Drive down East Patrick Street toward the Frederick Fairgrounds and you could easily miss one of the most highly rated burger places in the county.
Beef ‘n Buns ‘n Paradise is a white two-story house, with the only burger selling indication being the ice cream cone shaped sign a few yards before the pull-in entrance.
If you pull in though you’re greeted with umbrella covered picnic tables and a literal burger shack – something that one might find on the beach, with a bright-yellow painted interior boasting a large menu and signs with slogans like “Just another day in paradise” and “If you’re smoking in this house you’d better be on fire.”
There’s even a surfboard in the corner making you feel as if you just stepped into a Jimmy Buffett song, which is ironic since the carry-out burger jointed originally opened with the name “Cheeseburger ‘n Paradise” and was then subsequently sued by Mr. Buffett himself.
There is no seating inside, just a window through which to place your order. And the menu boasts fresh burgers made from 100 percent local beef from the Mount Airy Meat Locker, along with a variety of items such as hot dogs, subs, wings and ice cream.
The freshness of the meat is real and can be tasted with every bite. Not overly salted and real ground beef with so much texture you’ll question how you ever ate frozen patties.
The burgers are customizable, or you can order one of the specialties like the “Cape May Burger” which consists of one of those nice fresh patties, a crab cake, slices of ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion and tartar sauce.
Beef n Buns’ Yelp page is full of pictures of this burger and it is clearly the most popular. But I was very skeptical. A crab cake on a burger? Plus ham? And provolone? No way this can be good.
My thoughts immediately went to other food combination abominations like KFC’s “Double Down” sandwich which is bacon, cheese and sauce sandwiched between two fried chicken filets.
Sandwiches like that are why we can’t have nice things.
But when I unwrapped Beef ‘n Buns’ Cape May Burger my nostrils filled with that salty, fresh off the grill, crab cake smell – with lots of Old Bay of course – and my mouth began to water.
After two bites I was converted. It was surprisingly incredible. Every flavor worked together perfectly, the brine of the crab cake combining with the juicy umami of the burger and then the slight sweetness of the provolone plus the creaminess of the tartar sauce.
Not an abomination at all.
If you’re a tried and true Marylander and would die for Old Bay and crab cakes this, my friend, is the burger for you.
However, if you travel to this little pocket of paradise in East Frederick and aren’t feeling a burger or don’t eat red meat, I have no doubt that you can find something else among the immense length of their menu.
The chili dog is a nice little meal. A big, thick, juicy hot dog — like the kind you only see in the commercials — fills out a bun and is topped with just the right amount of chili where half of it isn’t falling off every time you take a bite.
I’ll admit that I was surprised when I took a bite and found the chili to be fairly sweet instead of savory. I’m used to oily, savory chili dogs like the kind you get from Nathan’s Famous, and it’s more my preference, but if you like sweet chili then this will work for you.
If you’re feeling red meat but don’t want a burger per se, go for the steak and cheese. A very large hoagie filled to the brim with sliced steak sizzled to perfection. You can top it with whatever you like but I chose provolone, onions and green peppers – just as I used to order in Philadelphia during my undergrad years.
It’s not as good as a Philly cheesesteak and I’m very staunch in calling it a cheesesteak versus a “steak and cheese” but it’s still a good option and delivers the right flavors.
And if you’re not feeling any of those go for the ice cream! Vanilla, chocolate, black raspberry, peanut butter, Beef ‘n Buns has got it all.
So the next time you’re driving down East Patrick Street pay a little more attention, and if you have the time, pull in, grab a bite and settle into paradise for a while.
Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.