Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Graffiti Junktion Review: Props to the Burger

My hunt for the best burger in Orlando brought me to Graffiti Junktion, a newer restaurant in Thornton Park, in the space formally occupied by Midnight Blue. The new proprietors have transformed the place. Gone is the cool, urban sophistication of Midnight Blue; replaced by an outrageous, urban hip hop vibe. The old was haute cuisine with a twist; the new, hot dogs with relish. Out: reduction sauce. In: ketchup.

I think the space may finally have a winner on its hands. When I visited on a Saturday night, the place was packed, and the atmosphere rocking. The restaurant was full of college co-eds and twenty-somethings. Most were dressed casually in jeans and t-shirts but quite a few were dressed up, as if this were just the first stop in a long night of drinking and club hopping.

Tables were wood picnic, some with chairs and some with benches. Most of the seating was open air, under a large awning. The walls and benches were covered with graffiti, various "Tom loves Susie," "Gators Rule!" and "Kevin was here" type messages.

Many, myself included, consider certain types of graffiti more an art form than a nuisance. I’m a fan of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat from the eighties, and follow such current graffiti artists as Banksy and Blu. Most of the graffiti at Graffiti Junktion was purely amateur; almost nothing came close to what I would call street art. It looks as if they simply let the employees loose on the dining room with spray-paint and markers, resulting in a look less inner-city, and more middle school bathroom. Pity. There were a couple of larger works obviously done by professionals, and the hanging artwork done on canvas was nice. I was hoping for so much more.

The graffiti let me down; the burgers did not. I sampled the Lone Star Burger ($9.00) with bacon, barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese. It was terrific. Served a perfect medium, as ordered, the burger was large and juicy. The bun was fresh, the cheese flavorful, and the bacon crispy. The barbecue sauce was spread heavy and was decidedly tangy and sweet - a nice compliment to the burger. The burger was right up at the top of my favorites in Orlando. I was very pleased.

My friend chose the Chi-Town Stuffed ($12.00) and claimed it was really good. It looked good. I think I’ll try that one next time. Others burgers on the menu included the Little Italy (tomato, basil and provolone), the Iron City (ham, egg, fries, American cheese and onions) and the Austin City Limits (chili, pepper jack and jalapeno). These aren’t your typical burgers, and they are priced accordingly.

The burgers were fantastic; the sides not so great. The fries seemed a little greasy and limp but they did have a nice flavor. The zucchini fries ($8.00), that started the meal, were also greasy, and had a weird, milky flavor. Possibly dipped in buttermilk before breading?

I didn’t get to try the Texas Style Beef Chili ($5.00). Our server forgot to bring it before she served the burgers. When I inquired about it, she said she would go check. When she returned, she explained that they were out, and the kitchen was making more. She finally returned with the chili, after we had finished our burgers. It was cold. Cold like it had just come from the refrigerator. When I finally waved down the server to complain, she didn’t apologize. Instead she informed me that she would “tell them,” and see if they would take it off the bill.

The menu included some interesting sounding soups and salads as well as a few sandwiches and hot dogs. Burgers can be ordered with ground beef, turkey, or veggie patty. There is a full bar and a sizable beer selection. The “Novelty Desserts” included ice cream sandwiches and popsicles - meant to be cute, but I found lame.

One warning: the restaurant is an extremely loud place - deafening. Granted, the NCAA Basketball Tournament was in full swing on the many flat screens, and fans were uproarious, but they could have been showing old Murder She Wrote reruns, and it would have still been loud in the place. The tent-shaped canopy seems to amplify the din of conversations and blast it back toward you. You’ve got to shout your order to the server and shout to be heard even across the table. The weird thing is, I couldn’t tell if people were shouting because it was so loud or so loud because people were shouting.

So I wasn’t impressed with the graffiti at Graffiti Junktion. Service was non-existent. The noise level was excruciating. The scene was not my thing. The sides were so-so. But the burger, oh the burger, was so good that I just might put up with all the rest to come back again. I really wish the burger wouldn’t have been so great.

The Place: 2 wacks out of 5
The Burger: 5 legits out of 5

Graffiti Junktion on Urbanspoon


Edgar said...

I had a similar experience here. The graffiti is definitely not impressive. It was loud as hell when I went also and it was in the middle of the afternoon, no special occasion. I would've sat outside but every other person was smoking.

Unknown said...

This does sound interesting. Perhaps I shall add it to my list. The best burger I have had lately was at 5 Guys.

Does this top that?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Great place for lunch. And yes, the burgers are better than 5 guys.

Anonymous said...

I came to Graffiti one week after it opened, it was loud and packed, i must admit i love the burgers and the fish wrap they have, it seems new graffiti has been done by pro's, and the music the 5 or 6 times i came has finally been turned down, I have no idea what the put in that burger but WOW.

Minor-Gross said...

I will have to try this place. I am on a constant search for a good burger. This place is close to my house too.

Minor-Gross said...

I ate here today. had high hopes. Was a pretty good burger but reminded me of Fillin Staion with a better bun. The fries looked like Five Guys but were not as good. I will eat here again because it is sooo close to my house but doesnt come close to Ravenous Pig or Morgans.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy GJ, but you are right it can be very loud. The fries are clearly homemade. If you like the taste of real homemade fries (ie freshly sliced potatoes with the skin on) then you will enjoy these.

I wish the reviewer would take pictures with something other than a cell phone (I'm guessing). It takes away from the credibility of the review (IMO), and does a poor job of displaying the most important part of the review (the food).

Anonymous said...

graffiti is a great place to eat just as long as you dont talk to the one called bill with a bad attitude and no respect for hard working paying customers thanks bill for a terible night i could have done better with trivia tonight also

Anonymous said...

Five Guys can only be considered the best burger in the fast food catergory. While I agree that it is above fast food, it is not a thick juicy burger cooked to order. A burger is not meant to be eaten well done and that is all five guys does. Go out and try a thick burger that is cooked medium-rare to medium with one or two great toppings on it and you will be amazed at the difference. Out of the real burgers I have tried, Graffiti Junction seems to be above the rest in Orlando, but I am still searching.

J said...

You all should give Teak Neighborhood Grill a try in Metrowest. I think they now have the best burgers in Orlando!

Anonymous said...

I agree with J about Teak! Thier burgars are AMAZING!!