For the burger lovers out there, this one's for you.
I eat less of them these days, that's for sure. But one thing is certain, I love hamburgers. My earliest memories take me all the way back to the Friendly's on Belmont Street, in Springfield, MA, which is, incidentally, the location of the very first Friendly's ice cream store. I remember sitting at the counter with my family and they had these metal contraptions that kind of lifted and folded up and over the counter, providing an extension for kids. It was always nice to have easy access to my burger and chocolate frappe. I still feel that way but, of course, now eat on regular counters. Come to think of it, I don't see those counter extensions any more.
Anyway, over the years I've had my share of hamburgers, some good, some bad and some absolutely fantastic. For some odd reason, California has been the sight of my best burger adventures. Three places come to mind - Apple Pan, In-N-Out and Fatburger. They're all great with Apple Pan being the most unusual, I think, because of a special sauce they put on the sandwich. I know Johnny and Kamal loved Apple Pan and they liked In-N-Out, too. But for me, it was always Fatburger. You've gotta love that name. They just go for it and fly in the face of Mr. Cholesterol. The fact is, there's a lot of healthy stuff going on when you eat a Fatburger, too. Lettuce, Tomato, Pickles, Onion - all solidly in the vegetable group, so it's not like you're downing a huge slice of Junior's cheesecake. The problems start when you order three or four of them. I'm happy to say, those days are gone for me. I suppose you can call that a form of Eldercation.
I've been passing Braum's signs since the day I arrived in the Midwest, sometimes humming the "Lullaby" and smiling when I thought about the name. (I know - different spelling). Seriously, there has been a constant stream of giant "B's" in ice cream cones flowing past my windshield for the past 7-8 weeks now and, although I won't say it's reached the Sonic frequency level (that would be pretty tough to do), I can report there's no shortage of Braum's down here. They're known for their dairy products - when I was in Oklahoma City, Kathy Jo told me there's something special about their milk and that people actually use it specifically for top-notch baking. She also filled me in about the ice cream - this sounded a lot like Friendly's to me. But today it was burger time so the ice cream and shakes would have to wait for a separate visit. Today, Kosher was the name of the game. Well ... sort of.
"Fatburger Midwest" - that's the way I'd describe it. If I closed my eyes and pictured La Cienega Blvd. near Beverly Center - that's where I traveled on that first bite. It was the same charbroiled taste, complete with the same veggies. I mean, think about it, it's pretty tough to ruin a burger, right? I'm not a mayo on beef kind of guy so I'm always quick to confirm there's none of the white stuff within ten feet of my buns.
"It's Braum's sauce," the counter woman smiled. "Kinda like Ketchup," she added. My nod signaled her to proceed with the order.
And that was that. My treat. My hamburger. And it was good, let me tell you. Okay, so I understand locals may think I'm nuts. "You haven't tried the ice cream?!" some have asked. "Don't know much about the food," others have added. But as I've said all along, "I call 'em as I see "em," and this was one good burger.
So now, the trick will be to keep my foot on the gas every time that giant "B" pops up over the horizon. Of course, you do realize I'll have to try at least one more Braum's burger at some point, just to confirm today's wasn't a fluke.
After all, it's my duty.