Our September casual encounter was to Fuddruckers, that staple of every road trip you took when you were a kid and your parents wanted to try a little harder than McDonald’s for dinner.
This encounter welcomed a special guest, John’s brother-in-law, Dustin. He is older and more successful than anyone in our group, so it was an honor to have him slum it with us.
Fuddruckers hangs its hat on burgers. You can order a pre-ordained combination of toppings, or you can bring a plain burger over to a toppings bar and then pile high with whatever nonsense you decide is right for you. We’re sure this leads to kids on those aforementioned road trips slathering their burgers in an irresponsible amount of ketchup and pickles. These kids then cry when their burger slops all over the place, and their parents regret ever giving them that much freedom with wet substances. Fuddruckers: Where We Learn That Actions Have Consequences.
Along with the regular toppings, there was the much-touted “Fudds cheese sauce,” kind of like a paler version of the stuff that comes with stadium nachos. Our special guest Dustin said there wasn’t much in the way of flavor, but he did enjoy the “warm texture in your mouth.” Don’t we all, Dustin, don’t we all.
Jenna says: Burger was better than Culvers, but still a good distance from Blue Door. ALSO I prefer my buns a bit more toasted, if you know what I mean…[Ed. note: No, we don’t. Please elaborate.]
Aaron says: Burger tasted pretty good, but was way too greasy from the mushrooms and fried onions. Wedge potato fries were decent.
Rachel says: I spotted the manager’s special, which was a burger, fries, and a beverage for a very reasonable price. They even offered to upgrade my beverage to a shake, what a treat. I appreciated that the menu featured nods to other tastes, like chicken sandwiches and salads. Not that I would ever come here to get those. My burger was cooked fine, on a bun that was fine. I don’t really like seasoned fries, so I only ate a few of those. (Fortuitous, since that left more room for my shake. ) The burger toppings bar featured surprisingly fresh veggies; I’d expected them to be limp and sad since it was later in the evening.
John says: Perfect portion size with the manager’s special. However, they didn’t ask how I wanted my burger cooked. Toppings were excellent.
Once again, we find ourselves in the presence of a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. Glorious. However, there was a distinct lack of any slushee machine, which is odd considering how much this place is geared towards kids. Our group also bemoaned this lack since Fuddruckers (somewhat inexplicably) has a full bar, and this would have been a prime setting for a booze slushee. Milkshakes were available in a variety of flavors, but did not bring any boys to the yard beyond those in our original party. Perhaps it was because it was a school night.
Jenna says: Surly Furious on tap, works for me.
Aaron says: I snagged a “tall” beer for around $5. Pretty good value.
Rachel says: My chocolate milkshake was fine. The first sip had a weird aftertaste, but like so many beverages (alcoholic, mostly), if you keep drinking it, it goes away. My shake was an upgrade to my manager’s special combo, which made for good value. It was a large, too, so I got the can with the extra shake in it, perfect for sharing.
John says: My peanut butter shake was mighty delicious. Lots of chunks at the bottom which was a nice surprise.
Fuddruckers seemed to be going for some kind of old-timey car service station vibe, but stopped short of the finish line [Ed. note: Get it? Finish line? Because, cars? Nevermind.]
Jenna says: The bathrooms, ugh. Just ugh. Doesn’t matter how interesting the decor is, if the bathrooms are dirty, you’re dead to me.
Aaron says: Nothing noteworthy. Minus points because I like random crap hanging on the walls. Bonus point for arcade.
John says: It was fine. Nothing special, nothing weird. The mini-arcade was a nice touch.
Rachel says: The restaurant was spacious. Like, really spacious. Couple that with high ceilings, and I came away with the sense that we had eaten in the dining area of a raceway-themed Costco. Like John said, though, nothing too weird. They must have cleaned the bathrooms between when Jenna visited and when I visited, because I thought they were fine.
This was a situation where you order at the counter, and then they give you a buzzer that activates when your food is ready. Sometimes. Sometimes they also bring it out to you, depending on what you ordered. From what we could surmise, if you were building your own burger with the toppings bar, your ass had to get up and get the burger. If you were a fancy aristocrat who ordered a burger with special toppings, they brought it out to your table. A metaphor for the wealth gap? Maybe. Or maybe not.
Jenna says: It took me 10 minutes to order a beer at the bar. And I was the only one in line. You don’t make a teacher wait for her beer on the fifth day of school. I would have given service a 1, however the gentleman who cleared our table was oh-so-polite.
Aaron says: A few burgers took longer than others to get prepared. I went to the bar to get a beer, but the bartender was also the dessert counter cashier, so she was running back and forth between the two stations. Ended up having to wait for a bit before she could serve me.
John says: Drives me crazy when they don’t ask how I want my meat cooked. I like my meat wet and raw. [Ed. note: We see what you’re trying to do, and we’re going to ignore it.]
Rachel says: Bonus points for telling me I could upgrade my soda to a shake for a minimal cost. The person clearing the tables was very polite. The girl (she was a girl, not a woman) who served me my “dessert” seemed flustered since she didn’t have a cash register near her and had to run back and forth, but she did put on rubber gloves to serve up the brownie I’d ordered. Safety first.
It doesn’t get more casual than a place that allows you to pretend you’re a line cook for a little bit at the toppings bar, and then sends you to the mini-arcade at the back of the restaurant.
Jenna says: Fuddruckers was my birthday spot in Fargo for several years as a kid [Ed. note: Probably because it was next to the quaint and questionably-affiliated putt-putt course Fuddputter’s. True fact.]. Any restaurant that hosts birthday parties for 7 year olds has to be pretty, pretty casual. Not as causal as OCB, which is the gold standard (at least until we get hit by a car/go to Golden Corral, my stomach is already hating me for that one).
Aaron says: No problem wearing my velvet flip flops and my t-shirt that says “Coroner: I’m here for your body”….check!
John says: They may as well have put a sign that said Casual Central above the Fuddruckers sign.
Rachel says: You can tell a lot about Casualosity by what kind of napkin situation a place had. Fuddruckers has paper towel rolls on stands. Nuff said.
Dessert, if you could call it that, was a very big step down from the rest of the meal. The section of the restaurant called the “Bakery” was rows of grocery-store-caliber cookies and a row of brownies (for which you could see the industrial mix in boxes behind the counter). Most of us relied on our shakes as our dessert, which was an excellent choice.
Jenna says: Sampled Rachel’s chocolate shake, it was delicious. But Cub foods makes better brownies.
Aaron says: I got a chocolate malt to go. it was as expected and tasty.
John says: Counting my shake as a dessert. Extremely tasty. It wasn’t as good as the OCB cheesecake but good nonetheless.
Rachel says: I was the one foolish enough to actually get something from the bakery, a brownie. It’s not even like “it was from a box so it tasted bad.” My go-to brownies are from a box. They’re delicious. This tasted like it came from a box, then was left out for a three-day weekend, and then frosted in a harebrained attempt to add moisture/hide taste. It didn’t work. But everyone is counting their shakes as desserts, so I’ll factor that into my rating.
John says: A new special guest joining us.
Jenna says: Pickles.
Aaron says: Lots of condiments and junk to put on your burgers.
Rachel says: Knowing that John kept accidentally writing “Fuddf***ers” when composing his review.
Least favorite part:
John says: No pie options for dessert.
Aaron says: The super greasy onions that came on my burger.
Jenna says: I have two. 1) I missed how they used to announce your name over the loud speaker when your burger was ready. We could of had a lot of fun with that…. AND B) A dude used a pokemon pickup line at me at the bar. At Fuddruckers. In Bloomington. I might as well just get 9 cats and call it a day. [Ed. note: Might as well.]
Rachel says: That brownie. It was a prison brownie.
Overall Fuddruckers rating:
Next up: We’re donning our pieces of flair and hitting up TGI Friday’s!