Working-class towns have great sandwiches.
Detroit has a number of great sandwiches, and this series is covering five. There’s no #1; they’re all winners. Frankly, they’re too different to really judge side by side anyways.
For this article, we’re profiling our fourth sandwich, the Double Cheeseburger at Motz’s Hamburgers.
Why is this a winning sandwich?
Let’s start with the size.
Don’t call this a slider.
Sliders have less than two ounces of meat; often, only one or one and a half ounces. For comparison, Mickey D’s burgers have only 1.6 oz. patties (10:1 – 10 patties per pound).
The King’s have a 2 oz. patty (8:1).
And those are frozen.
Motz’s have a fresh patty of about 2.5 ozs. (6.4:1????). I say “about” because they don’t weigh them out. They simply roll them into the right size ball, and store them in the chiller.
So a double is “about” 1/3 of a pound, a good size sandwich.
It’s not a slider. It’s a burger that fits nicely in your hand – neither too big, nor too small.
The beef is a blend from Rex’s Meats. If you ask about the percentage of lean to fat, Tony Milo, the owner, will just look at you and smile. “Trade secret,” he says.
That’s about the only secret here, as everything else is done right in front of you.
The packages of buns are on the left, labelled “Brown’s”.
The American cheese comes in 5-lb. blocks, and the slices are cut in half.
The onions come from the Produce Terminal across the street.
White onions, not the sweet ones, as the sweet ones burn instead of caramelizing.
There’s a lot of onions on a Motz’s burger; they’re an integral part of the sandwich.
Once the balls of beef are tossed on the grill, they’re COVERED in slivered onions. The balls of beef are then smashed into patties, and the onions become part of the patty.
Once they’re flipped, more onions are added, smashed into the patty. A bit of salt and pepper goes on.
Finally, buns are placed atop the beef/onion patties, and they’re covered by a clean towel, allowing the buns to steam as the burgers finish cooking.
The burgers are dressed with a couple pickle chips, and squeezes of mustard and ketchup. Cheeseburgers get a half-slice of American; double cheeseburgers get a half-slice on each patty.
The resulting double cheeseburger is a phenomenal sandwich.
The softly-steamed bun is still warm from the grill. It’s a plain, neutral-tasting, mass-produced white bread bun. No artisanal yeast raised from microbial single cells in safe spaces by bearded plaid-wearing craftsmen who majored in heirloom yeast cultures.
No. It’s a Brown’s hamburger bun, the same kind you can buy at your local store. That’s OK–it’s not here to star in the show. It’s just the vehicle to hold everything else together.
The patties are cooked through, but still juicy, and the onions have slightly caramelized, taking any harsh edge off. The American cheese has melted into the patties; the glue that holds the whole thing together. The mustard and ketchup are complements to the beefy, cheesy, sweet, salty goodness, and the occasional tang of a dill pickle chip the final grace note.
Most importantly, the burgers, even doubles, aren’t greasy.
I think this goes back to the “trade secret” blend. If these were the usual 80/20, they’d be greaseballs. I’m guessing this is a pretty lean mix, and the moisture from the onions keeps the burgers from drying out.
But what do I know?
Let’s ask the expert.
Tammy Brock-Whitten is usually cooking the burgers, as she’s been doing for the past 28 years. She insisted that I tell you she cooks every single one with love, and I have no reason to doubt her.
If you’re curious, Motz’s sells 600 burgers on a slow day.
I’ll save you the trouble of getting out your calculator–over 28 years, that’s 4.2 MILLION burgers.
Can you imagine? How many people can say they’ve made 4.2 million of anything? I’m pretty sure she may be the most experienced burger chef in Detroit. Heck, probably in Michigan!
Even the daily 600 number is amazing, given the size of the restaurant. To get to those numbers, there’s a lot of “To Go” orders.
There’s only a few seats in Motz’s, either at the counter facing the grill, or on the windows, looking across Fort Street to the Produce Terminal.
Tony’s dad, Bob, bought Motz’s in ’96, after Mr. Motz passed away.
Motz’s opened in 1929, meaning they’ve been serving up great burgers for almost 90 years.
And for almost 70 years, the menu was –
- Better Made Potato Chips
For a while, when GM’s Fleetwood and Ternstedt Divisions were open down the street, Motz’s was open 24 hours.
Shift work ensured round the clock customers, as did the Produce Terminal and Southwestern.
Only the Produce Terminal is still here, and Motz’s hours are a more modest 6 hours a day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 5 days per week.
When the Milo family purchased the restaurant, they expanded the menu a bit, adding fryers for fries, onion rings (’cause there aren’t enough onions ON the burgers), and various other deep-fried sundries.
They even expanded the burger offerings to include a turkey burger, a salmon burger, a veggie burger (LOL), and breakfast. You can get a fish sandwich some days, and hot dogs every day.
They finish the hot dogs off with a swim through the deep fryers, so they have a wonderful crunchy crust.
There are some bigger burgers, too.
The King Motz, for example, is 3 balls of beef squished into one bigger patty, about a half-pounder.
It comes with mayo, lettuce, tomato, cheese, ketchup, and mustard.
It even has a different, bigger bun–but still no artisanal yeast.
Of all the burgers, the double cheeseburger is the best-seller, and for good reason.
It’s the perfect ratio of bun, beef, cheese, and onion.
And it’s health food!
You doubt me?
I’ll prove it to you.
Go to Motz’s Hamburgers.
Order a Double Cheeseburger. DO NOT attempt to make any substitutions or deletions.
Once it’s served to you, let it cool off for a minute – they’re pretty hot when they first come off the grill.
Now take a bite.
I’ll wait . . .
Those sounds you’re making? That’s satisfaction.
That smile on your face? That’s happiness, regardless of how your day has been till this moment.
And happiness and satisfaction are healthy, for mind, body, and spirit.
It’s what turns customers into devotees, like this gentleman, who, once he found out why I was taking pictures, couldn’t wait to show me his shirt, worn under his work clothes.
It’s what makes this Double Cheeseburger one of Detroit’s Best Sandwiches.
Motz’s Hamburgers is located at 7208 W. Fort Street in Detroit, across the street from the Produce Terminal They’re open M-F, 10-4. You can find them on the Web at http://www.motzsburgers.com/welcome.html