Living in the South means there are ample opportunities for food-centric road trips. Next time you feel like driving for a delicacy, or if you happen to be headed out on I-20W toward Birmingham, make sure to stop at Jerry’s Gourmet Burgers off of exit 26.
Jerry’s, which sits to the right of a gas station, is not your average roadside burger stand. The floors of the porch are filled with all sorts of plants and flowers, which makes eating there a little like dining in cheeseburger paradise. Order at the window and you’ll meet Rehan Ihsan, aka “Jerry,” who came to Villa Rica from South Wales “around the time the band Wham! was big.” A pharmacist with degrees from West Georgia and Mercer in his previous life, Ihsan lost everything due to addiction. Jerry’s Gourmet Burgers, which he opened four years ago, was his new leaf, and he seems to love what he does.
Through the window you’ll usually see Ihsan—in his fancy jeans with white stitching and a designer t-shirt—at the grill where he spends most of his time. A poster for the Glasgow indie band Camera Obscura poster hangs on the fridge next to a hand-drawn Bowie print. As for the burger he serves, the freshly ground sirloin patty measures about an inch thick and six inches across. Ihsan has worked with the same butcher for many years, a relationship he’s thankful for. Toppings vary according to taste, but I went classic with lettuce, tomato, onion, and American cheese. The meat itself is super tasty and the toppings fresh. The burger’s only downfall is the bread, a store-bought Cobblestone brand that looks and tastes like a kaiser roll. The bun’s structure is hearty enough to support all of the toppings, but it takes away from what is otherwise a damn good roadside burger. Ihsan, however, says he chose the bun because it is the “finest bun” he could source.
Although the name of this spot has “burger” in it, the roast beef warrants just as much attention. The chuck roast is braised in a spicy marinade made with three different peppers that leave traces of chili seeds in every bite. The beef is so tender that it falls apart, and so moist that the juices soak the bun. In short, it’s pure yum. The fries, which Ihsan makes from scratch, are battered and double fried, making them a crispy must-order side to whichever sandwich you choose. Jerry’s doesn’t serve drinks, so make sure to grab something from the gas station next door.
Ihsan takes his time cooking, so patience is of the essence—an order can take 30-45 minutes. I urge diners to call ahead so that the burger will wait instead of the other way around. When you call Jerry’s to place an order, Ihsan is soft-spoken, sweet, and Zen. He used the word “grateful” many times when I spoke to him, and he certainly seems as such. “I am happier than I have ever been in my whole life,” he said. You can certainly taste it in his cooking. 820 Dallas Highway, Villa Rica, 470-767-3520
This article originally appeared in our December 2017 issue.