Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Indianapolis, IN Edition: The Workingman's Friend Restaurant & Bar

Workingmans FriendThere's a sort-of regional specialty in the midwest known as a smashed burger.

Workingmans Friend
Cooks start with] a four-ounce-or-so ball of fresh beef, [let] it cook a bit on a hot, hot griddle, and then [give] it a good WHACK with the back of a spatula.... The technique leads to a crisp-crunchy crust with an artfully irregular shape, and best of all, creates more surface area for a Maillard-like reaction to occur (Serious Eats).
Workingmans Friend

So, it's definitely different than the thick, juicy patties I'm accustomed to. Rather, they prioritize that crispy edge.

Workingmans Friend
And, one of the places known for doing it best is Workingman's Friend in Indianapolis. Spoon UniversityBusiness InsiderHuffington Post and Thrillist all named this restaurant the best burger in the state through various "Best Burger in Every State" lists.  

Workingmans Friend
Workingman's Friend has been in the same family for since it was founded in 1918 as Belmont Lunch by Louie Stamatkin, a 25-year-old immigrant from Macedonia. In addition to selling food to local railroad workers, Louie also made money by making and selling bootleg whiskey. According to family lore, he earned the nickname Workingman's Friend because he let his customers run a tab until they got paid. I suspect they might have been more happy with his homemade whiskey, but I'm happy to buy the family line. When Louie died in 1946, his sons Carl and Earl took over. A few years later, they built a new building at the same site and changed the name as a tribute to their father. Today, the no-frills place looks much as it did when Carl and Earl built it and Carl's daughter, Becky Stamatkin, now runs it. The original grill is still used and it does a great job putting out some perfectly cooked smashed burgers made out of hand-formed patties made every day from fresh ground chuck (Serious Eats).
Workingmans Friend
First things first, it's cash only. And you have to be 21 to enter - I guess because it's also part bar? Either way, service is not a priority here. There was one waitress who cut to the chase to get what you wanted. But, that was easy because I already knew I wanted a cheeseburger ($5!). I got it with mayo, mustard and onion. Ketchup on the table.

Workingmans FriendIt's a different kind of burger. It's flatter - but crisper, saltier perhaps on the edges. Less juicy, but more texture. It's also quite literally smashed, so pieces were kinda falling off the side making it a little tougher to eat. But, as far as the flavor goes? On point.
 Bluebeard

Grade: B
Working Man's Friend Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato