The Power Of Burgers

This week, David Letterman welcomed New York City’s new Steak ‘n Shake; quite possibly, the one person most thrilled by this is a man who can no longer eat. (after the jump:)

Roger Ebert has been writing, tweeting, and probably dreaming about the new NYC Steak ‘n Shake. Why? This is why. Ebert writes magnificently; I won’t attempt to either reproduce it or select from it here, but it is a love letter to his favorite (and that is clearly an unforgivable understatement) restaurant. Go. Read it. The other required reading is “Nil by mouth”. This is why Ebert is a Pulitzer Prize winner. The man can write.

Anyway, I am taking the opportunity afforded by NYC’s new Steak ‘n Shake to talk about my all time favorite burger (a post originally inspired by Ebert, by the way). Which, I now see, was mostly the circumstances and the company… but I’m willing to live with that. Just promise you won’t compare my writing to his example.

The cook leaned up against the no-smoking sign,
Lit one cigarette from another, and gave us a look.
It was late, near closing; his friends were leaving to find
A party somewhere, and couldn’t wait for the cook.
We were four Americans; the cook must have guessed
We were better entertainment. He turned, re-lit the grill,
And asked us what we wanted. “What’s your best?”
So, burgers it was—but no run-of-the-mill
Ground beef; we could choose chicken or pork,
With mayonnaise, fried egg, and yellow cheese
For condiments, and french fries to eat with a fork.
“To drink?” “Four large diet cokes, if you please.”
We sat, the four of us, and ate, and drank, and talked.
The cook looked on, amused by us, no doubt;
Once strangers, now our group of friends had walked
Through Greece and Bulgaria together, and were just about
To say goodbye, perhaps for good. We knew
Each other, loved each other, and this perfect night
Was ours. We ate our meals and looked back through
The past five weeks. I complained that the flight
Back home was coming all too soon for me.
We would have stayed there talking through the night
If we could have; the cook’s face said we should go.
We left—so very happy, so very sad.
Sure, it probably was the company, but I know…
That was the best damn cheeseburger I ever had.

(This is the place. If you are ever in Sofia, Bulgaria, there are scores of better places to eat. Unless you are with friends, and have walked the whole town looking for just the right place for a pork burger with mayo, yellow cheese, and fried egg, on a soft white roll. In which case, this is the very best place on earth. It’s on Shipka street, about a block from the University.)


  1. carlie says

    Ever since I moved away from Illinois, I have always made sure to eat at a Steak-N-Shake at least once during every trip back. Double steakburger platter with fries and beans, and a chocolate malt. It’s almost impossible to find a chocolate malt these days anywhere else. Ebert is entirely correct. :)
    Sadly, they’ve made some changes to the menu in the last couple of years, and it’s all going downhill :(

  2. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    Sadly, they’ve made some changes to the menu in the last couple of years, and it’s all going downhill :(

    Nostalgia isn’t like it used to be.

  3. carlie says

    Nostalgia isn’t like it used to be.

    That’s the thing, isn’t it? Why, in my day…

    (Also, Cuttlefish, that was a beautiful story.)

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