- Grav Weldon
- MADE FROM SCRATCH: CJ's burgers aren't smashed until you arrive and order
How could I go naming all these great burger joints and leave out CJ’s Butcher Boy Burgers
? To be honest with you, I’ve been putting it off a while. I figured I’d save it for later.
Or something like that. You’ve no doubt read what I had to say about the place on Serious Eats last year. I still feel the same way… though I absolutely love and adore Feltner’s Whatta-Burger, I have to hand it to CJ’s for turning out an excellent, decent burger, the best you can get in the city of Russellville. You can’t get any better than fresh.
And you can't get any fresher than CJ's.
Fresh is exactly what you get when you walk through the door at CJ’s. It’s clean, full of red and white décor with a free jukebox in the corner. The burger is in the cooler up front, right where you can see it — balls of freshly ground chuck laying next to chuck steaks that are about to be turned into ground chuck. There are slices of cheese, fresh tomatoes and lettuce and onions.
When you place your order at the counter, as you order fries the potatoes are picked up, put up in the top portion of
a slicer and pressed down, instantly turning into 3/8 inch straws of raw potato. They’re delivered to a fryer basket, dunked to cook, pulled out and checked and dunked again before being liberally sprinkled with the house spice
(which flavors somewhere between Cavender’s and Cotham’s house seasoning). The fries are never bright yellow. They’re a golden brown, sometimes a little darker than might look appetizing but always hot and fresh.
That burger when you order it hits the hot griddle and gets smashed down flat, seasoned a little and allowed to cook in its own juices. Maybe you go for some grilled
onions or mushrooms with it, and those get cooked there too.
The bun’s toasted and set out waiting for the meat. Cheese is applied when the meat nears doneness for that nice melty sensation. It’s all slid over onto the bun — a little squirt of condiment of your choice if you ask for it, then the grilled vegetation and the patty with or without the cheese, the lettuce and tomato and onion on top with a little condiment glue holding the top bun on. The burger’s usually sat a little sideways in the basket to accommodate the fries.
And then there are the shakes, thick hand-pulled shakes in chocolate, strawberry or vanilla (though if you ask nicely you can get a half-and-half). They’re spoon-thick and icy cold and you’ll probably finish your burger before you’re able to smoothly suck it through a straw.
CJ’s has gained some renown. It’s also right off the north side of I-40, on the west side of Highway 7. It’s a good place to stop before you make the curvy trek northwards into the Ozarks. It’s also a nice place to listen to Percy Sledge bellow out “When A Man Loves A Woman.” Take a date or the family.
If you really like the spice that goes on just about everything except the shakes, you can pick up a shaker-full to take home. Just don’t drop by on Sunday, CJ’s doesn’t open on the Sabbath. (479) 968-2300.
And if you’re wondering why the sign you see from the interstate says “CJ’s Burger Boy,” that’s because up until the mid-90s it was a Waffle House. I once spent a Christmas Eve there. But that’s a story for another time.