For those of you that do not know the quote, it by Whimpy a character in the Popeye cartoon series. Every time I think about a hamburger, I immediately remember that quote. It is probably one of the first quotes I memorized as a child. So considering today is Tuesday and there has been some recent discussion both in my social network world and my online radio show about the best burger in Northwest Indiana, specifically Michigan City, I have to write about what actually makes a burger the "Best" burger. So, with that said, we will delve into "burgerdom" and discover what the fascination is really all about.
Actually, what determines the "Best" burger? Well in looking at the history of the hamburger, one can imagine that it has evolved over time. It is no wonder that Americans take their hamburger seriously as it is like, jazz, rock n' roll, musical theatre and drive in theaters, it is an American invention. (Read a little more here.) The fact remains, Americans know there meat! A main stay of many cultures all melding together into a great big slab of beef. I actually believe that hamburger came by way of Lissan's wife who got tired of him bringing home bad cuts of beef and then getting all up in her business because she couldn't cook the meat tender enough! I know I just digressed but to me ground beef is exactly that, it is tenderizing the beef into a nice "cut" so as to simply and easily eat the meat with ease and it is, what every American family wants...their food fast! From that concept comes a now global enterprise the "fast food chain!"
So now on to the search for the best burger! But, before that we have to answer; what makes a burger really good? Personally for me it is a mood kind of a thing. Am I in the mood for a charcoal grilled burger, one with a little indication of crisp and edginess or am I more in the mood for the burgers mom use to make. Pan friend, or flat bottom grilled? Is it the seasoning? Simple salt and pepper, (although salting before cooking actually creates a drier burger, did you know that?) or more exotic flavoring? Is it the thickness of the burger or does one like it thin, yet stacked? Maybe it isn't the burger maker, or the approach to the making but it is the cut of meat prior to grinding it. In the end is it more to do with the bun, the cheese, the process? Again, for me it is the mood!
My favorite all time burger is the "Joe's Burger" from a previous life. Joe Fortin owner of Fortin's Tap on East Route 17 in St. Anne Illinois was the purveyor of the restaurant known for THE burger. Why was it so special? Well, it was cooked on a well seasoned griddle. The cuts of meat were freshly ground and hand packed. The meat came from the same butcher who only used beef from certain cattle. The meat was hand packed and minimally seasoned. The burgers were always cooked well served immediately on a simple fresh, very fresh hamburger bun, topped with a thin slice of quality onion, dill pickle slices closed up quickly in foil. If you wanted cheese then you would get cheese one way, simple American cheese. The temperature of the meat when enclosed into the bun and foil would slightly cook and add to the overall experience. But, then again, one must ask "was it the burger, or the traditional Saturday experience that lent to the overall flavor?" Regardless it is a burger that stands out above the rest.
Moving on and into the modern world...Redamak's a famous burger joint in New Buffalo is a Michiana favorite. Quite honestly the truth is Redamak's famous Velveeta burger is prepared very similarly to "Joe's!" We have seen many fast food joints try to create what is supposedly the best ever, but, often times I am left scratching my head and questioning the claim to the "Best!" Is it the Five Guys good hype or have they really cornered the market on "burgerdom?" I am leaning towards the hype. Most people will claim that the best burgers are those that come from local bars and taverns. When it comes to tavern/bar burgers I have to hearken back to my early discussion about the "Joe" burger. While back in the day I did not imbibe, I cannot wonder if the fabulous taste of a burger has more to do with the hunger that ensues as a result of imbibing in adult libation. Either way, a good burger is a good burger and a really good burger is something to pass on. Just as Whimpy will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today, when you gotta have a good burger, you gotta have a good burger. So pass it on! Share your favorite in the comments below. It will be my quest to try and tell. Who knows, maybe I will find a burger that beats good ole Joe and the palatable pleasures of the past will be nothing more than a memory!