Thursday, April 22, 2010

“EVOO, Delish, Sammy, Stoup, and (the ever popular) Yummo”

Boy, I’m glad I have that out of my system.

What do these words have in common? They are all catch phrases frequently spoken by Rachael Ray. If you are not familiar with Rachael Ray, she is the host of 30-Minute Meals on the Food Network and also has a daytime syndicated talk program. You either love Rach (as she calls herself) or hate her. Early in her Food Network career, she also hosted Forty Dollars a Day. On this program, she would go to a city, and without spending over $40.00 a day—tax and tip included, would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at various local restaurants. During one episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations (Travel Channel), he finds himself eating in the same restaurant in Charleston, SC, as had been visited by Rach(ael). Commenting on the fact that this is not exactly a bargain restaurant, Anthony Bourdain asks the owner: “Does this woman tip?”

But it was through Rach(ael) that we learned about the Jerome Palace Haunted Hamburger prior to our first visit to Arizona. We had dinner there one night during our stay at the Jerome Grand Hotel. (As Count Floyd, host of Monster Chiller Horror Theater, on SCTV would say: “Scary. Real Scary.”) We enjoyed it so much that a return visit was in order.

“How did the Haunted Hamburger get its name? Is it really haunted?..It all started years ago when Michelle and Eric Jurisin acquired the restaurant. The building…was in need of great repair…This is when the funny business began. As with all old buildings, when inhabitants take initial occupation, from its walls come spirits to observe…. The Haunted Hamburger spirits were no different. Not only were these spirits curious, but possibly frustrated, tradesmen from long ago, as it was tools that these spirits liked to take. More specifically, hammers. One hammer, then two, finally three hammers had disappeared. Was this memory loss? At first it was thought so until a prior owner asked…if they had met the ghosts yet and to beware, they liked hammers. Shortly after this confirmation the hammers began to reappear… (Information from the beverage and specials card that is left on each table.)

Other occurrences included door slamming, cans flying off shelves, hot water running in the middle of the night, and the vague image of a woman captured on visitors’ photographs.

Located one level down the hill from the Jerome Grand, Haunted Hamburger also commands a view of Jerome and the valley below. And off in the distance we could see the snow capped mountains of Flagstaff, AZ fifty miles away. Perched on the roof of a building one level down was this structure. I asked our waitress if it was a light. She explained that this building had originally been Jerome’s Town Hall and the structure was a siren that called volunteer firemen and announced shift changes at the mine and mine collapses.

Haunted Hamburgers clientele is as eclectic – and maybe eccentric – as the town of Jerome itself. At the table next to us sat three middle-age women; at the bar sat a fiftyish man with his baseball cap on backwards (not a good look at any age but especially not on an old geezer); and at 11:45 a.m., came the invasion of the bikers. And our waitress, Cheryl, had an attitude (or as they say in Philadelphia, "attytude") that would be right at home in any Philly diner.

So when eating in a place named Haunted Hamburger do you order a salad? Of course not. I chose the Original, a half-pound burger with roasted green chili and onions and a side of slaw.

The Big Dog (Chuck) ordered the Big Dog hot dog with fries AND the Original burger with onion only and a side of slaw.

The slaw was a good creamy shredded slaw. Not the greatest ever but we have certainly had worse. The fries were coated and may or may not have come from a bag. The hot dog was actually (Aren’t you tired of people using this word?) quite good. Not too smoky and not too overly seasoned. And its size certainly lived up to the name of Big Dog.

It was with the hamburgers that the restaurant excelled. Haunted Hamburger managed to achieve the trifecta of burgers. The center was pink, the meat was juicy, and the exterior had that wonderful charred grilled flavor. And being served on a buttered and toasted roll didn’t hurt either.

What Haunted Hamburger lacked was the personal approach that we found at Bing’s Burger Station, and so only receives a 4.0 Addie rating.

After lunch we continued our walk around town. Or rather, when talking about touring Jerome, we continued our walk "up" and "down" town.

Visitors have the choice of walking the sidewalks of the hairpin-turn streets or taking the shortcuts between levels by using the stairs.

We looked uphill toward Holy Family Church, but decided that our walk would be more enjoyable if we headed downhill.

After passing the fire station, we headed down the hill past some craft shops and an eatery in the row of shops.

The Flatiron Cafe occupied the front room of this narrow building at a "Y" in the intersection. There are so few tables in the space that the optional dining area is located in a courtyard across the street.

The final leg of our return to the truck took us past the Central Hotel (the yellow building on the right in the photo on the right) and a number of craft shops.

We were sorry to leave "America's Most Vertical City."

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