The Indy Burger Guy visited The Mug on Sunday, August 21, 2016.
Around the time I was compiling my restaurant list of the best burger joints in Central Indiana, my wife asked an interesting question.
“Hey,” she said, “have you ever heard of The Mug?”
“In Greenfield? Sure,” I responded, preparing to utter a phrase that, I’ve discovered, would become my watchword in the days and weeks to follow as more and more people began to recommend different restaurants to try, “It’s on my list.”
Apparently, one of my wife’s coworkers had recommended she try The Mug for their pork tenderloin sandwich. I had read about them in NUVO’s Burger Issue a week or so earlier. They were even voted Best Burger by the Indy A-List back in May! It was settled – we were going to try The Mug!
The next several weeks bore no fruit as attempts to fit the forty-five minute drive out to Greenfield into our schedules proved a difficult endeavor. Tonight, though, the stars aligned and we had our window. Onward to Greenfield!
In terms of the restaurant itself, The Mug (formerly The Frosty Mug) is a pretty non-traditional drive-in. Rather than having a large carport like a more traditional drive-in, The Mug’s parking looks more like a regular restaurant parking lot with one key difference – speakers and menus set up next to each space. There’s also a great degree of flexibility allowed here. Should you decide not to eat in your car, there is a wonderful outdoor dining area lined with shaded wooden picnic tables offering a lovely view of downtown Greenfield. There are even a few seats indoors at a small bar, just in case al fresco dining isn’t your speed.
What truly separates The Mug from any other drive-in I’ve ever visited is their general concept. The Mug bills themselves as a “farm-to-curb” restaurant, which is a new one on me. Certainly, I’ve heard to the “farm-to-table” movement – a modifier given to a restaurant or organization pledged to bring farm fresh ingredients directly to dining patrons as a means of creating a sustainable and direct line from growth to plate. The Mug takes this concept and applies it directly to the American drive-in, to brilliant effect. All the meat – chicken, beef, and pork – is sourced directly from Tyner Pond Farm in Greenfield, providing food from Greenfield directly to Greenfield. Even their produce is locally sourced from other nearby farms. All of this makes for one of the freshest dining experiences I’ve had in quite a while!
For the burger, I opted for The Original – a classic, unassuming burger topped with fresh lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle, and a dollop of their housemade “Mug Sauce,” all served on a white bun. The beef on this burger is beautifully seasoned, a quarter-pound smashed beef patty, complete with the crispy edges one expects from this style of burger. The American cheese is perfectly melted and the toppings are fresh and tasty. The Mug Sauce even offers the right amount of saucy tang without overwhelming the wonderful beef flavor.
The white bread bun did little to enhance the burger, but did provide a blank canvas that allowed the other ingredients to truly shine. It is pillowy in texture and smooshed down when you wrapped your hands around the burger, which is exactly the kind of bun you want with a smashed patty burger. I was initially worried about the integrity of the bottom bun as the toppings had been placed on the underside of the beef patty which made the bun feel moist. Fortunately, it did manage to hold up through the last bite – an impressive feat for a bun of this type.
The major ‘failing’ in this burger is that it’s so… simple in its appearance. It’s not as pretty as some other burgers, which unfortunately does affect its scoring here. However, The Mug does produce one the tastiest, best executed burgers I’ve yet tasted. My biggest regret is that I didn’t opt for The Double which would’ve provided even more of that great beefy taste!
As a side, my wife and I split an order of the Fresh-Cut Fries, which are hand-cut daily and fried in lard from Tyner Pond Farms. These proved to be some of the tastiest fries we’ve yet tried. My wife also truly enjoyed her pork tenderloin sandwich and the chocolate milkshake that accompanied it. All in all, we genuinely enjoyed our experience and cannot wait to head back again! If you don’t happen to live in or around the Greenfield area, stop by The Mug – you’ll be very glad you did!
FINAL RANKING: 8.7/10
117 Apple St.
Greenfield, IN 46140
Cost Range: $–$$ ($6 and under; $7-$12)*
*The Mug’s pricing ranges from their simplest burger – the cheekily-named Two-And-Change Burger – at $2.75 to their most complex, the Mug-A-Nator, at $9.50. This places their menu squarely within two price ranges, hence this classification.