Anyone who grew up in the Dearborn area, or on the west side for that matter, probably knows about Miller's Bar. A Michigan Avenue mainstay for more than 50 years, Miller's has been grilling up what many claim to be the Detroit area's finest ground round. Having been born and raised in Dearborn, I can't remember the many times that I have been there - but I, like many other Miller's patrons, can never forget the first time I sank my teeth into one of those delicious, juicy burgers. (Pictured left: the grill knows no rest at Miller's Bar)
I was a junior at Dearborn High School, only about a mile away from Millers. The school had an "open campus" policy at the time, which meant you could leave the school grounds anytime without the need to explain anything. Those were the days! A group of us often went somewhere for lunch - the corner store, a pizza place or fast food restaurant, or we just cruised around in the car for the lunch period. Someone had the idea to go to Miller's Bar. (Pictured left: Some will argue about what's better - the fries or the onion rings. My advice is to stop fighting and get an order of each!)
Now I had heard about this place, but had never been there. It was a bar after all, and you had to be 18 just to go inside. This was before the days when parents took kids with them everywhere - bars, casinos, you name it. Miller's was not a place for children. Some in the group were 18, some, like me, were not, but could pass. So off we went.
Walking in I was filled with anxiety and excitement. Would someone ask for my I.D.? Would I actually be able to experience this hamburger that people keep talking about? An all-business, cut-to-the-chase and order already type waitress (I think she still works there!) came to the table, gave us a once-over kind of look, and said, "What are you guys havin'?"
"Cheeseburger, please." She says, "How do you want it cooked?" Now it's time to panic a little. They don't ask you this at McDonald's. "Medium, I guess, and a Coke." She turned to the next one and went around the table. You know that feeling when you really think you got away with something? That's how I felt at that moment and I don't know if I've felt that way again since. (Pictured left: Nancy holds her first Miller's cheeseburger - bet it won't be her last!)
From that first bite, I knew why they didn't let kids inside this place. This was a cheeseburger for grown ups. The burger was a perfect thickness, thick enough that when you order it "medium" it's still a little pink in the center. Thick enough that when you pick it up, you know you have something substantial in your hand. There's no lettuce, no tomato, no nothing. The burgers either come with cheese (I think it's Velveeta) or plain. There's nothing on the meat but a little salt and pepper. On the table, help yourself to hamburger dill chip pickles, a slice of raw white onion, ketchup and mustard. The buns are beautifully soft and steamed, no seeds, not toasted, but a perfect holder for that wonderful burger and anything you decide to add. (Pictured left: Me holding up the burger I had today, cooked the way I like it and bursting with beefy burger goodness.)
The burgers are served on a sheet of waxed paper. No silverware. The delicious french fries and onion rings come in a small paper basket. I actually don't think the burger would taste the same if it were served on a plate. It's all part of the Miller's experience. You can get a pop or a shell of beer to go with the meal and it can't be beat. You'll never get a check from your waitress, either. When you're done, go up to the bar and tell the man what you had and pay. It couldn't be less complicated. (Pictured left: One of our burgers resting on it's wax paper just waiting to be eaten!)
So, indulging this Miller's habit of mine that started all those years ago, me and my office mates Nancy, who had never been to Miller's, and the other Kevin Gerard in the office (can you believe there are two of us?!), went this afternoon. I love taking people there who have never been before. The joy that these burgers bring to the uninitiated taste buds is always something to witness! Today was a little "get-away" lunch much like the one I had all those many years ago - only this time I had no worries about anyone asking for my I.D. Sometimes, it's good to be grown up!