Even as our world faces a resource-challenged future and a battered economy, it may be seen as reassuring that any danger of Valley residents being denied access to a quality hamburger has been thoroughly averted.
Just a few years ago, the burger options—beyond Mickey Dee's and BK—were only plentiful. These days the word "deluge" comes to mind.
As far as beef on a bun goes, we live in a land of plenty. My favorite standbys include Opa-Opa's Angus and the Dirty Truth's marrow sliders—and, of course, no one really competes with the burgers at Local. (Though a burger at the Brewery with a beer has become something of a ritual.)
Could there possibly be room for another contender?
Jim's Burger Works at 116 Pleasant Street in Easthampton opened last year where the Blue Moon Grocery once was, in the Eastworks building. Last week, my family and I gave it a try for dinner.
In the interest of full disclosure, the Valley Advocate's offices were once located in the magnificent Eastworks building, and working there for two and a half years, I spent a lot of time eating lunch with my colleagues down at the Blue Moon. I'd had a lot of lively conversations there, and it's a space filled with vivid memories for me. I was anxious about how it might have been transformed.
Given the logo, the jukebox and menu, the effect Jim's Burger Works appears to be trying to achieve is that of a 1950s community burger joint. But the first impression is that of a kiosk in Grand Central Station. Tables barely fill only half of the space the market once inhabited, and a barricade of empty shelves tries to hide the empty half. It was a little disconcerting, like a kid in an oversized adult suit.
My family and I first deliberated over the shake menu, and the fancy names scared my son, who went for the tried-and-true chocolate. I ordered a "creamsicle," which was orange sherbet and vanilla mixed together.
While, of course, Jim's Burger Works features its namesake meal, it also has Sabrett hot dogs, hot and cold sandwiches, salads and breakfast options. The special for the evening was a portabella and eggplant burger that sounded good, but my wife and I predictably tried the mushroom, onion and cheese burger. Eschewing the kiddie menu, our son went for the standard "Jumbo" burger.
We'd wanted to sit by the windows, but since the jukebox was playing loudly enough so everyone in the large space could hear it, this meant the best seats were in a sort of audio ground zero. Even though we liked what it was playing, we sat as far from the music as possible. Soon after, our shakes appeared.
Big, thick, rich and wonderful! After extensive testing and discussion, we all agreed the creamsicle was the way to go and what everyone would get when we returned.
Our burgers arrived soon after. Again, they and the fries were ample, and we dug in happily. I was the only one able to finish.
The burgers at Jim's are wide, thick slabs of fresh (never frozen) pure black Angus, and they are delicious. The buns were softer than I'm used to, but substantial enough to hold together for the duration. The mushrooms and onions tasted freshly sauteed and were good and hot.
While Jim's might not have achieved the sense of nostalgia it was after in a design sense, it was fulfilling its purpose as a local hangout admirably well. While we ate, I saw a number of the old Blue Moon crowd picking up takeout to bring to their homes or offices or deliberating over which shakes they'd get.
The verdict at our table was that for a more affordable burger than the places previously mentioned serve, Jim's Burger Works offered sturdy, tasty and satisfying competition. For fast food, it's a chill environment with ample space to stretch out and eat at an unhurried pace.
We'd just suggest the jukebox get moved, and maybe to take advantage of the acreage and build on the '50s vibe, they could open the other half of the store as a roller rink.