For years we'd heard about the giant burgers at Grover's.
The behemoths are so famous that in 2009, Food Network superstar Guy Fieri (spiky bleached blond locks and all) featured them in an episode of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives."
Obviously, the jig is up.
Grover's (once the site of Grover Cleveland's hunting lodge) is small. "Standing Room Only" was the case on a recent Friday night. Find the chalkboard, add your name, stand and wait.
The highly efficient staff keeps things rolling, but alas they cannot help the "hangers on" tying up tables. So we waited -- and waited -- for an hour. But the atmosphere was cheerful, drinks accessible, so it was no big deal.
The burgers, on the other hand, are a big deal.
Glance in the teeny kitchen to see the giant beef cakes sizzling away on a griddle that conserves the juices and -- gasp -- lovely fatty flavors. Nonbeef items (chicken, turkey, tuna, etc.) and even fish fry-ish stuff on Fridays appear on the menu, but when in Rome, why would you eat Chinese?
We were at Grover's for the beef.
Burger prices range from plain ($7.59) to ($9.95) with Swiss, cheddar, blue cheese and bacon combinations. The Cattleman (bacon, cheddar and barbecue sauce) clocks in at $8.95. Grover's Best Hang-Over ($13), a prime steak sandwich, and double jumbo wings ($13.95) are the highest-priced menu selections. Salads run $3.95 to $9.95. Most intriguing was the Grover's Garbage Salad ($9.95), mixed greens tossed with pickles, tomatoes, onions, cheese and fries.
But what better prelude to a burger than a cup of Cheeseburger Soup ($3.25)? Whenever cheese enters the soup arena, we fret. The "gloppy" quotient multiplies. Grover's, however, deftly avoids the disaster. Delicate chunks of burger in a creamy, tangy (but not salty) soup were as Fieri proclaimed "a liquid cheeseburger."
Equally delectable was Friday's New England Chowder ($3.95 a cup) -- a good amount of clams in a flavorful, silky cream.
The wagon wheels of meat ("manhole covers" a la Fieri) that showed up next, were almost overwhelming (but in a good way). Two folks with hearty appetites could easily split one.
"Groverburgers" are 12 ounces of fresh, 90 percent certified Angus beef. No frozen patties here. Lacking a handy Acme school ruler, we gauged them to be roughly one inch thick, five inches in diameter.
Vertically, the high-rise created by the hearty bun (Grover's has gluten-free buns available, too) and toppings (lovely green leaf lettuce, red tomato and white onions) required the jaws of an anaconda to consume.
My choice -- the Bruiser ($9.25) -- was described as a "black and bleu burger" with grilled onions.
The burger was perfectly cooked medium rare as ordered, with lots of sweet grilled onions and melted blue cheese to sink my teeth into. Alas my bun was cold, as if plucked from a nearby open kitchen window. Yet the delectable, juicy beef made up for it. There was a hint of spicy heat, too. Was this the black? Picked up from the grill? I don't know, but it was delicious. No condiments needed.
The significant other's "Burger of the Week" ($9.95) was Buffalo-style with hot sauce, diced celery (a nice touch) and blue cheese giving it plenty of heat and crunch. After attempting to flatten it down, he gave up, cut and attacked the juicy medium beef burger from all angles.
Friend No. 1 opted for a classic Bacon Cheeseburger ($8.50) that was heavy on American cheese, bacon, and again cooked perfectly medium-well, as requested. A little ketchup and he was good to go.
Friend No. 1's new date ordered a very ladylike Groverburger Salad ($8.95). Thumbs up on the fresh field greens, tomato and onion topped with a naked burger. Thumbs down on the use of packaged Ken's dressings. A few homemade options would be nicer, but perhaps the constant throng of customers just makes the packages easier.
We split a basket of fries ($3.59) and onion rings ($4.25) -- more than enough. The fries were hot, yet rather ordinary. The rings were very good, verging on addicting. Had we not been so "beefed up" we might have finished them.
GROVER'S BAR & GRILL
3.5 pennies (out of four)
"Here's the beef."
WHERE: 9160 Transit Road, East Amherst (636-1803)
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No.