” Gimme a Hamburger Sandwich & a Cuppa Coffee “

Sep 19

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How many times did I hear that request as a fella sat down at the counter of a bustling diner in an old B & W movie  from the 30’S or 40’s ? We don’t call them “sandwiches ” anymore . Hamburgers are a title of a food group in the U S of A or , at  least , a main heading on a menu as it is today.

In my years of Food Service Consulting , I have always said that if you put a blind fold on me , drop me off in any town in the U.S . , then remove it and challenge me to open a successful cafe or restaurant ; I’d pull it off!  What kind of restaurant would I choose ? Hamburgers ! You can be a huge success by serving hamburgers , cheeseburgers , french fries , and all of the American items we love . Now we are assuming you know the industry and all that goes with it to make a profit and last in business .

Yesterday was “National Cheeseburger Day ” ! Who doesn’t love a good burger ? I polled several folks about their most memorable burger ; or favorite place to go for a burger ; or if they make their own…what makes it special to them . Their choices and preferences were as varied as the folks are different themselves . Home style preferences usually ran from charcoal grilled or gas broiler fired ; but mostly folks noted that smell in the air on a Saturday afternoon that says “American backyard burgers “! Hand made patties with an 80/20 mix , so they are good and juicy is the favorite…however , some folks like lamb burgers , turkey burgers and such. Sometimes the bun is the star, but usually is a supporting actor. One choice was on an English muffin with tartar sauce and genuine Swiss cheese – now that sounds good and I will have to give it a try  . Here in Oregon folks like their ingredients organic and fresh-onions , tomatoes , lettuce and peppers . (Easy in the summer with all the farmers markets to choose from ) . Natural beef , grass fed and sustainable is important it seems with Oregonians.  Cheese ? Blue from award winning Rogue Creamery , Tillamook aged sharp cheddar , Bandon cheddar , domestic California or Oregon goat cheese ,or just your old standby  – Kraft American ; a person can’t go wrong . Mayonnaise was a favorite spread …and French’s mustard like from our childhood memories . The foodies love to add their own favorites : habanero aioli , tarragon mayonnaise , dijon mustard , home-made ketchup of all styles ; and some odd choices like green tomato chutney , pineapple jalapeno bbq sauce etc. Building one’s favorite hamburger is serious business . It’s a plus when we can find a place that does it just the way we like it…thank goodness that there thousands and thousands of restaurants ,cafes, and diners for Americans to make those choices .

Let’s give some credit for some favorite local Portland , Oregon burger spots . Pete likes Killer Burger on Sandy Blvd. , Jesse prefers the sustainable choices of burgers at Dick’s Kitchen , Carter  (who is a real burger aficionado swears by Pause on N.E . Interstate ). More favorites are Julia’s choice at a little spot on N E Killingsworth-Tonale’s , Chantal ( a restauranteur herself ) likes the old time standard burgers at Yukon Tavern , or the ones from Produce Row ; and the lamb offering from Broder’s ; and I share the same choice with Belinda…the cheeseburger ,onion rings at Ringside on West Burnside . Cannot be beat !

We all grew up with hamburgers in America ; at least most of us . Some say the hamburger was invented at Louis Lunch in New Haven , Conn. , or by the Menches Bros.at the Erie County Fair ; or  perhaps by Charlie Nagreen in Wisconsin . Some say Athens , Texas businessman “Old Dave “Davis served the first ones in1904 at the St. Louis Worlds Fair . It really is not important where it was invented . Maybe there were many who   had the same idea in the late 19 TH century ? We know that in our home towns or in our travels , we all probably had a great or memorable burger , like Wendy and Tracy at famous  Tommy’s in Los Angeles . When I was young ,  we all went to Oscar’s Drive Ins all around San Diego County . We consumed dozens and dozens of wonderful burgers in those days of the 50’S to 70’S ; with a few Patty Melts , and Chili Burgers thrown in for variety . I’m sure all of us can tell some of the same stories …but with different home towns and other eras .

When I first came to Portland to open Belinda’s in 1977 a local told me I just had to have “The Greatest Hamburger in The World ” ! Off we went to Stanich’s on NE Fremont. It’s still there and you can get that same burger ..”The Special ” with ham, fried egg , bacon ,tomatoes, pickles , American cheese , grilled onions etc. That was a first for me !  Yaw’s Top Notch was open from 1926-1982 and for all those years many people in Portland loved their burgers (Yaw’s Top Notch just re-opened last week) . The Carnival opened in 1950 and lasted until the late 1990’S  ; with a name change towards the end . Lots of kids had many a birthday memory from Carnival. There are  other places from Portland past that I haven’t mentioned here…places with hamburger memories every one . That can be said all across this country .

Whether you make your burger at home and add all of your favorites to give it your touch ; make that regular trip to your favorite burger spot ; or you pay $50.00 plus for a Wagyu beef cheeseburger with shaved truffles ,foie gras , and other luxury ingredients at an elegant bistro in Manhattan .  Maybe you are  being pampered at one of the restaurant  bastions of a celebrity chef  in Las Vegas .  Hamburgers in any form , style , meat or vegetarian , or some other choice , will reign at the top of American food loves for all time !  I’m sure if I took another poll , I would be right on the mark . Now – let’s see… …where is that blindfold and that check for $150,000.00 ?

I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

J. WELLINGTON WIMPY 1934

11 comments

  1. Pete McAdoo /

    Ross you are making me hungry all ready this morning!!!

  2. The best hamburgers in the world will always be the ones I make at home. In the summer. On my cheap little grill. Even if I have to cook Matthew’s medium well. Always saving a little raw burger for Abby’s dinner.

    • Grillin’ is grillin ‘ ; even if it’s on an old refer shelf balanced on 2 rocks! It’s the burgers that count for everything-especially in the summer and in the back yard ; Dear Girl.

  3. The best hamburgers in the world will always be the ones I make at home. In the summer. On my cheap little grill. Even if I have to cook Matthew’s medium well. Always saving a little raw meat for Abby’s dinner.

  4. I got a smile when I read the reference to ‘Wimpy’. Had to search in my memory bamks to remember where I remembered him from. Then it came-“Pop Eye”. Another memory-my little brother could not say ‘hamburger’. He had to say ‘hangaber’, which it has been for me ever since. I think alot of folks have this memory!?

    • Thanks for the smile! Hangaber is definitely a universal understanding ….whether from a little brother or a cousin or a kid in your elementary school. . I also believe there used to be a chain burger place called Wimpy’s in the 70’S …and yes , not many of folks remember him ; he’s a bit simple but very lovable.

  5. When I read the reference to ‘Wimpy’ it made me smile, but I had to search in my memory banks…where did I know that from? Then it came to me, of course, Pop Eye! Here’s another memory. My little brother could not say ‘hamburger’, he had to say ‘hangaber’, which we all ended up calling it in the family, and I still do. When I use it folks always know exactly what I mean, so I’ll bet other kids said ‘hangaber’ too. Maybe we should get it in the dictionary!?

  6. Ross
    PCC’s quarantine nearly kept me from getting your post. Wonderful to see that my favorite chef is finally posting some of those great stories I’ve heard over the years. We need to hook up, like we’ve been planning for awhile.
    Best,
    Ray

  7. Chantal /

    So many burgers so little time…
    Great post!

    • I know…I know. Carter has convinced me to do a regular piece on hamburgers ; on an ongoing basis . I think it’s a good idea too . You ?

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