a couple more links: http://www.americanprofile.com/issues/20040627/20040627_4003.asp http://www.plainsfolk.com/oases/oasis27.htm
What’s under the bun varies as widely as its size. Some hamburger devotees demand them plain; some prefer them piled. And many find their perfect match in the regional version.
The favorite hometown burger in El Reno, Okla., (pop. 16,212) is evident with one whiff of downtown. The Route 66 town is famous as the Fried-Onion Hamburger Capital of the World and celebrates its legacy the first Saturday in May with a 750-pound, fried-onion community hamburger.
Three downtown eateries within three blocks serve the regional burgers: Johnnie’s Grill, Robert’s Grill, and Sid’s Diner. In the early 1900s, as many as 14 hamburger stands spiced the frontier town. For this burger, a mound of thinly sliced yellow onions is flattened onto a quarter-pound ball of ground beef and sizzled into the patty.
“It’s a hometown deal and has quite an aroma,” says Steve Galloway, 47, owner of Johnnie’s Grill, in business since 1946. “We used to have one guy who’d fly his helicopter here to get fried-onion burgers.”
Taverns and mom-and-pop places often serve the best old-fashioned hamburgers, discovered Bill Bunyan, 65, of Dodge City, Kan. (pop. 25,176). The retired history teacher completed his quest last August to eat a hamburger in each of Kansas’ 105 counties.
“The best are rustic places,” Bunyan says. “I ate open-faced chili cheeseburgers at Lizard Lips deli (Toronto, pop. 312) where there’s a tank nearby for (fish) bait. Oh, and in Salina, I was in hog heaven at the Cozy Inn.”
The inn’s miniature Cozy Burgers have been cooked on the same 18-by-36-inch cast-iron grill in the six-stool diner for 82 years. Customers pitched a fit in the 1940s when the owner installed a new grill, so he put the old one back. Other than the price creeping up about a dime a decade, nothing has changed. Most people eat five or six of the 80-cent Cozy Burgers, notes manager Larry Jackson, 46, who savored his first at age 4. He ships frozen batches nationwide to loyal customers.
Jackson daily grinds 90-percent lean beef by hand for the plain and simple recipe: a ball of beef is flattened on the grill and sprinkled with onions, salt and pepper. That’s it.
“An employee got fired once for putting on cheese,” Jackson says.
Which just goes to prove, some people are pretty particular about the way they serve—and eat—the all-American burger.