A burger with … donuts on it?? {Day 8 – Sampling the Spread at Jack Brown’s}

There are pretty much two kinds of hamburgers in the ‘Noke:  the normal kind, with LTM and perhaps a pickle, and the crazy hallucinogenic-tasting hamburgers they grill up at Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint.  There, you can top your patty with peanut butter, mayo and bacon, griddled hot dogs … even swap out the bun for two glazed donuts.

“It’s like someone was stoned when they wrote the menu,” the server said with a laugh when I visited on Sunday.  “And who knows?  Maybe they were.”

It’s true:  Jack Brown’s is exactly the kind of burger joint you can imagine someone wandering into with a serious case of the munchies.  First, there’s the vibe:  it’s a narrow, pleasantly dark hole-in-the-wall right in the  middle of downtown Roanoke, and a guys’-night headquarters for sure.  There’s a sparkly disco ball draped with neon bras of all makes and sizes, a banana-yellow bicycle hanging above the bar, and a massive selection of bottled beer displayed in the refrigerators.  Hang out here, and this small-chain restaurant doesn’t feel like a chain at all… It just feels like a crazy night is in the making:

But then there’s the menu, where things get even crazier.  Every day of the week, a special novelty burger makes an appearance.  On Wednesdays, for instance, you can order the Popeye — a burger topped with homemade spinach-artichoke dip, pepperjack cheese, and — yes — fried onions.  On Thursdays, there’s the Nacho Libre:  a burger with dried black olives and jalapeños, green onions, sour cream, refried beans and — wait for it — house-made tortilla chips.  If you’re in the mood for something (seriously) different, this is your hangout:

As for me and my gang, we’d arrived straight from church in anticipation of the Sunday special:  the Big Lick Burger, with bacon, egg and cheese sandwiched between two donuts.  All seven of us crowded around the corner of the bar, looking incongruently squeaky-clean and cherubic in our frocks and heels.  And then we proceeded to order some of the strangest burgers made in Roanoke.

Me? I ordered the Greg Brady — a burger topped with mac-and-cheese and barbecue potato chips.  My super-friendly server offered to up the ante and turn it into a Smylie — a “secret menu” item with bacon and barbecue sauce added to the usual  — and I agreed.

I’m glad I did.  The sandwich arrived piping hot — so hot it hurt to hold it — and bizarrely satisfying.  The potato chips might seem like a mere novelty item, but I’ll tell you:  if you’re going to dress a burger with macaroni, you want some crunch to balance out the soft-and-slick pasta, and the chips add the right element of textural counterweight.  The bacon gave me a second layer of crispiness, which was exactly what I was looking for.

While JB’s website markets  their patties as 100% Wagyu beef — fairly top-shelf here in the States — these are smaller sandwiches with a lot going on, so that goodness may get lost in the shuffle.  Still:  these burgers are crazy-fun to order as a group — and small enough to order in multiples — so the seven of us sliced our burgers in half and traded back and forth, experimenting and sharing.

It was a beautiful thing.

And I know what you’re wondering:  did I try that crazy donut burger?  Yes, as a matter of fact.  And while I was *exceptionally* skeptical about this one going in, the flavors do actually come together in a way I didn’t expect, and if you’re a donut person (I’m not), I can see the appeal.  As my guy T pointed out, this burger gives the term “breakfast sandwich” a whole new meaning.

Stop in and try for yourself … Whether you’re wearing cowboy boots, leather motorcycle pants, or a pinstripe blazer and stilettos like me, I have a feeling you’ll fit in here … even in your church clothes.  And you’ll eat a pretty fun burger to boot.

Until tomorrow, slickers.