For the last several years my husband and I have been on a leisurely search for the perfect hamburger. I don’t hunt with the same intensity that I might approach a quest for the Fountain of Youth. I have to be in the mood for a burger, which only happens every so often.
It’s hard to define what makes the perfect burger. Reminiscent of those who say they know art when they see it, I know a great burger when I eat it. The quality of the bun figures into our ranking system as does the way the meat is grilled, the trimmings — tomato, lettuce, onions, just the basics — and, of course, the sauce. The special sauce is an essential ingredient.
I thought about the search last week, because we ate lunch at an upscale hotel restaurant where my husband ordered the $16 burger only to say later, “It was okay.” We’ve tried one local “gourmet burger” restaurant, and the hamburgers were very good, but not great.
Another kind of restaurant where you won’t come across the dream meal is the burger bar that specializes in adventurous and original creations, like the quadruple patty which, when you slide it into the bun measures eight inches in height, requires a long-blade instead of a toothpick to hold it together, and is impossible to fit in your mouth. It becomes even harder to eat when the cook adds a half-pound of bacon, a few jalapeños, three kinds of cheese, sauerkraut, and a few layers of barbecue sauce.
So where do you find the authentic but elusive taste treat? At certain fifties-style drive-ins. You know, a place that has no seating indoors, not one charming feature about its exterior, possibly a long line but not always, and a few burnt-out bulbs in its neon sign. If you thought about it, which you don’t, you might wonder how long ago the health inspector stopped by.
Our most recent find was Giant Burger in Cle Elum, WA. We weren’t sure what to expect. The crew consisted of two, somewhat slow-moving, elderly women, but we shouldn’t have prejudged. The burgers were the best. One other favorite, despite the fact that it doesn’t qualify as a drive-in, is the Bistro at Campbell’s Resort at Lake Chelan. That burger is also worth driving across a mountain pass for.
Urbanspoon.com has an eight-page list called Burger Joints in Washington. Large chain restaurants don’t qualify to be considered for my ranking system. Even if I zoomed in on only those on the list with “Drive-in” after their names the challenge of visiting and testing them all would be too big for my lifetime and too hard on my heart. I’m content to limit my searches to times when I have an overpowering craving.
Can anyone recommend a favorite burger joint worth traveling to?