Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What A Burger!!!

…Not to be confused with Whataburger, a regional (Southern) chain of fast food hamburger restaurants.

Now I admit to being a hamburger snob. As a matter of fact, I think my All-American International Burger ranks right up there with the best. What is an All-American International Burger you may ask? It is an amalgamation of different burgers Chuck and I have tried and liked during our travels. First, it is served on white toast like the burgers at Louis' Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut. Second, it is covered with roasted green chili sauce like those of New Mexico. The finest example of the green chili cheeseburger is served at Sugar’s in Embudo. Rather than chips or fries as the side, my burger comes with a baked potato, just as was served to us at Port of Call in New Orleans. So now you know the All-American, where is the international? Before searing in a hot, hot, hot cast iron skillet, the burger is liberally coated with a Montreal Steak Seasoning.

On our first visit to Hill Country Café, Mike Piper, the owner/chef, suggested that we might like the hamburgers at his other restaurant – Classics Burgers and “Moore." It took us over two weeks to get there - two weeks of hamburgers lost.

These hamburgers have replaced those at Tootie’s in Bristol, VA, as the favorites of our six-month journey. These are even better than those served at Goodnoe’s in Newtown, PA, during their heyday (before renovations and expansions. . .and closing).

As the Classics menu states: “These are Classic Burgers—made like when you were a kid.” Let me describe a Classics’ masterpiece. You take a roll about four inches in diameter and butter (ok – it’s probably margarine) and toast it. On the bottom half, you spread mayonnaise. Top this with a burger that covers the bun. Then, in order, add a slice of Swiss cheese, jalapeno peppers, sautéed mushrooms, two slices of smoked bacon, raw onions, dill pickle slices, a tomato slice, lettuce, and the bun top. Huge, messy, and superb. To this gluttonous feast, you add a generous serving of coated fries and some of crispiest onion rings ever. (In case you are wondering, Chuck had the basic bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and onion.)

We remember the taste a well-seasoned flat top – like Goodnoe’s used to have – adds to a piece of raw ground meat. The outside of the meat sears and the memory of burgers past is absorbed into the patty. The searing seals in the meat juices and results in an exterior that can best be described as crusty. It is truly amazing that the taste of the meat came through the mountain of toppings I added, but come through it did.

The eatery is basic--order at the counter, fill your cup with iced tea or soda at the beverage counter, and find a table in a room with vintage Corvette and Mustang posters lining the walls. Your order is brought to you.

In addition to burgers, Classics menu includes patty melts, grilled chicken sandwiches, chicken fried steak sandwiches, Philly cheese steak sandwiches, hot dogs, corn dogs, and chili. They also serve chicken fried steak fingers that come with a side of gravy and Texas Toast. All of these sound good, but how could I pass up a burger?

The Kerrville Daily Times (the local newspaper) does an annual survey of readers’ favorites. Classic Burgers and “Moore” has won the honor of best burger for five years running. (We wondered if we could obtain absentee ballots for the next voting period.)

In case you’re wondering – as did we – about the “Moore”. Moore is the last name of the restaurant’s manager when Classics opened. He left after a couple of years and the inside joke is that the place is now Classics Burgers and “No Moore.”

Should it come as any surprise that we consider this a 5.0 Addie hamburger? Our only regret is that they will be closed from December 25th to 29th, limiting the number of our return trips.

We passed along our praises to Sue, the manager, and asked if we could take a photo of her and her cooks. As Chuck applauded the cooks' work, the fellow on the right was smiling and laughing--just before striking this serious pose as the shutter clicked.

Classic burger indeed!

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