Editor's note: Burgermeisters! Here's another excerpt from George Motz's book Hamburger America. George and his publisher were kind enough to allow us to run them here, along with George's beautiful photos. We'll be running one every other week. Eat up! —The Mgmt.
Just up the hill on Main Street in Greenville, South Carolina, where the high rises give way to trees and homes, I discovered an excellent spot to enjoy a Southern favorite—the Pimento Cheeseburger.
The menu at the Northgate is classic soda shop diner fare—tuna, peanut butter and jelly, hot dogs, grilled cheese, and egg sandwiches, but the big seller is their fantastic pimento cheese burger.
"Either you’ll love it or hate it," waitress Brenda warned me before I bit into my burger. I have to admit I had never had one even though my mother is from South Carolina. Fortunately, I fall into the "love it" category.
The pimento cheese for their sandwiches and burgers is a tangy mix of mayo, cheddar, and diced pimentos. "We make it right here, fresh every day," veteran waitress Maudie told me of the over forty year-old recipe. The beef is also fresh, picked up daily from a butcher just up Main Street (this fact is also proudly announced in their menu, complete with the butcher’s name and address).
The burger starts as a fresh ground beef that is pressed in a vintage burger press. The press produces a three and one-half ounce patty that is cooked on a flattop griddle. The burger comes to you on a toasted bun with tomato, lettuce, and a large dollop of pimento cheese. I also had a cherry smash, a drink made from cherry syrup and soda water, dispensed from the Northgate’s vintage soda fountain.
Owner Catherine Christophillis couldn’t be a more perfect fit as the new owner of this South Carolina time warp. She is active in community-theater (she had just starred as the Witch in the Wizard of Oz), she served on the city council, and her husband grew up just down the street. "He has been coming here forever. Now my kids do too."
Northgate Soda Shop
918 North Main Street, Greenville SC 29609 (map)
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Closed Sundays
Hamburger America is available at Amazon and comes with a DVD of George's movie of the same title.