Ladies and gentlemen, who better to Grill for Father's Day than an actual dad? That's rhetorical, son. As my Father's Day gift to you (and him), here's an interview with my dear old dad. He likes his burgers the way he likes them, and doesn't care if you don't. So, without further ado, let's get Grillin'!
Name: Allan Krueger
Location: Acton, Massachusetts
How often do you eat burgers? As often as I can! Oh wait, is your mother going to read this? Very infrequently, not hardly at all, almost never.
Where did you eat your most recent one? At home actually. Hot off the hickory smoked grill. And tasty it was, in spite of being vegetable-based.
Are you eating more veggie burgers than beef burgers these days? Oh, perish the thought. Well, more than when I was a lot younger, but not more so than in the recent years. You know, sometimes you feel like a nut, etc.
Cheese: American, cheddar, other? None of the above, not even with a veggie burger.
But you do like cheese, right? I've seen you eat it. It isn't the cheese, it's the combination. But this is a discussion about hamburgers, not grilled cheese.
And what do you think about the so-called "Kosher Cheeseburger"? Is this the point where I say "How 'bout those Celtics?"
Moving on then. Ketchup or mustard? Yes, yes and more: pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato...
Sesame-seed or plain? Sesame-seed of course.
Of course. How about grilled, griddled, or broiled? Grilled, broiled, griddled; in that order of preference.
And how would you like that done, sir? Thoroughly cooked throughout; which doesn’t mean it has to be burned (or as some insist: I need it gray)- only that ‘stabbed and served’ is not acceptable.
So, not mooing, then? And beyond. Isn't that why fire was invented?
I'll consult Wikipedia. Say, would you do us the favor of describing your perfect burger? (Price and ingredients are no object.) Approximately ½ pound (pre-cooked weight) of fresh 94% fat free ground beef, broiled over an open flame until seared on all sides, cooked throughout (no trace of pink), on a lightly toasted Sesame Street-- oops-- Sesame Seed bun amply coated with ketchup, deli mustard, iceberg lettuce, tomato slices, sweet pickles, and a slice of raw onion.
The hamburger is a food item with which most Americans have strong childhood associations. Do you remember your earliest encounter with this delicious dish? Probably not the earliest but certainly in/from that era... My parents had a wooden press that was about 4” on each side. It was hinged at both the top and bottom had a circle of approximately 3-1/2” in diameter cut out to a depth of about ½” in the middle. My mother would mix up the ground beef with egg, bread crumbs, and some (non-recollected) seasoning (which probably wasn’t anything more exotic than salt and pepper). My real fascination came from grabbing a handful of the meat from the large mixing bowl in which it was resting, rolling it in my hands into a ball, placing the ball in the center of the press (which had a piece of wax paper in both the top and bottom), pressing down firmly, then collecting (for reuse in the next ball) the excess which dropped off the sides and removing the now ‘perfectly shaped’ patty to be taken outside where my father reigned over the grill-- he of the "one for the cook, one for the table" school. Everything tastes better when you’ve had involvement with its preparation.
I am noting a conspicuous lack of participation on your younger brother's part. He had other interests, assignments, food choices.
Do you remember your dad having any particular thoughts on burgers? He was an appreciator of a good burgers but not a connoisseur. Sunday evenings often found us at Frisch's, which was a family style restaurant with booths and counter service. The specialty of the house was a platter consisting of a Frisch's Big Boy, fries and cole slaw. The adults sat in the booth and the kids got seats at the counter. The burgers were thin, flat, and grilled, but pretty tasty actually. I can recall my father always ordering his with that extra slice of raw onion; it wasn't complete without it.
The raw-onion-gene seems to have missed me. Any charming stories about my first encounters with hamburgers? There is this vague recollection of a field trip you took to the farm when you were in preschool. After being introduced to all that occurs on a working farm, you suddenly had this aha experience related to cows and hamburgers. I believe you said something to the effect of "I'm not sure I like that". However, it doesn't seem to have had long term detrimental effects. Or, perhaps that at the San Antonio Fuddruckers, everyone knew your name (and probably still does).
What? I should move back to San Antonio! What's your favorite fast-food burger? A Burger King Whopper, well-done, no cheese, no mayo. But that’s only because they’re available. Given the opportunity to be closer to it, it would be the Fuddruckers Original ½ pound burger from the original San Antonio, TX location. You walk into the place, see the beef hanging on the hook in the cold case, watch them (if you want to) grind it into patties and then have it cooked to your own specifications.
You receive your order, walk to the condiment bar (loaded with pretty much all of the fixings anyone could want), and after making it into what you want it to be, you head to your table and dig in. It’s a perfect marketing plan; since you are responsible for applying your own condiments you can never have a bad burger. Long necks come in a galvanized bucket. Salt and pepper are in containers the size that would make Costco jealous. And, if you have room after the burger and fries and/or onion rings, they also have some really good cookies. Unfortunately none of the franchise locations I’ve frequented since ever really understood the concept and delivered the products the same way as Location #001.
Those are some of my fast favorites too. That was why they knew your name at Fudd's: your talent for really getting involved with your burger.
You're from Ohio, any thoughts on Steak 'n' Shake's burger? Steak and Shake was after my time and I had too many other places to go to even give it a fair shake during the few opportunities I had to return there. Truth be told, I think its really just an updated Burger-Chef concept with a lot more offerings.
What topping or condiment, in your opinion, should never grace a burger? For me it would be the cheese.
What's the most unusual burger you've ever eaten? (Or most unusual burger experience you've had?) Ahh, how can you force me to choose? Having lived in a number of different places it is taxing to do so. Is it the venison burger cooked over the Hibachi grille at The Hunter, in Tokyo, or the heartburn inducing, grease dripping special at Stella’s in Bellevue, Nebraska. Tough to decide. You and I probably need to do a retrospective trip of places I have lived and burgers I have known.
Let's do it. I'll be free in October. Do we have to wait that long? We'll both probably have burger withdrawal by then.
Your son is very excited for our trip to San Diego this summer just so he can finally try In-and-Out Burger. Are you? You've read Calvin Trillin's book Alice Let's Eat wherein he talks about stopping to sample some food or other on the way to the real meal they were headed towards? I think that we should follow his lead. So of course, I'm in.
What's the most overrated burger you've tried? Most underrated? Well, in the immortal words of Joe Bunce, although he wasn’t exactly speaking of hamburgers at the time: “The worst I’ve ever had was terrific”.
Will our readers know Joe Bunce? I don't. Joe Bunce was a rather interesting individual with whom I worked in Japan. He had nine kids, including twins, and was working on (producing) others when I last saw him. He was full of interesting things that he often said and I sometimes find myself quoting him. It doesn't really matter who he is/was, only that I gave attribution. The original phrase was referring to sex (of course), but still is applicable in my context.
For some crazy reason, you're going vegetarian. Where do you go for your final burger? Wympee's, on Third Street, in Dayton, even though you can’t go home again.
Burger Joints Referenced
- Frisch's Big Boy, various locations, frischs.com
- Fuddruckers #001 8602 Botts Lane, San Antonio, TX, (map), fuddruckers.com
- Burger-Chef, various locations, 1954-1996
- The Hunter, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, JAPAN, presumed closed
- Stella's, 106 Galvin Rd S., Bellevue, NE, (map)
- Wympee 416 E. 3rd St., Dayton, OH, (map)
Other Grilled interviews from the AHT Archives
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