FEW things can beat out a well-made burger and a frosty milkshake when you're out cruisin' in your Chevy, ponytail waving in the wind, boppin' along to the Drifters.
OK, so now it’s high-price grass-fed beef or conscience-salving tofu-burgers and twerking to Bruno Mars on your iPhone 6... but there was a time...oh, yes.
A time when a hamburger tasted like BEEF, darn it. Big, juicy, with that soft bun and plenty of fresh toppings, and milkshakes were made from actual scoops of real ice-cream, not a pre-mixed, vaguely dairy-flavored, goo (I’m talkin’ to you, oh so red-haired clown!)
Those great memories of good-ole American-style burgers and real shakes are part of a new and quite wonderful foodie trend that has made Jake’s Wayback Burgers one of the world’s top franchises—stretching from their Newark, Delaware home in 1991, across the nation and as far as Saudi Arabia and Africa.
Since there’s an awful lot of Jakes who own burger joints, the founder John Carter held a contest to change the name before he went national. Frequent customers naturally made the connection between the home-spun quality they remembered and be-boppin’ good times and Jake’s Way Back Burgers was re-born in August 2010.
I’ve watched this place on the Southside of Savannah with interest as they took over the spot of the former Café Loco down from Panera Bread on White Bluff. The concept of utilizing second-generation spaces instead of building from the ground-up gets a big gold star from me.
Since they just opened a couple of weeks ago it’s still a tad stark inside (‘50s style memorabilia posters are on the way), but the vibe is comfortable & welcoming, with red-barn-board wall panels, pleated stainless steel, and old marble and butcher-block counter tops.
The idea is to bring you back to a time when burgers were first introduced in America and every drugstore had a lunch counter. The food is served on tin trays with ‘newsprint’ papers (with actual news and info items about the franchise), and the shakes, made and served in-house in tall metal tins: as the owner Jackie Ammerman attests, “When you get your shake frosty cold in a metal tin, it stays cold all the way down to the bottom—no liquefying allowed!”
Jackie and her hubby Scott Ammerman had a handful of successful franchises under their belt already when they stepped into Way Back one day for lunch—one taste of that juicy burger, the hand-cut fries and home-style chili, and they knew they had another winner.
They decided it was time for Georgia to join the ‘50s-style burger-bugaloo and Savannah is the first city in the state to host this up and coming chain.
The beef they use is fresh and never frozen, though already weighed and formed when it gets to the store; that way, personal handling is diminished and food safety problems are avoided.
I watched our burgers being cooked up front, and I liked it that each patty is allowed to cook through without being flattened with a hasty spatula—one of the most noticeable perks of this is the succulent juiciness and fine flavor, a burger carefully made, without all the goodness left on the grill.
It’s interesting to note that Wayback serves an excellent Southwest Chipotle Burger with pepperjack cheese, fresh jalapeños and chipotle mayo, right when McD’s is has their own Jalapeño Burger special at just $2.
You should know that the burgers here run around $6.29 each, however, their amazing taste, generous size, freshness, and true-beefy flavor make the price entirely reasonable.
Hand-cut fries are not the only great side item here—try the crunchy house-made chips (the BBQ flavored are especially good) served warm or the beer-battered onion rings. I noticed that many folks around me seem to crave the rich Chili-Cheese Fries, and when I tasted a cup of the chili I found out exactly why. I’m gonna go for broke here and tell you that the chili tastes very close to what I serve up at home, with plenty of ground beef & a well-balanced blend of spices, and when slathered over the fresh made fries, covered in grated, melted real cheese and a crown of crispy, fresh jalapeño slices, it is every foodie’s dream come true.
If you are one of those old guard Savannah folks who miss Captain D’s battered fried fish you should check out the Fried Cod Filet sandwich or the Fillet & Fries platter. Jackie tells me that plans for Fried Shrimp Po-boys are being discussed and if they’re as good as the fish sandwich, I’ll be the first in line
Jake’s Way Back Burgers
8108 Abercorn Street Suite 120 (in Savannah Commons, facing White Bluff Rd.)
Hours: Daily 10:30 a.m.- 9 p.m