#982: Recipe for the Perfect Hamburger

September 19th, 2018

Contrary to popular assertions, the perfect hamburger is not necessarily grilled.

Nor is it necessarily charbroiled, parboiled, batter-dipped, smashed, skillet-fried, filleted, sous vide’d, sautéed, shwenkered, spatchcocked if such a thing can be done with ground meat, griddled up, braised or poached in a light crème sauce.

The perfect hamburger is, however, served by a woman whose phone rings while you’re talking.

This particular woman was gorgeous and sexualized to the point of caricature, but that’s not needed either. She was nice, though, which is. In prep for the night’s tips from the drunk and rapacious, she spent her late mornings in cleavage-pushing belly shirt and paint-tight Capris with a trickle of rhinestones up each side.

“That was my mother,” she said, returning for more tales of my one-month-old. “This technology! You’re in one country, someone is in other country, you can talk to them!”

“What country is your mother in?” I asked, perfect hamburger dripping onto my plate.

“Moldova,” she responded, fielding a question about time differences before walking off to finish her lunch and marry ketchups.

The downtown bar’s a holdout. That’s the term, I guess, for any place in River North not crisp with mirrored glass and 9- to 99-story elevators.

It’s a bar not dappled to impress, but to give rich and poor downtowners alike a burger, coffee and fries during the day, then get them drunk as hell at 5:00:01. Different sports were on the TVs that covered every surface not spackled with liquor merch the bar got for free or old photos, clippings and other yellowing ‘80s memories.

My perfect hamburger was on a bun with tomato, lettuce and chopped white onions they added without me asking for them, which was nice but not necessary for the perfect hamburger.

It’s also nice but not necessary for the perfect hamburger that it’s consumed near a man complaining about his bookie.

“My problem is I get in too early,” a pasty butterball in a Sox cap — me in 10 years if I don’t stop eating hamburgers for lunch — said to the bar manager while pointing at a Sun-Times sports page. “Like Saturday, when I went four for four — I told you I went four for four? — I should have called and canceled everything for Sunday. I would have been up 400 bucks.”

Next to him on the bar was a similarly large man with a similar-looking paper having a similar-sounding conversation in Spanish with the line cook.

As the man in the Sox cap talked, the manager, a short middle-aged man with a tucked-in plaid short sleeve and thinning slicked hair, got up and wandered to the window. A clapping, screaming, hooting, sign-wielding protest mob materialized on the corner. They were part of the hotel workers’ strike that’s been sloganing up downtown for the last few weeks.

The woman shuddered behind the bar, not the shudder of someone who disagrees with their cause, but the shudder of someone who has, through no fault of her own, worked long shifts in earshot as they yelled the same chants for hours at the hotel kittycorner to the bar.

“I don’t know why they’re walking around,” she said of the strike’s move from protest to parade.

My perfect hamburger was good, although the perfect hamburger need not be good to be perfect.

The perfect hamburger’s not grilled, broiled, spatchcocked or even meat between two bun-halves. The perfect hamburger’s not a hamburger, but a time place moment combination of Sox caps, bookies and rhinestoned booty pants that will never happen again anywhere.

This was good, but that didn’t matter. It was perfect.

Meet River North’s friendly neighborhood porn shop

And where you can find some sweet clown artifacts nearby

And an Australian at a bar miles away, who tries to impress alone

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You are currently reading #982: Recipe for the Perfect Hamburger by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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