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You’ve got your foodies, your restauranteurs, your epicures, your faux sommeliers, and your amateur chefs. If you’ve been to a nice restaurant lately, surfed eater, or are in possession of an anonymous Yelp account that you use to skewer a restaurant that was too busy to tailor to your every need, you probably consider yourself in the realm of being a “foodie.” You may not want to call yourself that because you know how horribly douchey and pretentious it sounds, but if you’re a “live to eat” person rather than an “eat to live” person, I’ve got bad news for you — you’re a foodie.
I can’t act like I don’t fall into this category. Kind of in the same way I used to answer, “Uhhhh… drink?” when someone asked me what I liked to do for fun as a 21-year-old, my default answer now is, “Uhhhh… go to restaurants?” only to feel like a total dumbass when I think of a list of other things I like to do ten minutes later.
Yes, I like to go to restaurants. Yes, I enjoy trying cocktails that have no business costing more than ten dollars. And yeah, I get somewhat-daily emails about new restaurants opening in my area. I’m not ashamed of it, but I also don’t let it run my life.
It wasn’t until I was at a restaurant recently that something seemed to irk me. I perused the menu and craved something out of the box. Something that I won’t (read: can’t) make for myself at home. A burrata, a carpaccio, I don’t even know. And frankly, I’m not entirely sure what I even ordered. It probably cost too much, and I probably could have made it at home had I put in even the smallest amount of effort.
But as we started ordering, it was like a string of dominoes tumbling down one after another. “I’ll have the cheeseburger,” one said.
“I’ll have that too,” another followed. “Medium, please.”
“Ha,” the third laughed while realizing the absurdity of three-fourths of our table ordering it. “I’ll have the cheeseburger as well — medium too.”
I looked down at the menu sitting in front of me wondering how out of the twenty-plus options they had, the $18 cheeseburger was the natural choice for the majority of the table.
Once I began thinking about it, I started to come to the understanding with myself that I think I need to abandon ordering cheeseburgers at fine dining restaurants altogether. Yes, I have to ban myself from an all-American beef patty covered with grease and cheese. Will I enjoy this decision when I have a hankering? No, absolutely not. But it’s what I must do in order to take a stand for restaurants everywhere.
And the reasons for this run rampant.
No burger should cost more than $15.
Hell, no burger should cost more than $10. I don’t care if your burger is cooked in duck fat and served with gold speckles that replace the sesame seeds. If you’re paying top-dollar for a burger, you’re getting shelled in one way or another.
Every burger-centric restaurant has their own schtick. A knife through it. A mountain of fries that accompany it. A perfectly fried farm-fresh egg covering it like a blanket. Whatever their bit is, they’re using that to take you for all you’re worth.
High-quality meat from butchers and grocers alike cannot justify that price tag. Artisanal bacon can be purchased at a much deeper cost than the four-dollar upcharge they hit you with once the bill comes. At the end of the day, you’re simply eating the following: bread, meat, and bullshit.
Cheeseburgers don’t need to be black tie.
Get your parmesan crisps the fuck out of my face. That’s dry-ass cheese. Take your aioli and save it for someone else. Any Tom, Dick, or Jane can mix pesto with mayo and slap “aioli” on it. I did that shit last night in the comfort of my own kitchen with some Frank’s and some Duke’s. It’s not hard. And for the love of all things Anthony Bourdain, enough with motherfucking truffles. Truffle not only overwhelms the flavor of everything it’s littered on, but it’s unnecessarily expensive and overwrought.
If your favorite cheeseburger doesn’t taste good without the combination of the following ingredients, then you’re just being high-maintenance. Lettuce, tomato, ketchup, pickles, onion, mustard, mayo. I can’t even bring myself to adding bacon or avocado to that list because they — just like truffles — often overwhelm the overall flavor of the cheeseburgers you’re gushing over.
You can make a better cheeseburger in the comfort of your own home.
You don’t have to be Super Chef Bobby Flay to whip up a gourmet burger in your own very kitchen. All it takes is some knowledge of how to cook meat, a good store-bought bun that doesn’t do too much, and fresh produce. For the low price of about $20, you can feed four people burgers that will knock their goddamn socks off.
But instead, every food-driven site on the internet has a list of “The Best Burgers In [Insert Any American City Filled With Yuppie Scum].” You’re told that you need to go to x-restaurant and order their $18 cheeseburger and, because we’re all pawns to the system (read: Instagram), we do it. And we do it with pride.
Don’t you crave the flavor of smoke that graces your burger when it’s fresh off the grill? Wouldn’t you love to gently place your cheese atop it and maybe even add a little bit more for good measure because you fucking can? Grilling up the perfect cheeseburger isn’t rocket science; it’s the American way.
Stray away from the Instagram-y bullshit. Don’t cave to the goat cheeses, the grass-feds, and the Kobes. Set yourself apart by ordering something you can’t nail in your backyard. And for the love of God, stop acting like you’re Wolfgang fucking Puck because you portrait mode your burger from Au Cheval in Chicago. .