By Torsten Ward
These days it seems like burger joints are as common in the U.S. as cafés are in France. You can’t turn a corner in the average city without seeing a McDonalds, and their closest neighboring relatives are probably within walking distance.
Tucson is no different. The city known for authentic, close-to-the-border Mexican cuisine is packed full of pizza places, sub shops and, of course, burger joints. The most famous of these joints is likely Lindy’s on 4th which, naturally, is at 431 N. Fourth Ave. just northeast of downtown Tucson.
Lindy’s famous “O.M.F.G.” burger challenge attracted the likes of Adam Richman of Man v. Food fame back in 2009 and since then the restaurant has remained a local star. But aside from the option to participate in some serious competitive eating, what makes Lindy’s different from other local places like Zinburger and Monkey Burger?
Creativity, in a word.
Asking someone about what foods they would consider to be particularly American might elicit responses in the realm of burgers, macaroni & cheese and cinnamon rolls. What separates Lindy’s from the pack is that their menu includes all of these items: All at once.
Have you ever wanted a burger so full of macaroni & cheese that yellow waterfalls cascade out the sides and envelope your plate? Has the wannabe-diabetic in you ever fantasized about replacing a burger’s buns with sweet, sticky cinnamon rolls? If so, look no further than Lindy’s whose menu is chock-full of tasty recipes with raunchy monikers.
By far the most appealing aspect of Lindy’s on 4th is its menu. Ridiculous burgers coupled with sides of French fries, tater tots or onion rings (each with its own optional assortments of tasty toppings) find their home on tables that can already be covered in bottles of the locally produced beer Lindy’s offers in-house. There’s a reason the establishment’s motto is “Battling anorexia one cheeseburger at a time.”
To try and avoid becoming a bland novelty restaurant, Lindy’s offers a new, limited-time-only burger at the start of each month after taking requests from fans of the restaurant on its official Facebook page. October’s pick was called the “Flesh Gordon,” a burger topped with boneless short rib, tumbleweed onions, pickles and spicy chipotle barbecue sauce.
Although these burgers are typically never any more unusual than the permanent menu items, they change the game enough to either be smash hits or run-of-the-mill selections. Unfortunately, the “Flesh Gordon” belongs to the latter category, but I’ll try anything twice.
The burger of the month last May, called the “Sancho Villa,” included pinto beans, bacon, cheddar cheese, mustard, mayonnaise and pico de gallo. Not only was it unique, the “Sancho Villa” remains one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten and I returned to Lindy’s three times that month.
Despite being offered three different cheesesteaks on the menu, customers rarely, if ever, stray from Lindy’s’ burgers and sides. But when the burgers use grilled cheese sandwiches for buns and the sides have the option to be covered in ranch and crumbled bacon, can they really be blamed?
The O.M.F.G. challenge itself creates a fair amount of buzz, considering the burger compiles nine (count ’em-nine) 1/3-pound patties, Swiss and cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and Lindy’s sauce between two buns — and costs $25. The goal of the challenge is to finish the burger in its entirety in less than 20 minutes, and you get it for free. Finish in less than 30 minutes and your picture gains a place on the wall where the winning challengers are displayed.
It cannot be understated that the quality of the burgers is exceptional. Despite being messier than an infant with a fistfull of mashed potatoes, nearly every menu item is an enjoyable and unique burger-eating experience.
Lindy’s is small, really small. The hole-in-the-wall quality some people talk about when referring to original eateries is a very literal descriptor of Lindy’s on 4th. This lack of space for dining tables means that no matter the time of day or week, Lindy’s will almost assuredly be packed full. Only twice have I had the pleasure of not being placed on a waitlist and forced to wait outside for a table to clear.
Depending on who’s in the house, Lindy’s either boasts a humble buzz accompanied by an assortment of rock music or a spirited roar of laughter, ripping paper towels and good conversation. This noise never distracts from the loud posters and humorous signage that adorns the walls of Lindy’s’ interior. A famous painting of a personified ketchup bottle killing a helpless mustard bottle is Lindy’s way of welcoming customers while also informing them his restaurant is not home to hot dogs.
And at first glance, Lindy’s doesn’t feel particularly inviting. Its dark walls and dim lighting evoke an atmosphere of discomfort, especially when arriving at the restaurant. There is no set place to wait to be seated and servers are usually too busy to notice newcomers, let alone address them. However, just as a sketchy dive bar becomes a second home after a get-to-know-you period, Lindy’s becomes more welcoming and neighborly each time you roll through.
Service at Lindy’s is almost as temperamental as the quality of its burgers of the month. The staff will occasionally be courteous and timely, but since Lindy’s’ small dining area is typically packed full of customers and appears to be under-staffed, sub-par service is often the only service available. The menu, however, explicitly states that Lindy’s considers patience a highly valued virtue and warns customers of unexpected waiting and slow service. With a restaurant that small and that crowded, it’s understandable that servers frequently find themselves hurried, frazzled and forgetful.
The man behind the name of the restaurant himself, Lindy Reilly, works as a cook on very rare occasions. Even many frequenters of the restaurant have never seen him or tasted the fruits of his labors. Lindy’s certainly doesn’t need help attracting customers, as college students and Tucson locals pour in every day, but seeing the man behind the legend every once in a while would be a welcomed change.
For what it is, Lindy’s is on the expensive side. The food is good of course, but paying up to $10 for a single-patty burger is a little absurd. Sticking to the classic burger, “the OG,” is only $6, but add on a single side of regular tots and a fountain drink and the bill will be close to $12.
Considering the quality of the burgers and their expenses, going to a place like Five Guys Burgers and Fries or even In-N-Out Burger will probably illicit more bang for your buck. However, the novelty of Lindy’s and its menu’s eccentricity makes it a place to bring visiting family and friends for a memorable meal. Eating at Lindy’s is an experience that everyone should have at least once. Nevertheless, the smart option would be to go earlier in the day when business isn’t at its usual boom.
Avoiding the establishment’s disgusting bathroom and giving servers the benefit of the doubt is key to enjoying your dining experience, but when it comes to the pure joy of indulging in the ultimate comfort foods, Lindy’s is hard to beat. ♦
Lindy’s on 4th
- Address: 431 N. Fourth Ave.
- Monday: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Tuesday – Wednesday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- Thursday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.
- Sunday: 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.