06 January 2015

The Burger

It’s January, 2009. I’ve arrived in Nashville after eating my entire box of Purdy’s hedgehog chocolates and half of the box intended for my sister (and then demanding that she share the remaining chocolates with me). Days later we were on our way to Atlanta, and during the drive I was haunted by a single thought: that I really, really wanted to eat a burger. Before this time, I don’t think I had ever actually eaten a proper burger. I had definitely just had a plain beef patty, possibly with melted cheese, but I don’t think I had ever had it inside of a bun. And so we did it. We found a burger place in the Little Five Points neighbourhood, and to this day, it remains the best burger I have ever tasted.

Here it is: the infamous Atlanta burger. The fries weren't much to look at, but goddamn was that ever a good burger.

After that first Atlanta burger, I was hooked. Six years later, I just can’t stop eating burgers. I eat them every chance I get and I eat them everywhere. I’ve eaten them all across Canada. I’ve eaten them in Spokane and, more importantly Colville.* I’ve eaten them throughout Europe (usually a pretty disappointing experience) and in various airports. I just got home from eating a burger for dinner, and all I could think about afterwards is when and where I would eat my next burger. In short, burgers are always my number one go-to choice in any restaurant. It should go without saying that I always get my burgers without any dressing: just a plain patty with cheddar cheese and the bun. Sometimes I wonder if the chef gets annoyed with my order. They probably do, but I always hope that they don't because I am never asking for weird additional items, just that most of the ingredients be left off the burger. At the end of the day I guess I don't care all that much about how the cook feels because going out to eat is all about being selfish and treating yourself, and not caring about the people who are catering to your whims.

I've been eating at Hero Burger a lot this year, mostly because it's so convenient, but also because it's
decent enough. My only complaint with Hero Burger, and the other burger chains like it (of which 5 Guys is
hands-down the best option) is that they're way too expensive for what you actually get. For the same price, you
can almost always find a much better burger, with the added bonus of better seating and service.

I was recently asked why it is I’m okay with eating burgers, but not sandwiches. After all, aren’t they the same thing? Doesn’t a burger meet the most basic requirements of being a sandwich? I guess they do, if your definition of “sandwich” is as basic and simplistic as just an item placed between two bread-objects. In that sense, sure, a burger is just a sandwich. But in that case, should it follow that just because I love spaghetti bolognese I should like fettuccine alfredo? They are both, when it comes down to it, just pasta and sauce. Does it make sense that because I like apple pie, I should necessarily also eat some gross meat pie? Don’t they meet the same basic requirements? I mean, they’re both pies. They’re both composed of some filling inside of a closed pastry.

Maybe these seem like unfair comparisons. “Pasta and sauce” isn’t really a category of food in the same way that sandwiches are, and there’s of course a marked difference between a sweet dessert pie and a disgusting savoury pie (although I would also like to note that I don’t really like very many other sweet pies, with the exception of strawberry-rhubarb, and even then, I would always go with an apple pie if the option is available to me). Another issue is that I have already voiced a strong opposition to sandwiches, but given my love for and devotion to burgers, maybe I ought to reconsider this. But should I? No. That would be ridiculous. You would have to be a mad man to consider a burger a sandwich just because its mode of delivery is a bread product.

This year in Toronto has been an especially good burger year for me, but I have yet to find a burger in this city that even comes close to that original Atlanta burger. The second best burger I've ever had was in Montreal, at Burger Ville (actually Burger de Ville), which is a weird chain restaurant in Quebec that serves truly delicious and truly affordable burgers. The only downside is that the interior is not very nice, and it's not a place where you would like to sit and truly savour your burger. There are other places in Montreal that are great, but their burgers aren't quite as good. I especially like Patati Patata, which serves mini burgers (I always get two and a basket of fries). In a lot of ways the burgers aren't actually that good. They're thin and kind of dry and there's too much of a bun-to-burger ratio (to be fair, this might be fixed with more fixings), but overall it's a great little restaurant with adequate burgers.

Here's me eating the first of two baby burgers at Patati
Patata in Montreal. This picture was taken during
my sister's visit. For some reason this was a
really ugly time for me. Not, like, emotionally trying. I
just looked really ugly that week for some reason.

There's honestly not a whole lot I have to say about burgers. In a lot of ways, they're the perfect food: they're fast, they're portable, they're delicious, and they're filling. But it should be mentioned that burger quality is never assured. I have eaten some terrible burgers in my life. As a general rule, I hate seeing anything in the burger other than plain ground beef (such as chopped onions or seasoning), even if I like additional flavours (such as chopped onions or seasoning). I don't like to see any red meat. One time I ate a treacherously undercooked burger and it was traumatizing. But when they're good, they're great.

Here are some different burgers I have eaten.

Here are more burgers that I have eaten.

*Important because as everyone should know, even though Rancho Chico’s is also in Spokane, it is generally considered by all to be the only place to eat in Colville, whereas Spokane also has The Onion, which has pretty decent burgers. So imagine my surprise when Rancho Chico’s in Colville was actually closed on Independence Day and we were forced to go to that weird … what is it? Ronnie D’s? Sandy’s? That weird drive-in fast-food place in Colville. It was great! It was so American!

A burg is enough when my hunger needs sating
And my tum has no voice but the voice of complaining
So many tastes for my tongue to discover
Ground beef, melted cheese--marinating thereunder 
Some burgers I've tasted, some still a wonder
Some were delicious, others better pass'd over
Yet my hands shall not tremble, my bite shall not falter,
My hunger shall not weary, my tastes shall not alter
Those buns and these lips of the loved and the lover.

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