at best seats a dozen close friends inside.
‘The Best Burgers In Town’ reads the legend on the awning, ‘The Burger, The Myth, The Legend’ the description of its ‘Classic Burger’. The menu is basically anything that Chef Ric B can muster up on a flat top and a deep fat fryer; burgers, hot sandwiches, fried Whiting. You’d struggle to spend $10 inc tip on a meal.
Having chosen the ‘Bacon Cheddar Burger’ on the basis that it came with a ‘Special Sauce’ I’d heard requested by a couple of pick-up customers who’d popped in for Cheese Steaks; watched the familiar iron flattening and cloching process on the grill, something that I’ll never bore of.
The result; a burger that matches up with anything I’ve queued up for in a dusty London carpark in ‘pop-up’ form, without any of the (occasional) pretension that accompanies that that act. The ground pepper added to the patty just before a last flip and serving, together with the mustard-base of that special sauce kicking it beyond much of that company. Kaiser bun too making a welcome change from the now industry-standard demi-Brioche.
JATC isn’t going to ever engender the Top Trumps/Eye Spy checklist of burger fans (and yeah, I know I’m one of those) and isn’t a match for the La Frieda gang when it comes to the quality of ingredients. And it doesn’t matter in the slightest. It is unpretentious in a way quite opposed to what I am, for just the act of writing this entire post. Save for only one redeeming factor; if you’re in Atlanta and free for lunch, track it down and savour every last bite.
Just Around The Corner
76 Spring St NW
Atlanta, GA 30303