Chow Town

This burger joint is on the radar of the Royals’ Bubba Starling

The mushroom Swiss burger and large onion rings at Blazer’s Restaurant in Gardner.
The mushroom Swiss burger and large onion rings at Blazer’s Restaurant in Gardner.

It’s always refreshing to discover a burger joint as beloved in its own hometown as the local sports heroes.

So far, Blazers Restaurant, a diner and drive-thru located at 131 N. Center St. in Gardner, Kan., doesn’t seem to be attracting the attention of the national, regional and metro listicle makers.

Maybe they don’t know about the Bubba Starling connection?

“We’ve been on a couple of those lists from time to time,” says owner Wally Borth who, with his wife, Dawn, took over the burger spot six years ago. “The only thing we did different is clean it up. It’s been here for 37 years in the same site.”

Blazers got its start in an old house back in 1976. The name comes from the local Gardner Edgerton High School mascot, the Trailblazers. The counter-service menu features burgers and chicken sandwiches, fries, onion rings and ice cream treats, such as milkshakes and malts.

The mushroom and Swiss burger ($4.99) is a juicy, ground in-house patty cooked over a flat-top grill and served up on a toasted bun. The onion rings ($2.99 small and $4.29 large) shatter deliciously with each crunchy bite. The tub o’ cherry limeade ($2.39) could have used more lime for my taste, but that’s quibbling.

The handsome grilled chicken sandwich came with lovely char marks ($6.39) and the deep-fried okra ($4.99) was lightly breaded and just out of the fryer. Other items of interest include patty and tuna melts, corn dogs, deep-fried pickles with ranch (chips or spears), as well as a wide variety of fries, tater tops and chips.

Borth’s personal favorite is the chicken-fried steak sandwich on Texas toast with “all the dressings” and American cheese for $7.49.

Blazers has long supported many of the school sports teams, but when the Borths bought the business, the local Trailblazer sports memorabilia had been torn down. They decided to run an ad on Facebook trying to get some of the jerseys, ball caps, helmets and team photos back.

Starling — a two-sport phenom who signed out of Gardner Edgerton High School as a first-round draft pick with the Royals and is now with Class AAA Omaha — contributed several items that now hang under a “Bubba Starling Blvd” street sign.

Whenever he’s back in Gardner, Starling stops by Blazers to have a burger and often orders a chocolate milkshake and a double cheeseburger to-go for his mom, who works for the school district.

“He’s been coming here since he was little ... he’s still grounded and very devoted to his town,” Borth says.

Looking for still more burgers to try?

Try Tay’s Burger Shack, where grassfed beef is on the menu.

Or check out the $5 burger Mondays at Red Door Wood-fired Grill.

Or consider staying up for the late-night burger at Corvino’s Supper Club.