Miss Ann has been holding court over her little ramshackle greasy spoon shack on her own for
decades. The area has seen some good times and some bad, but is now going thru a small resurgence, but is still, by all accounts, in the ghetto. Ann’s Snack Bar is south of downtown ATL on Memorial Drive, a little south and east of the MLK memorial. It is an area of detail shops, used car lots, and bargain clothing stores in dirty storefronts, with a few isolated signs of a coming gentrification. No hablo espaÃ±ol: “yo hablo hip-hop, playa”. Yeah, it’s like that.
But don”t worry,she runs a tight ship, and everyone is welcome,and safe,at Ann’s. Its not easy to find, but the diligent will be amply rewarded.
As you pull into one of the six parking slots in front of the small frame building, you can sense what you might encounter. Just inside the door, you can see a very small, narrow lengthwise space, with Ann’s RULES painted on a homemade sign prominently posted on the wall above the 8-stool counter. They state clearly that you are NOT to,
- Lay or lean on counter
- Consume alcohol or smoke in snack bar
- Sit or stand babies on counter
- Illegally park in lot
- Allow children to slide on rails
- Stand at counter if seats are available
- Curse in Snack Bar
- No shoes – no shirt – no service
And she means it. Once there, you must wait quietly in the patio until a stool opens up, and then sit down (for order-in OR take out). You do not mill around inside, and all conversations must be at a civil tone. No cell phones. She is Atlanta’s own version of the soup Nazi,only with burgers and dogs.
Ann Price has been cooking sandwiches for 43 years — 34 of them at her own place I’m told. She only allows a certain number of people inside at a time (8 at stools and two or three more standing), because the fire marshal once warned her that only a certain number of people” can be “in the house” at one time. Everybody else has to stand outside on the screened porch (and yes, and it is cold this time of year) until someone leaves. Its on the honor system, although Ann will make it very clear to you if you need to go back outside. Since she rarely has help with the cooking and serving, you must be ready to tell her your complete order when you place it (if you want fries, you had better order them with your burger or hot dog, and not later. Otherwise you won”t get them,even if you ask). There is no cross-counter chatter with Ann, so your order may be the only time she speaks directly to you.
Ms. Ann’s specialty is her “World Famous Ghetto Burger,” although some of Ann’s aficionados have maintained that her best sandwich is her hot dog. She hand-forms each burger with her too-big-for-her-body “man-hands”. At $6.95, her Ghetto Burger is worth every cent:
- 2 giant patties of 70/30 ground beef cooked on a flat grill (at least ½ lb each uncooked)
- a mound of grilled onions
- a ladle of chili w/meat
- 4 slices of country bacon (grilled first, then deep fried with the potatoes)
- 2 Kraft cheese slices (warmed on the grill for 15 seconds first, to soften and to pick up some more of that glorious grease)
- Lettuce and sliced tomato
- Mayo, mustard, ketchup, and lots of her special seasoned salt (see below)
- Served on a large sesame bun, crisp from a few moments on the greasy flat grill
- Order the combo for a buck more, and get a full size clam shell mounded high with crinkle cut fries, seasoned with Ann’s secret salt (I suspect paprika, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, and god knows what else, but it ROCKS!).
There are also deep fried hot dogs, split on a bun with chili, cheese, and slaw, and served on a huge hamburger roll for $2.40; along with various combinations around the burger and dog theme (with or without slaw, chili/cheese/slaw Hood Burgers, etc).
Paper plates, flimsy undersized plastic forks and knives, see-thru 99-cent store napkins, powdered Country Time lemonade, ketchup in a squeeze bottle that has been on the counter since the Nixon administration,it is just something you have to experience it to really understand.
So, how was it? It was awesome, incredible, unbelievable, The burger was so big, it could feed a family of four,or in my case: a meal, a snack, a snack. The place was,well, performance art.
As with all good things, Ann has announced her retirement and the conjectured closing of her café this spring. To date, no one has offered to continue her legend. (And honestly, who could?) Its too bad that she doesn’t have a rule against that!