A2P Foodist: Restaurant Review—Great Plains Burger Co.

Restaurant Review: 3.5/5 stars (good, reliable)—Ratings range from zero to five stars and reflect the reviewer’s reaction to food, with ambiance, service and price taken into consideration, as well.

Great Plains Burger Co.
1771 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Hours 11:00 am–10:00 pm Mon-Sat, Sun 11:30 am–9:30 pm
Ph (734) 769-6900

No reservations needed or taken

by Richard Saunders

Mo Farha wanted Great Plains Burger Company to be the epitome of Americana. “I have a great passion for the American hamburger. For me, it’s a source of American pride,” the Ann Arbor native said in a 2009 interview. “I have a true burger, fries and shakes passion. These things go together.”

Farha is the manager and a partner in the Plymouth Road restaurant across from University of Michigan North Campus that opened in 2009. Gary Staub, son-in-law of Tom Monaghan is one of Farha’s partners in the venture the concept for which was developed after two years of study. Great Plains Burgers hamburger meat is Michigan-grown and ground fresh every day. You don’t usually think of higher quality restaurants as being located beneath student apartments and in a strip mall, but Great Plains Burger Co. is the exception that proves the rule. Great Plains Burgers serves up a great local burger and fries. All the menu items are made fresh and cooked to order including the fries, which are made from the 1,200 pounds of potatoes stacked in the dining room on any given day. Great Plains Burgers also offers fresh hand-crafted milkshakes and a wide selection of soft drinks and other beverages.

Great Plains Burgers is housed in a modern and airy building, which can lead to some heating issues, and I found the restaurant a little to cold for my tastes. One corner has the feel of a brightly light sports bar, with a flat screen TV mounted over a stainless steel bar area in the corner near the kitchen. Even though the volume is on as opposed to having subtitles, it is not too loud at all and doesn’t interfere with conversations. The fore mentioned kitchen is open completely to the restaurant (they use the space meant for an enclosed kitchen as a storage room), which is not unpleasant at all, and in fact lends a lively feel to the space as the workers bustle around making sandwiches, whipping up shakes and hand-cutting potatoes for french fries.

I have been to Great Plains Burgers more times than I can count, but the most recent time I went with my family for the purpose of reviewing the restaurant. We got there at about 6:15 in the evening, just about prime dinner time, and the restaurant was about half full. We reached the counter and two young women came over immediately and took our orders promptly. We ordered two chicken sandwiches ($5.69), a single burger made of 1/3 pounds of Black Angus beef (at $4.89 it’s the smallest burger on the menu). We also ordered a double 2/3 pounder (at $7.59 the largest burger on the menu). Each sandwich was laden with a wide variety of toppings—from the classics, lettuce and tomato and cheese to green olives and perfectly grilled jalapeño peppers. We also ordered a basket of fries to share ($4.49). Be warned, the large basket of fries is enough to feed a small army (4-6 people), and a side of fries will satisfy 2-3 eaters easily.

Suffice it to say Great Plains Burgers goes big on portion sizes when it comes to almost everything. The paper sauce cups, into which condiments are pumped, are on the small side.

Once we ordered we selected a table in the dining area, and went to go sit down. The table and my chair had not been wiped down, and there were a few small chunks and smears of food on my chair. We decided not to make a fuss and switched out a chair from an unoccupied table. A worker  quickly came over the wiped down the table when asked. My family and I made conversation for only a short time before our fries arrived, piping hot and fresh from the fryer. The fries were perfect—golden brown, crispy, hot and perfectly salted. We dug right in dipping them into the four house made special sauces available at Great Plains, including truffle mayo and Kentucky bourbon sauce. No matter which of the sauces the fries were paired with they tasted great.

We worked on the fries for a short time before the sandwiches arrived. My burger was the double and quite the imposing structure; when topped with tomato, cheese, lettuce, green olives, pickles, mayo, ketchup and my favorite ranch it was almost impossible to get my hands not to mention my mouth around. Somehow I managed and it was well worth it. The meat was well-seasoned and the toppings where fresh and not wilted. The bun, which can almost be called the most important part of the burger, was toasted to perfection, which makes all the difference.

The chicken sandwich that I tried the most recent time was well-seasoned and perfectly cooked.  When cooking a kind meat with a lack of natural piquancy, such as chicken breast, how it is seasoned can make all the difference: the good people at Great Plains Burgers know how to make a well-seasoned and juicy chicken breast every time. My only complaint about the chicken sandwich is that on a few ocassions the bun has been a little bit soggy, but that could also be the result of combining sauces and grilled veggies.

In my last review, I wasn’t enthused about the fact that fries had to be ordered a la carte. Those fries were frozen, but good. While fries must also be ordered a la carte at Great Plains Burgers, here a single burger in $4.89, is not anywhere near as expensive as the $8 burger I ordered at Sava’s. In fact, add an order of regular fries to a 1/3 pound burger at Great Plans Burger Co., and you’ll still spend less than $8 (and get a generous order of fresh cut fries to boot).

I have saved the best for last: milkshakes. Chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Pick one. Pick them all. The hand-dipped shakes are made to order, topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. Each shake costs $3.79, and you’ll have to wait while it’s made. Wait. Gladly. These simple treats are, without a doubt, some of the thickest, tastiest milkshakes in town.

The most recent Washtenaw County restaurant inspection of Great Plains Burger Co. was on October 2012. There were no violations. Yelpers have given Great Plains Burgers a combined 3.5/5.They raved about the fries, but some did find the burgers a little on the greasy/messy side. In all I think that Great Plains Burger Co. is a great northside neighborhood joint, and the concept has solid potential going into the future. When the restaurant opened in 2009, Mo Farha said he and his partners intended to open up more locations. Thus far, the Plymouth Road restaurant remains an only child. My few concerns (wipe off the tables and sweep the dining room floor more regularly, guys) are far outweighed by the many great sandwiches, sides and shakes they sell. I would suggest Great Plains Burgers for any night of the week when you don’t feel like making dinner and want a tasty alternative. It’s a great kids restaurant, and perfect for a casual date, as well. Just don’t go with anyone who shouldn’t see you with ketchup on your chin, and remember to grab a pile of napkins.





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