Charlie's "build your own" burger (Emma Slonina / MJ)
Charlie's "build your own" burger (Emma Slonina / MJ)

BY EMMA SLONINA, Staff Columnist

I somehow wandered onto Groupon earlier last week and found a $16 Groupon to Basement Burger Bar for $8. I like basements, burgers, and bars, so this seemed like a perfect fit. Also, I couldn’t pass up the deal. I don’t know why I haven’t been using Groupon for all of my columns, but I should have been.

Not wasting any time, I got Charlie on board and we headed up to Farmington this past weekend. The Basement Burger Bar is ridiculously easy to get to, and there’s parking behind the restaurant. It is, in fact, in the basement of a photography studio – but, fortunately or unfortunately, this isn’t as seedy as it sounds.

Imagine your friend’s finished basement “man cave” and you’re on the right track. Typical sports bar feel to it, just underground. It could definitely have more character, but it’s a great hangout place where you really don’t have to put in any effort.

Being the diligent reviewer I am, I ordered way too much food. Frickles (fried pickles!), the “beef sampler” – three mini burgers; one beef, one bison, one Kobe beef – and loaded chili cheese fries. Charlie made his own burger.

Frickles with ranch (Emma Slonina / MJ)

The fried pickles were (thank goodness) fried pickle spears. Never bother with fried pickles if they’re just the tiny sliced disks. Too much breading, not enough pickle. These were huge spears, scalding hot and crunchy. They came with a thick ranch dipping sauce – not as good or interesting as the dipping sauce at Traffic Jam and Snug, but still delicious.

They were filling, though. So filling that it was nearly impossible to eat anything else afterwards. Our burgers and fries arrived at the table, enough for a few more people at least. We reluctantly tucked in.

"Beef Sampler" sliders - beef, bison, and Kobe beef mini burgers (Emma Slonina / MJ)

Neither of us were blown away, at least not by our own meals. My sliders were, as I had expected, overdone and indistinguishable from one another. Which is disconcerting when you’re supposed to be comparing run-of-the-mill Black Angus with Kobe beef. All three were dry, crunchy, and flavorless.

I would have lost hope had I not tried Charlie’s burger. Just plain Black Angus cooked medium rare, but it tasted like heaven. I got a bit of the edge, but it was still more juicy and flavorful than my burgers. If this is what their regular burger tastes like, then their bison and Kobe burgers must be off the charts.

Loaded chili cheese fries (Emma Slonina / MJ)

The fries were ridiculous. Beer-battered French fries, topped with chili and cheese, bacon, onions, and sour cream. One order is enough for four people, easily. I should have gone for the chili cheese tater tots (how often do you find tater tots at a restaurant?) but I really liked how crispy and tender the fries were, so maybe tater tots next time. You won’t go hungry here and it’s definitely affordable, just don’t go overboard.

I was happy to see a couple vegetarian options – portabella cap “burgers” and black bean burgers, as well as some “lighter” options – turkey and chicken burgers. Their “make your own” option lets you play around, writing with whiteboard markers on their laminated menus. They have a ton of toppings and options, so you’re sure to get what you want.

We obviously didn’t have room for dessert, but they serve cupcakes from Nom Nom’s Cupcake Factory in Westland. I’m surprised they didn’t serve cupcakes from Sunflour Bakehaus just down the street from them instead, but Westland is still rather local so I can handle that. I may have to go try the cupcakes on my own sometime.

Open every day for lunch and dinner. Contact (248)-957-8179 or visit their Facebook page for menu and more information.