I had a meeting with a prospective dealer in the Kansas City, MO suburb of Lee's Summit recently. (I won't be putting this guy on for one of our lines anytime in the next 100 years, I'll tell you that.) But I had a chance to try a place that I've been wanting to go to for quite sometime - Unk's Burgers.
The "Unk" behind Unk's Burgers is Jesse Mack - an uncle to a number of nephews and nieces and known as "Unk" to a number of other kids that aren't related to him. Jesse Mack was in the computer technology field, but found it to be somewhat unfulfilling. Along with his wife Faye they found out that the people who owned the Holy Smoke Barbecue restaurant in the Summit Shopping Center on Lee's Summit's west side (see map) were thinking about selling their place. Jesse and Faye walked in to the place and Faye rather boldly said, "We hear you want to sell this place. We don't want to do barbecue, but we want your equipment and space." Details were worked out and the Mack's - helped by family members - opened Unk's burgers in November of 2011.
Mack came up with a special way to make his burgers adding onions and secret spice to the meat before he cooks up the 6 ounce beef patties on a flat grill. It give the burgers a unique taste - one that keeps people coming back to Unk's on a regular basis. (If you don't like onions, they can make a regular burger without onions for you.)
It was just before noon when I got into Unk's Burgers. The front of the mall in front of their space was undergoing a renovation, so it was some zig-zagging around workers to make it into the restaurant. I was greeted by Jackie, an outgoing woman who introduced herself to me and asked me my name. And she did that with other customers that came in, as well.
Unk's isn't a big place and it has kind of an ice cream parlor feel to the place. There were dozens of handwritten notes and pictures from customers and little kids plastered to the wall. The one good thing about Unk's is that they sold beer and I ordered up a bottle of beer from Jackie. She brought the bottle out to me along with a small side of their ground turkey baked beans to try. It was more like a turkey chili with a barbecue bean taste to it. It was good enough that I decided to get a side of it with whatever burger I decided upon.
And that was the problem at Unk's Burgers - they've got a lot of burgers to choose from. They have hot burgers with habanero and ghost peppers. They have a Basement Boy burger for growing young boys - two beef patties with pepper jack cheese. The Unkasummum burger features three burger patties and a ground chicken patty. I wasn't looking for anything that extreme.
I settled on the Sweet Auntie burger that came with bread and butter pickles. I also got pepper jack cheese and red onion slices on the burger. I asked Jackie if a double would be too big and she said that their burgers are 6 ounces. But she completely undersold the fact that they smash the burgers on the flat grill and they come out thin with most of the fat cooked out. I should have gotten the double. Next time.
The burger was simply fabulous. It was slathered in the pepper jack cheese, but you still got that great burger taste through the cheese, red onions and the wonderful bun. The bread and butter pickles were a nice tasteful touch, as well. Along with the turkey baked beans, this was a great lunch. The only problem - I was burping up the turkey baked beans a good portion of the afternoon on my way up to Des Moines. Oh well, they still tasted very good.
When I went up to the counter pay for my meal, Jesse "Unk" Mack was back in the kitchen and shouted out to me, "How was it, big guy?!"
"Killer," I replied enthusiastically. And it was. He told me to tell my friends. I told him that I'd do better than that. And I just did.
I love places like Unk's Burgers. This is a family-owned restaurant doing things their own way, treating their customers like life-long friends, and serving up some great burgers with some interesting choices. It's sort of out of the way in the greater Kansas City area, but if you're on the south side of K.C. and have a hankering for a good burger, don't hesitate to go to Unk's.