When my parents first moved to Alaska, all my dad could talk about was Burger Jim (704 E. Fourth Ave.) His curiosity was not surprising since, well, his name is Jim. It wasn't until this week that I finally stopped in. I've been missing out.
There are tons of crazy burger and sandwich creations. I was tempted by the Fowl Ball ($4.50), a chicken patty with bacon, Swiss cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce and mayo. There's also the Aloha Burger ($4.95), a mix of ham, Swiss cheese and grilled pineapple. The Sicilian Burger ($4.95) is a combination of pepperoni, Canadian bacon, mozzarella cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms.
On my first visit I ordered the daily special ($8): fries, a medium drink and a choice of burgers -- Jim's signature creation burger, or a rotating cast of favorites.
I picked Jim's namesake and was not disappointed. The burger was loaded with ham, bacon, American cheese, grilled onions, mushrooms and jalapeno peppers. I ordered it to go and was happy to find it steaming when I opened it at work. Be warned: The Jim's Burger is a messy, meaty, diner-style creation that dripped grease all over my computer's keyboard. I loved it.
It's a quarter pound of beef and pork that left me satisfied. All day I thought, 'My gosh, so much meat I've got a meat-over.' The mushrooms were plentiful and the jalapenos added a nice tangy flavor. The bacon was crispy and sliced thick. The buns, baked fresh daily, come either with sesame seeds on white or a whole wheat bun.
The fries were standard -- crunchy on the ends, soft in the middle.
I had placed my order at the counter and met owner Chong Han. She's a tiny Korean woman with graying black hair, who moved constantly while we chatted. She said she bought the restaurant in 1995 from the original owner, Peter Yu, who owned three Burger Jims at that time. Each was sold to separate owners, but Han said hers is the original, with the same menu since it opened in 1980. A Jim in the downtown transit center changed its name, but still sells burgers. A third location on Old Seward is now a Chinese restaurant.
She didn't know who the "Jim" behind the burger was. Han said the restaurant has always been Korean-owned, which is why Chinese food is also served. She recommended I try the fried rice.
When I dropped by again I ordered the Deluxe Ranch Burger ($4.95) and the Kung Pao chicken ($8.50), with a choice of steamed or fried rice.
I went with the fried, which is made to order. Han said that's key, because many restaurants cook a big batch of fried rice in the morning and just heat it up when ordered.
There were grill marks on the rice, peas, carrots and egg bits throughout my order and it added a nice crunch to the tender rice.
The Kung Pao chicken was slightly spicy and tangy. It didn't blow my taste buds away but it wasn't bad.
The highlight was the burger. It came with bacon, a fried egg, American cheese, mushrooms and Thousand Island dressing. When I bit into it, warm yolk oozed down the burger and mixed in with the buttery cheese. There were so many mushrooms they kept falling out of the bun, and it was so delicious I kept taking breaks for bites between writing paragraphs. I will definitely order it again.
Next time you're looking for a burger with a twist, give Jim a chance. While the Chinese food is pretty standard, the fried rice is something special and the burgers will leave you satisfied and covered in grease.
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Phone: 274-4330, 277-4386
Location: 704 E. Fourth Ave.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays, closed Sundays.
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By Rebecca Palsha
Daily News correspondent