I love a good burger.

We had some great burger joints in San Francisco when I was growing up.  Beeps Burgers, Tic-Toc, Whiz Burgers… The Cable Car, The Hippo, Red’s Java Shack.  Bill’s… Hamburger Haven… and the French Burger at Original Joe’s.

San Francisco was – and is – a Burger Town.  All but The Hippo and Hamburger Haven are still around – and many, may more have opened over the years.  Hamburger Mary’s isn’t exactly what it was 40 years ago – in fact it’s a franchise, today – but there’s also Barney’s, Super Duper, and Hall of Flame to name but a (very) few.

We had Fat Boy two blocks away from us at 46th and Sloat before it was torn down to build a Doggie Diner in the mid-’60s, but even DD had a reasonably decent burger.

The great thing about burgers in San Francisco was that they were all local.  Zoning, unions, and better-than-average eating habits kept the chains out until (I think) the mid-70’s when McDonald’s finally won a lawsuit.  We had food that was fast.  We didn’t have fast-food.  No golden arches, crowns, or girls in pinafores.  No KFC.  We had Chicken Delight.

I’ve mentioned a few times what a great place San Francisco was to grow up.  This is but one of the many, many reasons.  The food was superior because the people demanded superior food.  They still do.

Fast-forward a few years and move east a few thousand miles and thoughts of those burgers are clogging my arteries as I type.   Sitting outside on the patio at Bill’s on one of the rare nice Summer days in the Outer Richmond.  Sitting in a drive-in in my 1957 Ford Fairlane (my first legal car) with a greasy burger wrapped in waxed paper.  A Swiss burger with bacon, avocado, tomato, and sprouts.  The Western Burger with BBQ sauce and cheddar. Pure heaven.

I didn’t think about any of those places until I bit into tonight’s burger.  Had I been thinking, I would have had hand-cut french fries along with the home made rolls instead of frozen cubed potatoes. Maybe even a milk shake.  No…  I wasn’t thinking…

The first bite really did it for me.  A crunchy, crusty roll and everything just slipping and sliding around.  And I was a total minimalist!   I didn’t put half the stuff I normally put on a burger!  Just cheese, sliced tomato, pickle, mayo, and catsup.  You know a burger is good when you have to get up after only eating half to wash your hands.  No amount of napkins was working.  Had I put any more on it I would have had to eat it standing over the sink.  It really was that good.

So do yourselves a favor.  Eschew the national chains for your next burger and hit up one of those greasy burger joints of your youth.  Wear old clothes and bring the kids.  Remember what a real hamburger tasted like and what it was like to need a half-dozen napkins to eat one!

And don’t worry about making a mess.

It is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.