Bub’s Burgers and Ice Cream in Carmel has been getting quite a bit of publicity lately – primarily because it was featured on that show where the overweight guy eats lots and lots of unhealthy food. So, when a friend of mine who lives in Carmel invited me out for lunch last week, I suggested that we give the place a try. She had never eaten there either, so she was game.
From the outside, Bub’s looks less like a restaurant and more like a quaint, little house. As you walk around the side to the main entrance, however, you realize that the house has ruptured out its backside so it can stretch across a city block. As we stepped inside, I was surprised to find that the interior looked pretty much like a typical, grungy burger joint, similar to ones you can find in any college town (such Marvin’s in Greencastle or Nick’s English Hut in Bloomington), complete with tacked-up pictures on the walls and servers in t-shirts and baseball caps. The friendly hostess greeted us and then showed us to our table.
Our table was situated in a hallway directly across from the bathroom doors, next to an ATM, and under a TV blaring ESPN. At least our proximity to the bathroom was convenient in case one of us had an emergency! Looking around the hallway, I couldn’t help but notice the numerous framed pictures of little leaguers staring down at us as well as some discarded goldfish crackers decorating the carpeting in the corner. As soon as we sat down, our server (who was very nice, by the way) brought us a taste of their soup of the day in little plastic cups. The idea of a soup shot was kind of off-putting, I thought, especially since the taste of white-bean chicken chili was getting cold and clumpy by the time it reached me. Each table also gets its own roll of paper towels, which , y’know, is classy. Yeah, so far, I wasn’t feeling this joint.
But it’s all about the food, baby! The food!! I’m using extra exclamation points because I have to make the menu seem exciting somehow. Basically, the menu consists of food that you can get at a Dairy Queen or one of its generic knock-offs. That is, they serve burgers, hot dogs, fries, waffle fries, corn dogs, milk shakes, chili, etc. The only unique thing that I saw on the menu was the elk burger. I asked our waitress what kind of beer they had on tap and was surprised that they have none. Only bottles. For a place trying its hardest to look like a college hang-out, I was surprised to hear that. I ordered an iced tea, instead.
My friend and I asked the waitress what people liked. Since we weren’t crazy hungry, she advised us to order “settle for less than ugly” 1/4-pound ground Chuck burgers with everything on them and some “sloppy waffles” with chili on top. We agreed to her recommendations, but decided to split one order of sloppy waffles instead of getting two. I ordered my burger medium, and it came out just right with quite a bit of pink in the middle. It tasted good, although no better than burgers at many other burger joints. My friend ordered her burger medium-well, and it came out more on the well side and was chewy. She was less pleased with her burger than I was. So, that’s one “pretty good” for the burgers and one “not so good.” As for the fries, we were both firmly in the “don’t like these” category. They were soggy and mushy, coated in a fluorescent orange cheese sauce that seemed to come straight from a can (or the ballpark). Thank goodness we only asked for one order because we only ate about half of them between the two of us.
So, bottom-line, this place is fine if you just want some typical burger-joint vittles and maybe some ice cream for the kiddies. I can understand how folks walking on the Monon Trail might enjoy stopping in for an ice cream cone in the summer, but I certainly can’t see going out of your way to eat here. I guess they do have a gigantic novelty burger you can order, though, so they’ve got that going for ’em!