On a recent drive down the Beltline (Hwy. 67) in Decatur, AL, from the intersection with Hwy. 31 to Old Moulton Road, I counted TWENTY, yes, 20 places where a hungry person can order a hamburger. And, if I'd extended my drive down Hwy. 67 to the interstate, I'm sure I would have passed a half dozen more. I keep asking myself why, oh why, do we need so many burgers places in such a small area?
The obvious places that emphasize burgers are McDonald's, Jack's, Wendy's, Hardee's, Milo's, and Burger King. Then, you add other chains that feature burgers prominently on their menus -- Logan's Roadhouse, Texas Roadhouse, Cracker Barrel, Steak & Shake, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili's, O'Charley's, Applebee's, and Waffle House. But the most surprising thing is that FOUR MORE have been added on this same stretch of road since the pandemic began --
Cook Out, Whataburger, Freddy's, and most recently, Buffalo Luke's.
Steve and I did a taste comparison between Freddy's, Cook Out, and Whataburger recently. The frozen custard at Freddy's and the milkshakes at Cook Out that are so thick you HAVE to eat them with a spoon are definite attractions. The fries were really tasty, hot, and crispy at Cook Out and Whataburger, and the buns are noticeably larger at Whataburger. But in our opinion, the flavor of the actual burger was best at Cook Out. It really tasted like it had been grilled in the backyard! We haven't tried Buffalo Luke's yet. It is in the space beside Alfonzo's where Cheeseburger Bobby's used to be.
I love burgers as much as the next person, but I thought a little more research into the whys of America's burger culture might be interesting. In a post by Adam Roberts on The Epicurious Blog, he cites several reasons for their popularity:
1) Burgers are cheap.
I can't argue with that. When I see the entrees listed on most menus, burger prices are often half as much as regular entrees. And, when you consider that most come with a generous serving of fries, you have a filling meal for less money.
2) Burgers are easy to eat.
Again, no argument. Well, unless you get one that is fully loaded with lettuce, tomato, onions, and all kinds of drippy sauces. Generally, a burger is confined to a bun, and there's no cutting involved. Just pick it up with your hands and start eating.
3) Burgers come with sides which make them more customizable to various preferences.
French fries, sweet potato fries, mac and cheese, apple slices, side salad, fruit cup, etc. But, as the grandmother of 15, I can say that 99% of the time, they will choose fries and LOTS of catsup.
4) Burgers are familiar.
When a person is confronted with a menu of exotic options with strange-sounding names, many times that person will choose something that seems safe and familiar. If you live in America, you likely grew up on burgers from your mom's kitchen or your dad's outdoor grill. Also, if you spent time with grandparents, you were often indulged with a Happy Meal. Burgers taste comfortable.
5) Burgers come in many varieties.
Hawaiian burgers, barbecue burgers, cheeseburgers, bacon burgers, double-patty burgers, triple-patty burgers, pizza burgers, bison burgers, elk burgers, etc. A former Hartselle restaurant used to offer mac n cheese burgers, and PB & J burgers! Several of my grandkids want just "a bun and meat," but the creations are actually pretty endless.
6) Burgers are delicious. Period.
Notice that every single one of the places I've mentioned in this post belongs to a chain. My thought is that we have quite enough burger choices . . . and Mexican restaurants . . . and barbecue options. Please bring us more creative dishes and locally-owned eateries. But that's just me.
So, what is your go-to burger restaurant? Why do you like it? Inquiring minds want to know.