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April 13, 2006 - Image 21

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-04-13

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0

I

Best Burgers
Blimpy Burger
By Christopher Zbrozek | Editorial Page Editor

L et's get at least one thing out
in the open. Meals at Krazy
Jim's Blimpy Burger, like all
great-unhealthy experiences, must
be enjoyed in moderation.
This is a place where most items
that aren't grilled are deep-fried.
Fulfilling as a burger at Blimpy
is, it's not likely to add years to
your life - although, as long-time
employee DaVee Askew points out,
"We don't have grease - we have
natural juices."
Askew agrees with the Daily that
Blimpy serves up the best burgers in
Ann Arbor. "I might be biased, but
we do grind our meat fresh daily,"
she says. The burger patties at
Blimpy aren't patties at all - cer-
tainly not the pre-formed, icy plat-
ters your average restaurant hauls
out from deep freeze.
The choice Western chuck that
goes into the burgers comes from
Eastern Market in Detroit, and it
isn't frozen. "Any time you process
beef, thaw it or freeze it, you lose
a little," says current owner Rich

Magner.
Instead, the cooks throw as many
round clumps of fresh beef, a tenth of
a pound each, on the grill as you like
and hammer them flat. The menu
ranges from a two-patty double to
the five-patty quint, with the option
to add more at the customer's own
peril. The most I've ever taken out
was a quint with five extra patties,
but that's a mere snack compared to
the record of 37 patties.
Blimpy has stood at Division and
Packard since 1953 and dates back
to an era before corporate chains
homogenized much of the restaurant
business - and before Ann Arbor
morphed into some enclave of mock
East Coast yuppiedom. I know peo-
ple with needlessly refined tastes
who think Blimpy Burger, from its
wonderfully greasy food to an inte-
rior design one might describe as
honest, is somehow dubious. They
must be too busy reading their New
York Times to know what they're
missing.
Blimpy Burger has thrived thanks

to its stomach-coating, soul-nour-
ishing fare and its quirks - ranging
from the $2 bills and 50-cent pieces
given out as change to the "snow
bears" Magner sculpts out front of
the store come winter. Its identity
isn't shaped by a marketing execu-
tive's focus group, but by its founder,
"Krazy Jim" Shafer, by its long-term
employees and by its equally dedi-
cated customers.
Paul Hoppin, who has worked at
Blimpy since 1988. says employ-
ees there either "work six weeks or
they work six years - there's little
in between." The money, he admits,
isn't the greatest. But that weeds out
anyone who doesn't love the burgers
and the job. "It makes a big differ-
ence in the food," he said. "Every-
one who's here is really into it."
I lived in South Quad, practically
next door to Blimpy Burger, for two
years. Yet I somehow didn't make it
up the steps and past the "Cheaper
than Food" sign near the door until
I was through with the dorms. Like
many before me, I had to scramble
to learn the system for ordering a
burger at a place whose menu offers
2,147,483,648 possible combina-
tions of patties, rolls and toppings.
(There's a plaque with a mathemati-
cal proof of that number on the wall).
"We can always tell when there's a
Blimpy virgin in the house," says
Magner.
The learning curve was steep but
delicious, and my arteries regret
to report that I've been back many
times since.
Finishing off a burger yester-
day afternoon, a customer named
Hurvey wholeheartedly agreed that
Blimpy grills up the best burgers in
Ann Arbor.
"I've been eating at Blimpy Burg-
er for 35 years, back when Krazy
Jim worked the grill," he said. "It's
part of the Michigan experience."

CAMITLINKELIUER/Daily

Middle Earth carries everything from candles to toys.

Best Gift store
Middle Earth
v C Dai StaffWriter

PETER SCHOTTENFELS/Daily
Bumpy Burger sells as much grease as they do burgers.

I . A . i . . 1 . 1 L & 1 L J 1 A. & AA

FAMILY OWNED INDEPENDENT
FOR OVER 60 YEARS!
THANK YOU READERS FOR VOTING US
SGROCERY STORI

.;CV
C 3
M v
CONVENIENT M S S OY *
0 AWOF IN HMALL
OPENM."N.U.SAT.8-!,oSUNDAY8-9
U.S.23 S WASHTENAW
IN THE ARBORLAND MALL

No matter if you're religious or
not, there's no telling when the
need for a Jesus action figure
might strike.
Whether you're looking for a
diverse assortment of gifts, furnish-
ings, stationary,jewelry or grown-up
toys, Middle Earth has you covered.
Located on South University Avenue
across the street from Pinball Pete's
Arcade, Middle Earth has been sell-
ing its wide assortment of fun and
kitschy wares since 1967.
Middle Earth is above all a charm-
ing place to shop.
"There's an eclectic feel to things
here, and I think people like that a
lot," said Jessica Gordon, the store's
manager.
The bright colors, assorted tex-
tures, soft music tinkling from the
speakers and the faint aroma of san-
dalwood wafting through the store
make shopping at Middle Earth a
pleasant, comfortable experience.
Abby Hyatt, who also works at
Middle Earth, added "We sell stuff
you need that you didn't know you
needed."
The best thing about Middle
Earth's merchandise is its variety.
Handcrafted rings and necklaces,
purses, soaps and lotions, kitchen
and home gear, books, gag gifts and
candy are all stock elements..
Neither Gordon nor Hyatt are
Michigan students. Though only one
student works there now, at one time
quite a few University students were
employed at Middle Earth. "All of
the students we used to have working
for us had to quit because they were
all taking 18 credits." Not to say that
Middle Earth doesn't cater to and
understand its student patrons; one
step inside the glass double doors
and it feels as if you've walked into
the center of your own head.
There are many interesting things

to browse. If you're gift shopping,
Middle Earth sells necklaces and
dishes for Mom, a cigarette-dispens-
ing elephant gag for Dad and Andy
Warhol-inspired address books for
your friends.
Though the store is chock full of
grizzly bear-shaped salt and pepper
shakers, sticks of fragrant incense
and books on subjects ranging from
nasty insult dictionaries to the visual
history of the coat hanger, Middle
Earth also sells a fair amount of
greeting cards, stationary and gift-
wrapping supplies.
In the midst of a plummeting pres-
idential approval rating, Gordon said
that "(the store) sells a lot of anti-
Bush items, too." In this regard, it
might be easy to write Middle Earth
off as a hip hippie outlet, or a place
that caters to the liberal portion of
the University's campus, but that
assumption would be grossly unfair.
Above all, Middle Earth has a
sense of humor. Notebooks embla-
zoned with "Happy Fucking Birth-
day" printed on their wrappers sit
on display in the store's candy area.
Bottles of moisturizer called "Bitch"
lotion line shelves. Middle Earth
would certainly not hesitate to sell
merchandise that lampooned any
political figure, whether the victim
was a Democrat or a Republican. It's
satire that they love, not politics.
If you're not already enraptured
with Middle Earth, stop by before
the end of the semester and check
them out. It's nearly impossibly
to go into the store without spying
something you absolutely love for
yourself or for friends and family
members. Monday through Satur-
day, Middle Earth is open from 10
a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 12 p.m. to
6 p.m. on Sunday. In the summer
months their hours extend from 10
a.m. to 7 p.m.

E

734 '0677-*37
WWW.IUERS.COM

10B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, April 13, 2006

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