Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gordon's Stoplight

500 Bailey Rd
Crystal City, Mo

Last time we went to this little place, Angel was out of town. This weekend, Angel was out of town, so we decided to go back. We're a family of ad-hoc traditions.
Gordon's has been serving the best hamburgers in the world since 1948, it says so right on the menu. That's an awful long time to hold a record like that.
The Place:
It's right on the corner, you can't miss it. It's a diner, like the old style diners that only have stools at a counter and the griddle and fryers are right there in front of you. There was only one other customer there when we arrived so we had the run of the joint. There was no prepared food stacked up, it's a make-to-order place.
The menu is right on the wall above the grill. Not a lot of variety, but variety isn't why you come to this place. It's a burger joint, not fancy burgers either, just simple, American burgers. They have chili as well. Mostly though it's about the burgers.
One third of the staff approached us. A twenty-something lady with confident eyes and like her two co-workers, wearing a Gordon's tee shirt. You can buy one for your self there, the tee shirt, not the twenty-something lady. Actually I just assumed this, I didn't ask.
She leaned over the counter and asked "Can I bring you something to drink?"
I answered "Yes."
Then she stared at me for a while as if she didn't speak English.
Finally it dawned on me that even though I had answered the question I was asked, she was waiting for more information. Why can't people just say what they mean?
Adam broke the building tension by saying 'Pepsi please." He didn't make that sentence up, it's actually a tag line from old Pepsi ads and commercials, some things just stick with you.
She looked back at me and I said "Tea please." Which isn't a tag line from an old ad, but maybe it should be. Simple, memorable, catchy. Maybe I should suggest it to Big Tea's advertising people.
She formed her next question more carefully: "You guys need a few minutes before you order?"
I answered this question exactly like I'd answered her previous one, "Yes." though it seemed sufficient this time.
The Food:
It didn't take long, I knew the burgers were thin, so a double would be in order. Cheese, yep, cheese. And onion rings, which are battered and fried rings of onions.
When she came back with our drinks she looked us over and sized us up. I wanted to tell her that I was married in case she was getting any wrong ideas. Two hot guys out looking for action, it happens to us a lot when Adam and I are out alone. Instead, she asked us if we were ready. I said "Yes." again, her mood darkened, I could see it on her face. Once again Adam intervened and called out his order, a double Jumbo, no onions. A jumbo burger comes topped with coleslaw and barbecue sauce. He asked for  fries with that.
Rather then get into an ugly semantic argument I just told her what I wanted. A double, with cheese and onion rings. She asked if I wanted anything else on it. I said yes. Adam cleared his throat the way his mother does when I'm on the verge of embarrassing her. So I conceded and asked her a question. "What are my options?"
Lettuce, grilled onions, tomato, and mayonnaise.  I laughed off the mayonnaise option because this isn't Canada, this is America.
We watched as the cooking staff, two young men, attacked the order with practiced professionalism. The griddle master had just scraped down his hot top, and the fry chief dropped a handful if rings into fry basket. While the fryer was doing its thing and the griddle man was poking and prodding the patties, the fry guy assembled the buns and extras onto ceramic plates. The young lady took care of a couple of walk-ups. There's a walk-up window at the side for people that are too bashful or under-dressed to go through the front door.
I looked around noticing the ATM. One of those third party machines that charge an arm and a leg. Gordon's doesn't take plastic. We knew this and were prepared, we'd stopped at the bank on the way.
The griddle made quick work of the burgers, they're thin and hand smashed giving them a rough and rugged appearance. You're not going to get a perfectly pressed and perfectly round burger here. I like them better this way.
Soon enough the lady brought us our meals. She asked if there was something else we'd like. Adam told her "No thank you" before I could answer.
All went quiet. The crew of three wandered off to the far side of the kitchen area and started talking among themselves. No open orders at the moment, they caught a break. Adam and I munched away. I tried a couple of his fries, nice and thin and crispy. My onion rings were crisp as well, there just wasn't very many of them.
The no-frills buns started to deteriorate near the end, but that was okay, they provided free napkins right there where we were sitting.
The patties were surprisingly moist considering how thin they were. I'd added mustard and a little ketchup to mine.
Summary:
I asked Adam how his was and was quite surprised at his answer. "Excellent" is what he said. Long time fans will realize how rare and odd this is. Quite a rousing endorsement from a guy whose entire college career was summed up as 'fine'.
In fact it was pretty good. After all it is the best hamburger in the world and has been since the Truman administration.
My only complaint was with the amount of onion rings. They were indeed very good, but if you compare a standard order of fries (Adam's plate) and a standard order of rings (my plate) well, one of these things is not like the other. Adam mentioned that the barbecue sauce was very good, he'd noticed that it was made especially for Gordon's. They'll sell you some of that too.
The bill came to sixteen bucks and change, I slipped the lady a fresh twenty and instructed her to keep the change. That, she seemed to understand without further explanation.


Previous visit:
http://eatandcritique.blogspot.com/2010/04/gordons-stoplight-drive-in.html




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