Budget Beat: Lenny's Burger Shop

By Jay Bennett

The Budget Beat household loves a good hamburger (or hamburg, as they annoyingly call them in West Michigan, where I spent my teen years during a long-lost time known as the 1980s), so when a faithful reader suggests we check out a particular burger joint, we're there. Recently, I was steered toward Lenny's Burger Shop, a three-store local chain with locations at Central and Thomas in Phoenix, on West Glendale in Phoenix, and North 59th Avenue in Glendale.

The missus and I visited the Phoenix restaurant, which sits in a sleepy strip mall on the corner of Central and Thomas. Numerous signs on the building declare the merchants' being open for business during light-rail construction on Central Avenue. None of the stores in the strip mall appeared too busy around dinnertime on the night we visited. Let's hope they can tough out the construction for another few months.

It'd be a shame to see a place like Lenny's go belly up just because of construction. Though the place doesn't exactly make life-changing hamburgers, the food is well above average, the prices are dirt cheap, and the restaurant is clean. You'd never know it from the outside, but Lenny's sports that popular 1950s diner motif, with red and white tiles and tons of polished chrome, counter seating, and a bunch of two-seater booths. The place is lined with tinsel, too, and with some fans blowing, the room was vibrant.

Like I said, the hamburgers are good but not outstanding, mostly because they're cooked on a griddle, not on a grill over a flame. But the hamburger patties were juicy, flavorful, and served hot; the buns were fresh; and the toppings were plentiful.

The missus ordered the standard #1 burger with pepper jack cheese. It came with lettuce, mustard, tomato, and onion. No complaints there.

I ordered the Mexican burger, a darn nice sandwich topped with green chiles, grilled red onions, Monterey and pepper jack cheese, and mayo. I really didn't taste the mayo, which was fine with me because the burger didn't need it. Of course, the grilled onions and grilled green chiles made the burger something special, and I was not disappointed.

Mexican burger: Green chiles and grilled onions did not disappoint. (Photo by Laura Hahnefeld)

The onion rings fit the bill but did not go above and beyond, as they do at, say, Ricky's Big Philly or Chicago Hamburger Company. The exact same thing could be said of the banana shake that we split. Not bad, and there were a couple of chunks of 'nanner in there but it paled in comparison to the banana shake at Chicago Hamburger Company, who makes one of the truly best in the world (outside of my mom's kitchen, that is).

For the many folks who live along the Central Avenue corridor in Phoenix, Lenny's is probably a mainstay, and with good reason. I recommend it and would visit more frequently if I lived around there. Our meal cost $11, which is downright near unbeatable. Here's hoping Lenny's perseveres through light-rail construction hell.

Lenny's Burger Shop 2825 North Central Avenue 602-263-8700

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