EDIT (8/25/2018): In the two years since I visited the Michigan Avenue location of Mr. Dan’s, that location became Mr. Dee’s and, shortly thereafter, closed permanently, another casualty to the competitive Indianapolis restaurant scene. There is now only one Mr. Dan’s location remaining in Indy – on Mass Ave. on Indy’s east side.
The Indy Burger Guy visited Mr. Dan’s on Michigan Ave. (now closed) on Saturday, January 28, 2016.
Mr. Dan’s Hamburgers has been a part of the Indianapolis landscape for over 60 years. At one point, Mr. Dan’s could have even been considered an Indianapolis institution, with over sixteen locations around Indianapolis. That number has dwindled over the years, down to only three locations across town.
Before I got married, I lived out on the northwest side of Indianapolis and remember passing the Mr. Dan’s location on Michigan Ave. for the first time and getting excited to try and new burger place. I did end up eating there once before, but knew I’d have to revisit once I started this blog.
The Mr. Dan’s on 59th and Michigan is nothing much to look at, in all honesty. There’s a small parking lot that can fit maybe six cars (not helped by the large, unused food truck parked there). The restaurant itself has seating for about twenty MAX, but you can tell it’s not the kind of place people actually ‘dine in’ at. The food is served almost exclusively ‘to go’ – in a styrofoam container in a plastic bag – and there are large two-liter bottles of soda and punch taking up about half of the ‘bar’ area that looks out onto Michigan Rd. I wasn’t sure when the place had last been gone over with a broom, a mop, or even a damp rag.
In terms of decor, everything seems like it’s out of the 1960s. Orange, red, and yellow are the main colors at play and they are used judiciously. Stylized pictures of food – burgers and breakfast sandwiches – adorn the walls, looking very much like the way I seem to remember Wendy’s restaurants looking as a kid, with pictures of their own food hanging all over the place.
The burgers are all named after the titular ‘Mr. Dan’ – so I ordered a single (the Big Dan) with cheese and everything that comes on it. “Everything” in this case means sad, wilted shredded iceberg lettuce, a couple slices of sad, vaguely ripe tomato, pickles, sliced white onions, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, all served on a bargain-basement sesame seed bun. All told, nothing terribly impressive.
The beef was… honestly, pretty mediocre. It was cooked to order, which I can appreciate, on a flat top grill in plain sight of the customer. That’s a nice touch. Unfortunately, though, it came out under-seasoned… or it might’ve been perfectly seasoned, but I couldn’t tell for the glut of mustard I was given. (It completely overwhelmed the entire burger. By the end, all I could taste was mustard.) I probably should’ve gone with the Double Dan, as it would’ve given me more beef and would’ve made for an ultimately more satisfying MTB ratio.
I could go on about the other aspects of my Mr. Dan’s experience. The fact that their soda machine is apparently broken (the display cooler filled with bottled soda leads me to believe this has been the case for a while). The fact that there are no fewer than four security cameras prominently displayed in a restaurant not much bigger than the living room-dining room-kitchen areas of my small apartment. The fact that the ‘lemonade’ is really just a lemon-flavored sugar drink that has never come in contact with a real lemon. The fact that their “home fries” are just french fries covered in some kind of seasoned salt instead of potatoes fried with onions. I could go on…
…but ultimately, as the Indy Burger Guy, I’m all about the burger. And, unfortunately, the Big Dan with cheese is hardly what I’d call a bastion of good burger-making. If I’m in the neighborhood, I might stop by again… but, then again, I might not.
FINAL RANKING: 6.6/10
Mr. Dan’s Hamburgers
various locations around Central Indiana
Mr. Dan’s on Facebook
Cost Range: $ ($6 and under)