There is nothing more satisfying on Earth than eating a great hamburger. With terrific fries. Oh, and, a chocolate shake. My stomach twitches as I write these words and my mind does a quick Google of all the great burgers I have ever eaten. The Kobe beef burger at the Wynn in Las Vegas. Steak and Shake. Stroke burgers when in college. The 4am quarter pounder with cheese in a desperate attempt to soak up Jagers and nine hundred beers. The burger at the American army post in Germany after a summer of hitch hiking around Europe subsisting on youth hostel dreck.
But, then, like remembering that epic hurricane swell in high school, no wave before or since coming close to the giant that I caught and rode, I think of Fred's.
Fred's in Boulder. Well known throughout the world as the home of the best burger ever. So good that it's location was included in deep space radio broadcasts as an example of human progress and an invitation to visit.
Fred, a WWII vet who opened his restaurant because he wanted to play music. Fred's, where on a given night you might find Emmy Lou Harris sitting in with Fred and singing songs that were almost as good the food.
Fred's reflected American exceptionalism. No other country, no other period in history, no other civilization, no other political system, no other people in the history of the world, have ever come close to producing a hamburger.
Rome rose and fell without producing a single double cheeseburger with everything, hold the onions. Greece's glory stopped at gyros sandwiches.
Say this word out loud. Say it slowly, draw it out, have fun with the 'z' but say it:
The king (literally with regard to Fred) is dead. Long live the king!
Edzo's in Evanston is the best burger in the world. Meat eaters flock to it like the salmon of Capistrano. The other day I stood in line with tourists from Winnetka, Cicero, and Blue Island. Tourists one moment -- acolytes the next as the first bite transforms their lives.
I am, as you can tell, not given to exaggeration, but Edzo's is the best burger since the Big Bang. It is available in regular, uber, and super uber beef ... in 4 oz and 8 oz sizes, accompanied by a variety of great shakes, and an even greater variety of fantastic hand cut, twice cooked, French fries.
And, for the connoisseur -- Coca-Colas imported from Mexico, with real sugar not high fructose corn syrup.
Made to order, with all sorts of cheeses and extras. I counted the combinations one day and came up with 1.2 billion. Which means that if you are a serious gourmand you can mand it up for a century or two without repeating your gustatory experience.
I wish I could report that the atmosphere was like that of a church. Serious burger-philes, expert milk shakers from milk shake academies, graduate students writing dissertations on beef, aging Freddies nodding at each other in recognition should be allowed to savor such succulence in silence. But, no, it's very lively: Northwestern students, families with young children, Evanstonians in Birkenstocks and Carter for President t-shirts, and, huddled in the darker corners of Edzo's, vegetarians on the downlow, hunched over their 8 ouncers as they embrace their inner domesticated ungulate, tasting the forbidden fruit of grass, water, sun, and sky.
There are other things on the menu, rumors of hot dogs and chicken sandwiches, but they are only rumors. I could care less. Keep it between the lines of burger, shake, and fries and you'll attain Nirvana on Sherman Avenue.
I often chat with the eponymous owner. A jolly, pleasant man. He has an air of pure genius about him like a latter day Michelangelo, Edison, or Johannes Cabal. On Halloween he dressed up as Walter Sobchak and cemented my loyalty forever.
I took my lawyer last week, a most spiritual woman, just back from a week of Native American sweat lodges, peyote ceremonies, and Old Testament clogging competitions. She had realized, between the buttons, that she had been the great Comanche chief Quanah Parker in another life. In this one she is a hamburger aficionado. Well known for her data driven presentations on beef granularity, charcoal densities, and grass/grain ratios at hamburger conventions.
I ordered for her.
When presented with Edzo's best: a Deitzler Farms produced masterpiece, she used her hands to waft the burger smell up to her face and breathed deeply. Her eyes glazed, she sighed deeply, contentedly, simply marvelous she murmured. Then, confidently, with a single practiced motion, she took the dripping Ed-burg out of the basket.
Then a long, cheeks in, pull on her chocolate shake's straw. She began to tremble. I thought for a moment we had lost her.
After a while, she came back into this world from a galaxy far, far away and said, the serious attorney there again:
Sine qua non.