Tuesday, January 22, 2013

JT’s Hamburgers – West St. Paul, MN

D.Rough has been telling me about JT’s Hamburgers since we moved to St. Paul. She said it’s a staple of the community and has been there as long as she can remember. I spoke with a guy who works across the street from JT’s and he said it was one of the first fast food places in the area, setting up shop even before McDonald’s came to the area, and had been there since at least the 60’s. I’ve driven by it hundreds of times on Robert Street, but have never been able to stop – until now.

I strolled in and smiled. It’s got a really homey feel to it. It has 4 or 5 two-top booths and two two-top tall tables. So the capacity isn’t a banquet hall or anything. The menu is posted on a faded sign with plastic letters and numbers behind the counter – like an old snack shop or something. There is also a poster board on the counter with combo specials listed on it. All of the lunch combos cost $5.59 (making them $5.99 with tax, as I found out). If it isn’t obvious by the name of the place, the focus here is on hamburgers and cheese burgers. You can get any of them with onion rings and a soda for under $6. This is going to rule. I ordered the double cheeseburger with onion rings and a diet dew. The super nice woman took my order and then passed it off to the guy working the grill and fryer.

I wish I had seen the written-on-notebook-paper sign with Combo #7 on it – two cheeseburgers and two egg rolls with a soda for $5.59. That would have ruled.

As I sat there and watched many may people come in and get things to go for lunch, I realized there are a LOT of regulars here. The guy working the grill knew all of them by name and chatted all of them up. This guy is a big deal in West St. Paul. It appears there is a large regular crowd that comes in and gets their burgers here. Nice.

My lunch got cooked in record time and the guy handed me a paper sack filled (seriously filled) with onion rings and a paper-wrapped burger on top of the rings. I dumped them all out so I could survey the feast.

I knew I was going to need some ketchup for the onion rings, so I grabbed what was left in the bin of ketchup at the counter. I’m apparently a ketchup snob, because I was bummed by the lack of Heinz ketchup. But I’ll make due with whatever, when it comes to onion rings. The rings had a good flavor to them, but were sort of inconsistent on the fry-work. Some were a little undercooked and others were beyond crispy. I ate most of them, however, and was pretty happy with the flavor. They were pretty greasy and filling, and there were way more than I expected.

The cheese burger wasn’t the best I’d ever had. It looked a little gray and had an onion-y flavor to it, very much like a slightly better White Castle burger (which I no longer eat). The bun was nice and moist, which was nice, but I was still concerned about what that gray meat was going to do to my insides later this evening. I think the whole thing is steamed to keep it moist.

Overall, it was a filling meal and I’m glad I went. I was really impressed at both the number of people that rolled through these doors and also the relationships these workers have with the community. It honestly reminded me of a small hamburger joint in the Quad Cities where I grew up – Henry’s Hamburgers. People didn’t go there because it was the most delicious, but because the people there are awesome and it’s incredibly cheap and filling. I’ll be honest, I do get a pretty regular craving for a greasy burger, and now that I know JT’s Hamburgers can fill that void (especially since they’re a few blocks away from where I live). D.Rough also says they deliver, which could be troublesome for me when I’m feeling lazy. Hahahaha.

According to the news, JT’s has had some issues with some tax payments, but they must have gotten caught up, because they’re back open and rockin’. I hope they continue to serve the people of West St. Paul for many more years.

Top 5 things about JT’s Hamburgers
1. Friendly staff and non-kitsch old timey atmosphere/nostalgia
2. Really inexpensive
3. Filling portion of onion rings
4. Fast service
5. They have Dew

Bottom 5 things
1. Grey onion-y burger
2. Inconsistent onion rings
3. Really small dining room
4. Non-Heinz ketchup
5. I missed out on the egg roll combo, which I’m guessing is awesome

JT’s Hamburgers
1224 South Robert Street
West St. Paul, MN 55118

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