SALEM – For Tom Holland, there’s nothing more nostalgic than a burger with a shake.
“When I was a kid we used to go to Brigham’s and we’d sit at the counter and I’d have a burger and a milkshake and that was a huge thing for me as a child. It just kind of brings me back to 7-year-old Tom.”
So he’s taken all of his favorite foods from when he was a kid and put them under one roof at A&B Salem.
Located in the old Salem jail, this casual counter service spot features burgers that are anything but ordinary. Each one starts on a flat top, where they’re grilled the way you want them and served on a classic Martin’s potato roll.
“The potato roll has a great consistency,” Tom explains. “It absorbs the juices of the burger but it doesn’t fall apart.”
Each burger patty is hand packed with the best ground meat Tom could find.
“The quality of beef is incredible,” he said. “It’s grass and grain fed so there’s good marbling and great flavor. When we tried it, it stopped right there; we didn’t even look anymore; the beef was so incredible.”
While all of the burgers taste great on their own, they’re made even better piled up with tasty toppings like pineapple and applewood smoked bacon.
The Mr. Butler is an over-the-top burger stuffed with bacon and cheddar cheese, cooked on the flat top, coated in batter and then deep fried. If that wasn’t enough goodness to keep you going, it’s topped with a fried egg, creating a towering stack of deliciousness.
Tom describes the experience. “When you bite into it, there’s a crunch from the deep fry from the batter. Then there’s the egg that kind of runs down and gives it a wonderful juiciness and saltiness. So there’s a lot going on with that burger.”
There’s a lot going on with most of A&B’s menu.
The DG Burger is layered with sweet corn and guacamole, while the Crabcake Burger is great for seafood lovers, loaded up with fresh lump crab meat. The Scotty Burger is a double-decker of goodness piled with bacon, smoky Gouda and uncooked apples.
“We don’t heat the apple, so when you bite into it, you get the bun, you get the great, rich meat. You get the applewood smoked bacon, the Gouda. And then finally you hit that apple and it’s refreshing.”
The Winkler is by far the most indulgent of the offerings. Made with American Wagyu beef and topped with bacon, burrata cheese and fig and onion jam, this palatable patty provides a rather upscale eating experience.
“It’s a sophisticated burger for a casual environment,” Tom says.
What’s a burger without a shake? At A&B they’ll have something you like, no matter what your age. While there are loads of flavors the kids will adore, adults are truly given a treat with shakes spiked with booze like the Mexican Mudslide. There’s even a 21-plus spin on a root beer float.
“We actually add root beer to the milk shake as well as vanilla vodka and rum. So it tastes like a root beer float.”
If you want fries with that shake, A&B has you more than covered; offering several styles of hand cut spuds. And that number keeps growing.
“We keep adding more fries. We maybe have 8 types of fries right now.”
You can snack on anything from Sweet Potato or Zucchini fries to Sea Salt & Black Pepper and Chipotle Salt and Cilantro. The Chili & Cheese fries are tasty, but nothing tops the Truffle, Parmesan and Bacon Fries.
“We spritz them with truffle oil. Then we add the bacon. We toss them in a bowl. We put them into a sauté pan. We throw them in an oven with parmesan cheese that melts over the top. Talk about head turners, those are head turners because truffle just has such a unique and wonderful flavor and aroma that when they hit the table next to you, everybody looks and wants to know exactly what that is.”
Even though this is just a burger joint, there’s nothing casual about the way Tom and his team treat their customers.
“We promise you if you come to us we will give you an amazing experience,” he promises. “No matter what level it is, hospitality is always the same. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 5-star restaurant or casual burger restaurant, it’s about the hospitality.”
Obviously, they’re serious about service, but they also want to make sure every last customer is having fun.
“We take burgers seriously, but the environment should be fun. People aren’t coming here to have a quiet romantic dinner. They’re coming here to enjoy a great burger, some good company and have fun while doing it.”
You can find A&B at 50 St. Peter Street in Salem, Mass. or online at anbburgers.com.
Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.
MORE FROM PHANTOM GOURMET