When the clock approaches 11 a.m. on Saturdays in the fall, a hungry throng of Hokies flocks to the top of the hill and stands under the fading maroon canopy advertising famous burgers.
Those who enter Mike’s Grill would have a great view out of the restaurant’s front windows, as the Blacksburg staple is located across the street from the main entrance to the Virginia Tech campus and overlooks the downtown business district.
But they just cannot look up from their plate.
A national chain, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, won the title of Best Burger in Blacksburg this year, but Mike’s has been filling locals for years.
Certainly Five Guys makes a great burger, but all those orange and maroon clad football fans could have stopped in any town in Virginia and gotten a Five Guys Burger during their drive over.
Mike’s is the destination for burgers in Blacksburg.
Five Guys is a burger destination in many places. If I am in suburban Richmond or Northern Virginia and want to grab a good burger on the side of a six-lane highway, I look for the nearest Five Guys.
However, when I am walking down the two lane streets of downtown Blacksburg, I want to get out of the wind for a little while and have a hearty upside-down burger.
I would even settle for the notion that the burgers at Five Guys and Mike’s are on equal footing. Mike’s gives you one plate-sized burger, and Five Guys gives you multiple burgers between two buns.
Each has a distinctive feature about the actual production of the burgers.
Mike’s burgers are made with a special seasoning and are served upside down to retain the juices in the burger. Pickles are always served on the side.
Five Guys is notable for using peanut oil in making their burgers and fries.
There is one major difference, though.
Five Guys does that in 450 locations in 30 states, and Mike’s does it in one location in Blacksburg.
And for that one distinct atmosphere I say Mike’s is the best in Blacksburg. After all, they are meant specifically for Blacksburg.
While Five Guys posts signs trumpeting its latest Zagat survey triumph, Mike’s has pictures of local youth sports teams it has sponsored and various Tech sports memorabilia.
Mike’s caters to the football-crazed town of Blacksburg, offering a place to fuel up before heading to the tailgate on game days. And even more importantly, it offers a consistent meeting place to sit, eat and reminisce about the game days gone by.
It is part of the Blacksburg landscape, sandwiched between other local businesses such as Cook’s Clean Center and Ceritano’s.
Mike’s is certainly part of my image of Blacksburg, while Five Guys can be inserted into any town’s panorama.
If Mike’s left, a little piece of this town would be missing. At the very least, Mike’s is more valuable to Blacksburg.
Five Guys may be the home of a mean burger, but Mike’s is Blacksburg is home for a good burger.