Getting a bunless burger at Jack-n-Grill makes about as much sense as that old joke about the girl who leaves the cherry off the hot fudge sundae because she’s on a diet. Nevertheless, it was the least I could do to forestall an anyeurism as I eyeballed the burial piles of chow on tables around me & my pal Rebecca (author of From Argentina with Love) at the Littleton branch—surprisingly festive & warm given the soulless strip-mall location—especially considering that those were the “normal” portions. The fact that, according to the server in the photo, fully 15 fellow diners had ordered the 7-pound burrito tackled by Adam Richman on Man Vs. Food back in 2009 BEFORE 1 PM was more than even my relatively insatiable appetite could bear. Who wakes up in the morning & thinks, I want to pack on 24,500 calories’ worth of extra fat by bedtime?!

So anyway, I asked for The Jaxx sans bun, & it was still hilarious. Somewhere under the chopped green chile, bacon slices, American cheese, ketchup & mustard; over the guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, tomato & red onion; & alongside a mess of onion rings was a 10 oz. patty of ground chuck.

Was it awesome? Not from a legitimately critical standpoint—the burger kinda gristly & medium-well; the “guacamole” just unseasoned, roughly mashed avocado; the thought of 7 condiments at once (not counting the veggie garnishes) as unappealing as it was appealing. But somehow the combination was addictive in a trashy way, each questionable element compensating for another to equal an answer, the answer being hell yes! As for the onion rings, how often do they really suck? Generally speaking I like my breading looser, lighter, & fresher à la Rodney’s, but here it slid off the sweet & slippery onion flesh in grease-spurting crunches I couldn’t say no to.

That said, the red chile on Rebecca’s bean “sopaipilla” (the pen’s for size comparison) was flat-out excellent—pure-tasting, full of that smoky, slightly bitter savor of roasted pepper skin. As far as I’m concerned, New Mexico having always been my second home, no sopaipilla should be so stretched so thin that it’s bursting at the seams—it should be a pocket unto itself—but once again the dish as a whole came together as it should have, a mosaic of textures & funky flavors.

Jack-n-Grill’s an institution for a reason. A reason that’s grotesque in the literary sense—”combining ugliness & ornament, the bizarre & the ridiculous, the excessive & the unreal”—but a reason nonetheless.

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