I’ve no need to be coy. Today is my fifty-fourth birthday. And life is grand, something to celebrate everyday, whether there’s a birthday or not.
But in our family, birthdays are treated as special affairs. Life stops to honor another year of life in one held dear. So today, my husband is the one hitting the pause button on his ordinary week; He’s taking a day off from work to spend it with me however I choose to spend it. Already, he’s treated me to his special scratch biscuits and later, he’s taking me out for lunch, anywhere my heart desire’s to go.
Oh, decisions, decisions. Where should we go? At least, being a gal of simple tastes, I”ve no pesky decisions about what to eat. For me, there’s nothing in the world quite like a good hamburger. And as I pause to reflect on the great hamburgers I’ve tasted, I realize I’ve enjoyed some really fine renditions in my lifetime.
The first hamburger joint I fell in love with was the Hamburger King. Even today, I can walk through its doors and find myself back in the land of my childhood. But I don’t just go there to savor the nostalgia; this quaint place with quick service and retro red phones, for placing orders, really lives up to its name. The hamburger is king here and whoever drops by to consume one is treated like royalty. Born in the town that also gave birth to Sonic Drive-In and Brad Pitt (Grandma Pitt is still a resident and like the good grandson he is, Brad still comes calling), the Hamburger King has been a Main Street fixture in Shawnee, Oklahoma for as long as I can remember — 1928 unless my memory fails me. If you’re ever nearby, stop and drop and slide into one of their booths. I do ever chance I get.
My twenty years of Texas are anchored by two wonderful hamburger places. The first opened its doors for business in Lake Jackson in the 1940s. Still in business, it serves up its famous jalapeno cheeseburger and banana milkshake (with real bananas diced in the cup filled with home-made ice cream); even writing about these makes my mouth water. Our children were raised on Dairy Bar. In the days when both my husband and I were working and our children were not quite ready to join the world of dining out, we did a lot of takey-outey in consideration of other diners. Dairy Bar was one of our weekly staple stops. Even today, the girls fondly reminisce about the time they no longer had to share their steak finger basket; it says a lot that the Dairy Bar Menu is a rite of passage milestone in our family’s life.
The second place was an honest-to-goodness dive. But what it lacked in amenities it made up for in atmosphere and name: Jeff’s at the Jetties, home of the famous Jetty Burger. This hamburger joint built on stilts rested just next to the jetties — separating Surfside Beach from Quintana Beach — a water highway where shrimp boats and tug boats and big oil tankers traveled to and from the busy Port of Freeport. With my husband’s help, if I looked close, it was easy to spot a dolphin or two trailing the wake of the shrimpboats. And always, always, saturating the salty air, there was music streaming form the jukebox: a little easy listening tune complements of Jimmy Buffett or the big beautiful haunting voice of Whitney Houston. Oh and I can’t forget the hamburgers: big and juicy with some sort of secret special sauce, served with hand cut french fires in an old fashioned oblong plastic basket. We always sat on the deck, where the heavy breeze ruffled our hair and relaxed our cares. But unless it’s been recently resurrected, Jeff’s at the Jetties is no more; it was just one of casualty of Hurricane Rita in September 2005.
Closer to home in the now, there’s no shortage of good hamburger places in Oklahoma City. My favorite everyday burger is made by Irma’s Burger Shack. And then there’s the Theta Burgers with Cheese at Johnnies. But today, I’ve decided to go out for a fancy mushroom cheese burger at my favorite restaurant. After all, it’s my special day and during this phase of my life, nothing is more special than eating out at Paseo Grill.
Happy Hamburger to You.