I’ll give the owners of Green Valley Drugs (GVD) credit; it’s a bastion of dad-in-twenty-year-old-shorts-and-a-t-shirt-he-got-in-college-unconventionalism. It’s the place’s charm that is the best part of this experience. It’s a lunch counter that’s also homey and folksy. The proprietors might not even care that within a stone’s throw you can hit an Outback Steakhouse, Subway and a newly renovated Publix.
Green Valley is one of those places that typically is mentioned when the best burger in Birmingham (Urban Spoon) is brought up. And clearly, this is a place that has its advocates. If you want, you can saunter up and eat at the counter, or try your luck at getting a table (they have a handful). And if you start making plans, it’s open for lunch six days a week.
Maybe 40 years ago, the idea of having a meal at a drug store counter wouldn’t be quite so novel, but in 2011, there are only a handful of these type of establishments.The walls are decorated with old pistols and rifles, designed at one point to be hip, but which now gives it a “we-don’t-care-about-granite-countertops-or-know-who-Lady-Gaga-is” look. An old ice cream freezer is used as a rest for water and tea pitchers. And imagine, it’s probably one of the few places you can eat a fatty burger and chase it with a Lipitor, all purchased in the same place.
As for the burger, it’s one of the better ones. It’s cooked pretty much as you watch. I had bacon on mine when I visited (a whim) and it was crispy and perfect. On a return visit to get a few photos for the review, I was told the meat comes in daily (about 30 lbs); they buy it from Western Supermarket. It’s fresh, but I have to say, was a bit bland – and I almost accused them of pre-making the patty, because I believe I saw it come out of a plastic bag of patties. But hereto goes the benefit of the doubt …
Fries were frozen and pre-made, but treated with tasty love and not too salty care, and were hot.
Bonus points come into play here. GVD has ice cream, which they are more than willing to shake for you, cone for you or deliver in whatever manner you like. I had a chocolate cone, which was piled to overflowing. Ice cream isn’t a burger joint requirement, but it doesn’t hurt.
I’d go back, but it’s not without its shortcomings. On a day when I want a burger, allergy medication and ice cream, it will be a tempting option.
Points are 1-10 (ten being the best)
Meat – 8 … Fresh but a bit uninspiring, but I’ve tasted a LOT worse.
Bun and fixins’ – 6 … Nothing to see here. Move along.
Sides – 7.5 … Hot and crispy, not too salty.
Presentation and service – 7 … Nice waitress who made suggestions for the kiddos in attendance. The baskets and styrofoam cups seemed appropriate.
Ambiance – 9 … It’s a throwback that’s not attempting to be a throwback. You might not call a lunch counter a burger joint, but it’s gotta get some credit for being iconic in its own way. No shock that nearly everyone there was eating a burger.
Bonus X – +1 Like they say, there’s always room for ice cream.