last weekend

K worked on Saturday and Youngest was out with friends all day.
Middle and I did the grocery shopping and came home and made paper snow flakes for the dining room. (Note to me: take a picture!) That night, Oldest went to a concert that was pretty far away and, though he has a car, was anxious about getting there and back. A friend volunteered to drive him and I offered to bring him back home. I drove, very late at night, through a mini snowstorm, to fetch him.

Sunday, as you know, was Middle's birthday. We gave him his lens adapter and a fabulous card that Youngest had found.


(It's gigantic and plays the theme from Star Wars. Middle is a serious SW geek.)

He was pretty cute, our Middle, and we had secret plans for him for the evening. But first we took a family trip to Target. Youngest and I needed to choose gifts to send to our friends in Japan, I wanted the boys to see if there was anything suitable for stocking gifts for each other and I wanted to see if there were any party dresses for me. We did well with everything but the party dress (my first office party) and went home to hang the paper snow flakes, do laundry and play wii, or guitar or drums - depending.
We teased Middle all day, telling him there would be giraffes, advising him to wear protective gloves to our secret evening activity and pretending to drop false hints.
Each of my kids gets to choose dinner on his birthday and we cook or go out. Middle asked for a cheeseburger and lemon cake and, while I'd have been thrilled to make those two things for him, K decided that we needed to do something special as it was a milestone birthday so I researched to find the best burger in the city...and I found it.

Our plan was: drive into town and go to the camera store for a couple of accessories that Middle had asked for, spirit him away to the burger joint and then go downtown for a Christmas tree.
With the camera things procured, we headed uptown for the meal and got a terrific parking spot. A FREE parking spot.
We had no idea what to expect and trekked a few blocks in stinging cold to the hotel where the restaurant was.
It was very posh, the hotel, and Middle was getting more confused by the minute.
We had to walk through a tea room to get to the other side of the lobby and he got anxious...while I would have loved to snuggle into one of the gorgeous velvet couches, Middle could not imagine what the heck we were doing.
We finally found the lobby, which was flanked by 25 foot tall curtains, and K asked where the restaurant was and the desk clerk pointed behind the curtains.

Down a long dark corridor we walked toward a small neon light of a burger...


we turned a corner and found ourselves in a funky little room. At the far end there was a pass-through to a grill.


The walls featured several different types of paneling - the cheap kind of paneling one sees in basements that need renovation. Posters were taped up, somewhat haphazardly and cardboard, cut from boxes, featured handwritten signs in magic marker. Bags of supermarket burger buns were piled high on the counter. No waitstaff, no utensils, no plates.

rest. wide

Walk to the window and tell the guy (with just a little attitude) at the cash register that you want a burger. A strip of cardboard listed the items for sale: a burger, a cheeseburger, a pickle, fries, Sam Adams on tap, milkshakes (vanilla or chocolate) and soda. Oh, you could have a brownie too. We told the guy what we wanted, he took our name, we sat down at a booth near the wall people had written all over.

writing on the wall

There were, probably, 15 tables and the place was pretty packed. Shortly after shouting for us, over the funky music, another guy shouted that they had run out of beer.
Our food was handed over in paper bags. Our beer (lucky us!) was in tall plastic cups - everything was disposable.

burger and beer

The atmosphere was a mix of hanging out in someones basement rec room and surprise at having this swingy, odd, very groovy place hidden in the lobby of an upscale hotel. None of the decor seemed especially staged - it looked as though the place had been there for years. A well kept secret.


I had read that they served the best burger in town and that there isn't a table to be had at lunchtime. The reviewer had mentioned that the line to get in at certain hours can move very slowly and the wait can be exasperating. But we were there early and, luckily, got a table right away.
The burgers were sublime. Big, but not overwhelming, juicy, messy, and cooked just right: seasoned and brown on the outside and tender and good on the inside. The fries tasted like potato (not always true). We sat grinning and looking around, amazed at our good fortune.

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Middle was suitably impressed. He was worried that we were bringing him someplace chic for his 18th and he's not especially impressed with chic.
But this place was perfect. Rock and blues and funk floated through the air, the food was great and the whole idea of it being a set up like a speakeasy thrilled him. He even had a second burger.
We didn't have brownies (birthday cake awaited us at home). We finished up, threw out our bags and dozens of napkins (juicy burgers) and took lots of pictures, still amazed that the place existed, that we had found it, that it was so good.
We took a last look, went back through the dark hallway, and found ourselves, again, in the austere, silent, elegant lobby of the hotel.
We walked back to the car in a stiff cold wind and felt like we had woken from a dream.
It was just about perfect.



Keetha said…
How much fun. What a perfect party for Middle. Thanks for sharing - it's reassuring to know places like that exist.
RW said…
That was an incredible adventure for a burger! How fun.
Anonymous said…
What a great little spot you've found. I love the hallway with the neon burger beacon.

Anonymous said…
I love burgers...and great atmosphere (such as this)...and beer.

This place sounds like heaven.
smalltownme said…
Yum. Love the burger light...the light at the end of the tunnel!
Anonymous said…
Sounds like a perfect evening.
The Tutugirl said…
I stayed in that hotel over the summer, and was very disappointed that I didn't have time to venture back to the burger joint. I'll have to make a point to go there next time I'm back.

Happy Birthday Middle!
Anonymous said…
That sounds like so much fun.
barbra said…
GREAT STORY! I LOVE IT! What perfection.

That burger sign - too cool.
Maggie May said…
that is a serious post!! i would be hungry now if i weren't so queasy.
that looks just about perfect:)
Anonymous said…
I think Middle has a lucky star over him. What a cool kiddo he is.

Anonymous said…
Oh, and you are so tiny that you should be shopping for a fabulous vintage dress at thrift stores for your holiday party. You'll be sure to find something wonderful.

Stephanie said…
It sounds just about perfect. You guys are an awesome family. Happy Birthday to your Middle.
That One said…
That last picture? Makes me wish I still ate beef. It looks YUMMY.
MsCellania said…
Look at that face on the bun in the last photo!
You know your life sounds perfect. I know it probably isn't, but thanks for bring a smile to my days.
HA! wv is mingons, sounds like a species from SW!
Laura Jane said…
What a dark and mysterious journey for a ....burger.

How very noir.

Happy birthday Middle.
Anonymous said…
How cool. Middle is a lucky one indeed. As is his family.
Anonymous said…
I had the biggest sh*t eating grin on my face when I read that. you two are seriously the coolest parents EVER. Love it.
KPB said…
You know, I do love your family ever so much.
Mary said…
Hugely satisfying post to read.

I loved every word but particularly for me your description of the lobby!
Anonymous said…
Great, now thanks to the wall art, every time I think of Indiana Jones a little voice in the back of my head is going to yell AND THE RAMONES!
Looks like a great place. I love a good dive. Sometimes, they're the best!
Where did you find that great card?
Anonymous said…
What a fabulous evening! Eighteen is a very good age, such an exciting time of life. I hope the camera accessories have been put to good use.

(I hope you wore your puffy coat to keep warm...)
Very awesome. Did you write on the wall?

My word verif is eminesco.
That's sort of like half of my Half Italian/Half Basque best guy friend's last name.
Miz S said…
That's so cool! What a funny, odd little place. Sounds like a fun weekend.
Anonymous said…

Now wishing I could go have a burger there too...
Velma said…
Sounds so perfect - such a nice way to celebrate. I haven't had a really good burger in sooooo long, and now I'm starved for one!
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
what a great adventure. with its limited (in a good way) menu, it sounds like the place that inspired the old john belushi SNL "hamburger, hamburger, cheeseburger" sketches.
scarlettm said…
This sounds perfect and fantastic -so much so that I'm left hanging. Could you consider a little, teeny tiny hint about the name of the place??