Friday, November 9, 2007

I'd Gladly Pay You Tuesday...


This evening Debra and I plan to go across the Savannah River into North Augusta, SC to have a hamburger at Gary's Hamburgers. In an annual local poll, the hamburger at Gary's is voted the best in the area. We've lived in Augusta for almost five years and haven't tried it yet, so it's about time.

In my humble opinion, Gary's hamburger will have to be spectacular if it is going to beat the one at the Village Deli. They have several specialty burgers but I always order the Basic Burger, medium, with the wedge fries (they have lemon pepper seasoning on them--my more liberal friends like to get the beer-battered fries). That's the best-tasting restaurant hamburger I've ever had. I have to put it that way because the hamburgers that I grill at home are the best ones I get anywhere.

I have some great memories of hamburgers.

When I was a boy growing up in Barnesville, Georgia, the only fast-food chain in town was the Dairy Queen. They had a good hamburger. But the real treat for me came when my parents took me to see Mr. Lifsey who operated a burger stand called the Ron-Sue (I don't know why it was called that) on the corner where, unless things have changed since the last time I was there, the Big Chic is now located. I would sit at the counter and order "a hamburger with nothing but ketchup and a bun without those seeds on it." Mr. Lifsey always laughed at my order but always prepared my burger to my specifications.

About that same time my Aunt Dot and Uncle Sandy introduced me to the joys of a scrambled hamburger. They would just brown the ground beef and put it on a bun. On the rare occasions that we prepare that dish at home, I'll put mustard and ketchup and dill pickles on it. Don't ask me how or why, but it tastes different than a "normal" hamburger. If you toss a can of Manwich Sandwich sauce (in this day and age, you'd think they'd change the name to Personwich Sandwich) in with the ground beef, then you really have a meal. For some reason, Manwich Sandwich requires hand-cut french fries as the side dish.


During my childhood, Macon, being some 35 miles away, seemed to me to be an exotic place. When we went there a regular stop was the Shoney's restaurant on Riverside Drive. They had curb service. You pulled up to a speaker, ordered your food, and, when the waitress brought it out to you, you'd eat it in your car. I always ordered a Big Boy hamburger and lemonade. The Big Boy, which I understand is still available at one chain that operates in areas of the country in which I don't live and which I don't visit, was a double-decker hamburger with lettuce, pickles, and a special sauce that I think was Thousand Island dressing. This much I know: it would make you throw rocks at a Big Mac.

Hardees has had some good-tasting burgers at times. The Big Twin comes to mind.

One of the reasons that I chose not to attend Southwestern Seminary was that on my visit there, when I went into the local Dairy Queen, they had never heard of a Mr. Misty and they sold tacos. I couldn't handle the culture shock. I experienced a little bit of culture shock when we moved to Louisville to attend Southern Seminary. There was a hamburger place right across the railroad tracks from Seminary Village (the Gospel Ghetto), where we lived during our first two years in Louisville. One day I scraped some coins together and treated myself to a hamburger there. I placed my order and the nice lady asked, "Would you like that dressed?" I was at a loss. Was she talking about me or the hamburger? If me, the other option was shocking. Had she asked, "Would you like it all the way?" I would have understood. Of course, now that I think about that....

It was in Louisville that I had my first experience with a Fuddruckers-like establishment--you know, a place where you order your burger and then visit a 2,000 item condiment bar containing everything from onions to coconut. It was called W. W. Cousins. I think they're still there. The best hamburger I ate in Louisville, though, was at a small grocery store on Frankfort Avenue in the Clifton part of town that had a grill in the back. I don't remember the name of the store but the burger was excellent.

While I was in seminary I served as pastor of the Beech Grove Baptist Church in Owenton, Kentucky. The church members there told us that the best hamburger in town was at the Pool Hall. They told us that with a look that said, "Now, ordinarily, we don't approve of our pastor going to the pool hall but, if you're going for the hamburger, we'll look the other way." Had I tried to start a Bible study there, though, I'd probably have been looked on with the same suspicions as those emergent church folks who hold one in a bar.

As you can see, I like hamburgers.

We'll see if Gary's can stack up to some of my past favorites.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you wanted to expand your list, you might have to include the Jack Daniels burger at TGI Fridays. Scrump-dilly-ious! Still can't wait to dine with you at Gary's tonight!

Gary Snowden said...

Mike,

With a name like that, it's got to be a delicious hamburger!

Mike Ruffin said...

Just got back from Gary's. The hamburger was very good--obviously made fresh to order, tasty, and reasonably priced. I would still rate the one at Village Deli slightly ahead of it, but the race is close. Determining the truth will take multiple visits to both establishments.

Gary, they didn't let you down; they are a credit to your name!

Debra darling, thank you for going with me and sharing your onion rings with me. And you're right about the Jack Daniels burger. Of course, like I said about those beer-battered fries....

Scott said...

That was a fun post to read. I think you left Nashville before the introduction of the Fat Mo...it is my favorite burger in the Music City. I try to eat one every time I visit back home.

Every Sunday Jenn and I eat with a group of friends after church, and right now we are on a burger tour of central Texas. There is a place in Crawford called The Coffee Station - it was made "famous" because its the favorite local burger joint of the Bush family - and its an excellent burger. It's a bit of a greasy hole in the wall place, but I enjoy my sandwich every time.

We also make sure and sit on the other side of the place from Karl Rove. ;)