Hamburger America: Snappy Lunch in Mount Airy, North Carolina
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. Eat up!
The Snappy Lunch sells a curiosity called the Breaded Hamburger. Sometimes referred to as the "No-Burger." or the "old fashioned," this throwback to the Depression was invented when meat was scarce. At the Snappy Lunch, the breaded burger still out-sells the regular burger on the menu three to one.
"I don’t even get into it with out-of-towners," said Mary Dowell, wife of long-time owner and local food celebrity Charles Dowell. "I don't even like them!" she told me with a smile. I tried my first Depression-era burger at the Snappy Lunch and really liked it. It kind of resembled a bland crab cake with ground beef inside. "What do ya think?" Mary asked. I told her it tasted like a biscuit and she informed me that I had named the main ingredient.
Charles has been a fixture at the Snappy Lunch since 1943 where at age fifteen he was paid $10 a week. Eight years later his father, a local grocer, helped Charles negotiate the purchase of a share in the restaurant and in 1960 became the sole owner.
In the recently renovated gleaming kitchen at the rear of the restaurant I met 16-year veteran cook Diane. "I never thought a breaded burger could out-sell the regular burger, but they do, every day."
Hamburger America is available at Amazon and comes with a DVD of George's movie of the same title.