An immigrant, a burger, country music and the American Dream
The other day my good friend Pam took me to a doctor appointment for some tests. After several hours worth of tests that I had to be NPO for (read: fasting) I was hungry so on the way home I directed Pam to stop at this dive along the road. I knew nothing about the place having found it a week before while playing around with Google Earth on my iPad. All I knew is that it served pizza and burgers and the rumbly in my tumbly said both sounded good right about then.
Perhaps I should’ve been thinking salad to help work towards a body like Magic Mike instead of one like Michael Moore but I was hungry as a mofo and wanted to get my grub on.
As we walked towards the establishment I asked Pam to make sure she locked the car doors because, after all, we were in the hood and stuff left on car seats in unlocked vehicles have a way of disappearing in such environs. I’m just sayin’.
We walked into the empty eatery and were greeted by a lone Asian man behind the counter. He appeared to be the only one in the restaurant and possibly the manager/owner. While we looked up at the typical fast food style menus overhead he informed us in broken English that he no longer served pizza.
No longer served pizza? There’s a picture of pizza on your sign outside! Pizza is in the name of your restaurant! Are you kidding me? Don’t you hate when your mouth is all set for something and then the culinary rug is pulled out from under you? This was like walking into Burger King and the pimply kid at the register says, “Oh, we no longer serve hamburgers.” Get outta here.
Pam just ordered some ice cream. I ordered a burger and fries. I was going for it. I hadn’t eaten anything since dinner the day before and it was 1 p.m. A hogasaurus like me had to get my eat on. I’d total up the caloric damage later.
One of the things one couldn’t help notice in this empty establishment was the country music playing at high volume. It was as if there was a live band in the back of the dive restaurant. And it wasn’t the pop stuff that passes for country today. No, it was that twanging, yodeling, knee slappin’, squeezebox squeezin’, God-fearin’, Jed Clampett, hillbilly country music they used to play.
The proprietor brought out our order and I dug into the fries. Just like I like my women they were hot, thick, and soft on the inside. Not bad. They were better than In-N-Out Burger’s fries. Yeah, I said it. It’s not like it’s difficult to make better fries than In-N-Out. Okay, if you get animal-style fries they’re better but everyone knows In-N-Out’s fries suck. Years ago I was at the grand opening of the Fairfield In-N-Out Burger doing research for a column. Seriously. The manager was telling me how they use fresh ingredients and were really proud of their French fries. Right on cue a woman walked up to us in the middle of the restaurant and told the manager that the fries were horrible and she wanted her money back. The manager looked ashen. He directed the woman to the front counter to get a refund and then came back to me and said, “Obviously, I wish you hadn’t seen that.” True story.
But I digress. So I attacked the burger, which was served with iceberg lettuce, slice of tomato, the vileness that is American cheese and the ubiquitous, thoroughly played-out Thousand Island dressing. The burger had clearly been charbroiled. That part was good. The bad part was that, like a McDonald’s patty, the meat was the same consistency as the bun. You didn’t need to have teeth to be able to eat this thing. A baby straight from the womb or an elderly person with one foot in the grave could chow down on this “burger.”
But I ate it. Didn’t you hear me say I was hungry? You don’t get between a fat hungry man and anything resembling a burger.
On a counter near the trash cans sat a pile of Sacramento News & Review newspapers which touted the best burgers in Sacramento on the front page. The owner of this place must have a ballbag made of granite. I’m eating in a formerly pizza and burger, now just-burger joint run by an Asian man who loves country & western music, in the hood. Only in America! And he even has the nerve to have a stack of newspapers touting the best burgers in town, knowing his won’t be found in those pages and doesn’t come close to reaching the heights of the epic burgers described within.
It doesn’t deter him at all. Go on, my Asian brother. Hell no, I won’t be back because your burger sucked but continue to do you, sir. English isn’t this guy’s first language but the difference is he’s living the American dream while we’re still just dreaming about it.