July 26th , 2013 10:17 am Leave a comment

Burger Quest wraps with visit to Burger Hut, Sloopy’s … and a winner

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This week wraps up my July quest to find some of the best restaurants for burgers. For my final outings in Burger Quest 2013, I returned to Kingsport for a visit to Sloopy’s and made another excursion on Highway 91 to Stoney Creek’s Burger Hut.

Sloopy’s is a unique eatery that has been winning fans in Kingsport and beyond for its burgers, as well as burritos, meatloaf sandwiches and even fried pickles. The restaurant’s unusual name resulted from a local contest the restaurant held 13 years ago. The restaurant has also created a “Sloopy” character that is incorporated into its signs and logos.

Photo by Bryan StevensThe Carolina Burger at Sloopy's in Kingsport.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
The Carolina Burger at Sloopy’s in Kingsport.

The interior of the restaurant is awash in riotous colors, including coral-orange tabletops with retro “boomerang”-patterned surfaces, as well as walls painted vibrant yellow, bright blue and lime green. The chairs at the tables are upholstered in black to match the black-and-white tile floor. There’s also a long lunch counter along one wall matched with high-backed stools upholstered with gold vinyl. The walls are covered with various vintage advertisement signs, and stainless steel ceiling fans rotate overhead. The eatery also offers a couple of outdoor picnic tables.

I visited with two friends on a recent Saturday afternoon. We were greeted by a couple of friendly staffers at the front counter. They waited patiently as we looked over the menus before making our orders.

Burger options include the Sloopy Burger (made from Black Angus beef), as well as the Super Cheeseburger, Super Hamburger, Carolina Burger, Bacon and Cheddar Burger, and Jalapeno and Cheddar Burger.

There’s also the famous “Two-pound Burger and Fries Challenge” at Sloopy’s. The premise is simple — in 9 minutes or less, without assistance from others, finish the meal and you get the burger for free. In addition, the winner gets his or her picture on the “Wall of Fame” and a free T-shirt.

I didn’t think I was up to this particular challenge, so I focused mostly on some of the regular-sized burgers and ordered the Carolina Burger, which is topped with slaw and chili, as well as tomato and onion. My friends ordered Super Cheeseburgers.

Other sandwiches highlighted on the menu include a Patty Melt, Tuna Melt, Philly Steak and Cheese, Pulled Pork, Chicken Parmesan and Grilled Cheese.
Four different burritos also share space on the menu, and there’s also a listing of Kids Combos for younger diners.  Sloopy’s also offers such meals as Soup Beans, Slaw and Cornbread, a Chicken Strips Dinner and Hamburger Steak Dinner.

Of course, we wanted some sides to enjoy with our burgers, and Sloopy’s offers plenty of options including Crinkle-cut French Fries, Potato Wedges, Tater Tots, Waffle Fries, Onion Rings and Fried Pickles.

I paired my burger with fries, while my friends chose the Onion Rings and Waffle Fries. When my friend ordered the Onion Rings, the staffer at the counter asked if he wanted “Boom Boom” sauce with them. She said the sauce is popular, so he added it to his order.

Given an assigned number with our receipt, we found a table and waited for our orders to be called. It wasn’t a long wait.

My burger was the only one to arrive in a paper basket with its own plastic utensils. The reason became apparent fairly quickly. Although the burger was held on a large bun, the chili and slaw soaked fairly quickly into the bread. Picking up the burger would have been a messy experiment, so I ate the first half using my plastic fork. Later, as more of the burger was consumed, I managed to pick it up for the last few bites.

I enjoyed the Carolina Burger. The chili wasn’t terribly bold, and the slaw was rather mild, but they combined well enough to add some extra flavor to a well-season burger patty.

The “Boom Boom” sauce, by the way, tasted fantastic with the Onion Rings; something like a zesty Thousand Island salad dressing that packed some sneaky heat, too. It also worked well with the fries.

My friends also liked their Super Cheeseburgers, and the buns holding these burgers proved more durable than mine. We gave Sloopy’s a thumbs-up for some traditional, well-made burgers.

I ended the meal with another trip to the counter for a sweet. Options range from Banana Splits and Ice Cream Cones to Milkshakes and Malts. The staffer at the counter said Sloopy’s can tailor any shake or malt, so I ordered a Chocolate-Cherry Malt. This confection started with chocolate ice cream for its foundation, to which added was chocolate and cherry sauces, as well as chunks of real cherries. The end result was a satisfying malt that provided a pleasant conclusion for our first Sloopy’s visit.

••••••

For as long as many locals can remember, Burger Hut on Stoney Creek has been serving burgers, fries, ice cream and much more. Many people still refer to the restaurant as Betty’s Burger Hut, which honors the memory of the original owners, the late Betty and Joe Shouse.

The restaurant recently underwent an interior makeover. The front counter and kitchen area are bordered on both sides by dining areas. The walls are painted antique white and charcoal gray. Seating is available at tables with red surfaces and matched with chairs upholstered in black vinyl. The walls are decorated with vintage advertisement signs and posters of classic cars such as Mustangs and Thunderbirds. Framed likenesses of legendary Western star John Wayne and Mayberry deputy Barney Fife are also on view, giving the restaurant a definite nostalgic atmosphere.

Burger Hut is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A friend and I stopped by recently for a weekday lunch. The burgers available include fourth-pound and half-pound Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers and Bacon Cheeseburgers, as well as small versions of the Hamburger and Cheeseburger.

Photo by Bryan StevensThe Bacon Cheeseburger at Burger Hut.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
The Bacon Cheeseburger at Burger Hut.

Beyond burgers, the menu also offers sandwiches, including a Club Sandwich, Ham and Cheese, Grilled Cheese, Cube Steak, Meatloaf and Philly Cheese Steak, as well as hot dogs and corn dogs. Several platters are also available, including Hamburger Steak, Fried Flounder and four-piece Fried Chicken.

I chose the fourth-pound Cheeseburger while my friend chose a fourth-pound Jumbo Hamburger, and then added cheese to it.

Several sides can be ordered to come with your burger, including French Fries, which can be served with gravy, chili or cheese, as well as Onion Rings, Tater Tots, Cheese Sticks, Breaded Pickles and Breaded Mushrooms.

My friend paired his burger with some Breaded Pickles, while I ordered the Chili Cheese French Fries.

We didn’t have to wait long for the call to return to the front counter and pick up our food. Condiments, such as packets of ketchup, can also be obtained at the counter.

My Cheeseburger, which came with lettuce, tomato and onion, tasted good, but the bun only held up for a few bites before it started coming apart. The burger was a solid, old-school burger. The onions used were rather strong.
I also liked the crinkle-cut French Fries, but didn’t care for the chili, which was little more than lightly seasoned ground meat. Further, the cheese added to the fries was somewhat scarce.

My friend’s pickles were a bigger hit. Dill pickle chips were lightly battered, fried to a golden-brown and then served with a container of ranch dressing. The ample helping allowed us both to share the Fried Pickles.

As I have done at every other burger place visited this past month, I saved some room for a sweet to finish up the meal. Options at Burger Hut include Ice Cream Blasts, milkshakes blended with such additions as Reese’s Pieces, Butterfinger, Cookies and Cream, Gummie Bears, Snickers, Kit Kat and more; as well as traditional milkshakes, including Chocolate, Cherry, Vanilla, Pineapple, Hot Fudge, Walnut, Blueberry, Strawberry, Banana, Butterscotch and Peanut Butter. Cones of ice cream are also available.

I ordered a Blueberry Shake, which delighted with its creamy, smooth texture and the chunks of blueberries blended into the shake. It provided a nice touch for finishing up our Burger Hut visit.

••••••

Obviously, I found some good burger destinations during my month-long homage to this all-American classic. Several contenders vied for “Best Burger” distinction, but I am going to give this accolade to Mid City Grill in Johnson City. When my friend, Brandon Hicks, urged me to give this eatery a try, he didn’t steer me wrong. For burger-lovers, I don’t see how you could go wrong with the inventive, mouth-watering burgers at Mid City Grill.

I had a tougher time picking second place, but decided that newcomer Mason Jar Eatery in Kingsport deserved this spot for some creative and mighty tasty burgers.

I am also giving some honorable mentions to Dari-Ace in Erwin, Burger Bar in Bristol and Sloopy’s in Kingsport.

I had a really good time visiting eight different burger restaurants this month. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I may have to give it another go next year.

••••••

AT A GLANCE: Sloopy’s, 819 N. Eastman Road, Kingsport. 378-5638 or 378-6185. Monday-Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Menu items $7.99 and under. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available.

AT A GLANCE: Burger Hut, 440 Highway 91, Elizabethton. 543-4561. Monday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-9 p.m.; and Sunday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Menu items $8.49 and under. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available.

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