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Jan 19, 2007 06:54 PM

Detroit- I'll have the burger, but hold the pickle and the second-hand cigarette smoke.

Is it possible to get a good burger in the Detroit area without having to venture into a tavern? Not that I have anything against drinking. I just want to savor the aroma of my ground round and not somebody's Marlboro.

I had lunch today at Sandy's By the Beach in Redford - great burger, but I'm still coughing.

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  1. Ooooooo, that's...a tough one. It's unfortunate that it's a tough one, but it's still a tough one.

    Looks like you've got me stumped, for a truly wonderful burger. There are lots of places that have acceptable burgers, sure, but in the realm of the Highest Order of the Burger, I'm afraid that I don't know of anyplace that doesn't at least allow for smoking. Both Miller's Bar and Redcoat Tavern do have non-smoking sections, and you can be very express with them and tell them "*Very* non-smoking, please." which is usually understood and accomodated, but you may have to wait longer for your table. C'est la vie.

    Either way, they're both most certainly bars, but I'm pretty smoke-sensitive, and they don't bother me any when I get a non-smoking table. If I'm sitting at the bar and someone lights up, then it's my own fault for sitting there, and I suck it up as best I can.

    1. This may seem a bit odd, but I feel strong enough in this opinion to recommend trying the Knights of Columbus at 23663 Park St
      Dearborn, MI 48124 (313) 278-5600, this one
      is open to the public, it is quite inexpensive and truly an exceptional burger. The deal is the bar has smoking but it is once in a blue moon that I have seen or smelt it. They give you a caddie with containers of pickles, yellow peppers, jalapeños, sliced onions, ketchup, mustard, ranch.
      I usually get cheddar and the have tomato and lettuce. Order of fries and a can of Verners (I think the soda from the gun is bad, so I always get soda from the can which they offer too). I am not sure if this helps. But I think it is worth a shot.
      I would call cause Friday is fish fry, and not sure about the other days. I you come in the afternoon there will be some fellas playing playing Euchre.

      There is Miller's Bar to, but that maybe smoky?

      1. I'm with you on this one, Dearborn Barkis. So this is another reason to exalt Miller's. Their non-smoking side is completely unaffected by the smoking in the bar side. Is Mr. Brew-Stirs a bar? I find it amazing that in Ireland, where smoking is almost the national sport, they've managed to ban smoking in all pubs nation-wide. So, now the Quest For The Best Detroit Metro Burger takes a new direction - finding one in a non-poisonous atmosphere.

        1. There's a new burger place in Dearborn that I haven't tried yet called "PJs Burgers" on the corner of Pelham and Outer Drive that is advertising itself as smoke free. I can't wait to try it.

          Mom's going to say something that some might view as sacrilege but I think Miller's burgers are nothing to write home to Mom about. They are just okay. Their fries are awful, though. I have worked in Dearborn for 18 years, so I know every restaurant in the town well.

          I used to love a place called "The Other End Lounge" on Van Born and Monroe, which has been closed for quite a while now. They had the best burger (and fries and homemade brined dill pickles) I have EVER EATEN. They were loaded with cigarette smoke, though.

          13 Replies
          1. re: momskitchen

            Yep. That's certainly sacrilege to me, and to many, many others. The sheer quality of the beef at Miller's Bar is head-and-shoulders above most every place out there that I've tried. Fries, schmies. Miller's is about the simplicity of the beef itself, and it's a wonderful thing indeed.

            1. re: boagman

              My guess is you don't spend much time in Dearborn - to us that do, it is more of a place you bring out of towners that have heard of it and want to try it out. I did an unscientific poll at work and found that my opinion is pretty much the consensus. What do you think, Dearborn Barkis?

              By the way, I tried out PJ's Burgers, and the burgers were pretty good, not great. The fries were excellent, though. No smoke.

              1. re: momskitchen

                I suppose that Dearborn isn't my back yard, so to speak, but I'm there often enough. And actually, both my father and my brother (dad's retired) work/worked at Ford, and both swear by Miller's, as would my mother.

                It's really about the beef. The presentation and atmosphere is simplicity itself, whether you view that as a positive or negative. To me, it's fine the way it is, as the burger is fantastic. I strongly disagree with the contention that it's "just a place to bring folks from out of town." Miller's reputation preceeds itself not because of some folksy lore that's out there in the ether, but because of their consistent, uncompromised quality in their burgers, period.

                As a side note, you mentioned not liking their fries, which I wouldn't disagree with. In addition to this, I don't care for any of the potato options at the Red Coat Tavern in Royal Oak, which is the other burger institution in the area. What is it about places that do burgers so well yet miss so wildly with their fries? I'm honestly puzzled by this.

                1. re: boagman

                  I don't get it either - it's hard to find a place that does both burgers and fries well. what do you think makes the beef special at Miller's? I think their burgers are a little too greasy (not that a burger shouldn't be greasy - it should - just not too greasy). It's important for the beef to be properly seasoned. I thought PJs was a little bland.

                2. re: momskitchen

                  I work in Dearborn too, moms, and the burgers consensus at the two shops I've worked in over the last 14 years is...Miller's. And I like the fries too - crisp on the outside and soft on the inside with a good potato flavor. I guess you and I will never line up on the same side of the plate, so to speak.

              2. re: momskitchen

                In the last several months, journeying on the Great Burger Quest of SE Michigan, I've burgered at Miller's, Stiver's in Chelsea, Dan's Tavern in Saline, McNasty's in New Boston, The Sidetrack, and, most recently, Sandy's On The Beach in Redford. My rank-ordering of these establishments is:
                1. Miller's
                2. Dan's
                3. Stiver's
                4. Sandy's
                5. McNasty's
                6. The Sidetrack

                Me and Dearborn Barkis will be hitting a few more places in the very near future. Dan's, Stiver's, Sandy's, and McNasty's can all be very non-smoke-free, and The Siderack on occasion is unpleasant. Moms, you're certainly entitled to your opinion about Miller's, but my experience of having surrounded many Miller's burgers is that they literally melt. in. my. mouth. Let the Great Quest continue!

                1. re: Summerfield

                  While Stiver's does have a great burger (it's called the Jumbo--not to be confused with the other burger on the menu. No one I know has ever gotten that one, Jumbo is what you want), I have to say I find it very smoky. Although there is a non-smoking section, which people honor, a lot of smokers use the rest of the dining room and the bar itself is very smoky. My clothes always reek after a visit.

                  Other good burgers in the Ann Arbor area include Blimpy Burger and Casey's Tavern (both non-smoking) and Knights.

                  1. re: dct

                    I don't like the jumbo. I like the 1/3 lb. burger. And yes, I've noted that Stiver's is smokey. The last time I went, I left my jacket in the car. I put it on when I returned home. The second-hand smoke on me was enough to contaminate my jacket, which I washed upon returning home. However, I will go back. I guess I like to live dangerously. And I can't stand Blimpy Burger. However, I'm interested in returning to Casey's and Knights after many many years absence. Also, Mason's in Livonia and Mr. Brew-Stirs in Taylor are on the horizon.

                  2. re: Summerfield

                    I combined the last 5 years (2002-2006) 10 Ten Hamburgers from the Detroit Citysearch web site poll, giving 10 points for a 1 rank, 9 points for a 2 rank, 8 points for a 3 rank, etc.

                    Rank Best Hamburger year 2006 05 04 03 02 Points
                    1 Red Coat Tavern, Royal Oak 1 3 2 2 2 45
                    1 Miller's Bar, Dearborn 5 2 1 1 1 45
                    3 Fuddruckers, Sterling Heights 4 4 3 3 3 38
                    4 Bates, Livonia 10 1 6 5 4 29
                    5 Red Robin, Roseville 9 9 4 4 _ 18
                    6 Hunter House, Birmingham 3 5 _ _ _ 14
                    7 Duggan's Irish Pub, Royal Oak _ _ 7 6 7 13
                    8 Checker Bar & Grill, Detroit _ 7 5 _ _ 10
                    9 Mason's Lounge, Livonia 2 _ _ _ _ 9
                    10 Knapp's Dairy Bar, Rochester _ _ _ 9 6 7

                    Red Coat and Miller's tied for first with 45 points, no surprise. There are 2 slider establishments (Bates and Hunter House), two national chains (Red Robin and Fuddruckers), a malt shop (Knapp's Dairy Bar), and 5 bar & grills.

                    1. re: dearborn barkis

                      some comments on the top ten:

                      love the red coat and miller's
                      never had the pleasure of trying bates or mason's
                      hunter house - decent sliders
                      duggan's - ok, but i think the big chief is an aweful lot like a classic big boy
                      hunter house - very good sliders
                      checker - i work across the street and they are fantastic

                      1. re: xman887

                        "hunter house - decent sliders"
                        "hunter house - very good sliders"

                        So, um, not to pick nits or anything, but which is it?

                        "duggan's - ok, but i think the big chief is an aweful lot like a classic big boy"

                        Yeah, this one didn't do a blessed thing for me when I tried it. Sure, it's not like I'm the biggest fan of zip sauce to begin with, but to me, it's nothing more than a glorified, overpriced Big Mac with sauce that isn't as tasty. I haven't gotten one since. Plus, once again: *beef* is the most important ingredient.

                        "checker - i work across the street and they are fantastic"

                        And this is one that I'm going to try, too. Just need to motivate myself to go downtown for it, though.

                        1. re: boagman

                          I too prefer Big Mac sauce to the stuff Duggan's uses. Even Kraft Thousand Island Dressing would taste better on a burger. Next time I go to Duggan's, I'm bringing my own sauce.

                    2. re: Summerfield

                      I've never had a burget at Stiver's - just the breakfast. I think I will give it a whirl - it is smoky, though. A great hamburger in Houghton, MI can be found at the Downtowner Bar, if you should have the good fortune to find yourself in the U.P. anytime soon.

                  3. On the recommendation of DetroitTwister, we went to Mr. Brew-Stirs, a cafe in Taylor (I presume) for a burger today. First point, germaine to the original post here, is that it is smoke-free. So that's a big plus. Now, on to the burger. I'll admit that I misread the menu and ended up ordering the baby burger. Waitress said it was 1/3 lb. but it was more like 1/4 lb. Still, enough to taste. The burger was presented on a perfectly grill-toasted bun which added the je ne sais quoi necessary to set it apart from other burgers. The meat itself was juicy and tender and had that melt-in-your-mouth quality of a Miller's burger. I have no hesitation in saying that it was one of the best burgers I've ever eaten. Further sampling will be necessary, of course, and I look forward to it. Fries were just okay and the onion rings were not worth ordering. Mr. Brew-Sirs is open only for breakfast and lunch, and the breakfasts looked great. The room is on the smallish side. There is no decor to speak of and, anyway, I don't need no stinkin' decor. The prices are incredibly reasonable.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Summerfield

                      Mr. Brew-Stirs has great burgers! I ordered the cheeseburger with cheddar, lettuce, onion, pickles, and ketchup. It came out perfectly done with a golden toasted bun. My husband had the bacon cheeseburger and it looked just as delicious as mine tasted. We also got fries and onion rings. I definitely had NO complaints! The restaurant itself is no smoking so you don't walk out of there smelling like a cigarette. They actually do have a bit of a appears as if their theme is Chef "Brewstir." He's painted on the door and can be found in different accessories around the room. The two best things about Mr. Brewsters are: 1) You can order anything from the menu at any time. Feel like a burger at 7? Go for it! and 2) Great prices! Where else can you eat a meal and feel full for only a few dollars? Mr. Brewstirs is where you come hungry and leave full!

                      1. re: holliewoodstarr

                        Both times I've been to Mr. Brew-Stirs, the cheeseburgers have been excellent. I tried the biscuits & gravy, which were very good too.

                          1. re: MsMel608

                            It's on the south side of Ecorse between Beech Daly and Telegraph in the east end of a small strip mall, next to a tatoo parlor. It has a very unassuming exterior.