Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Burger of the Year – 2007

It took until December 28 to find the best burger of 2007, but show up it did. The winner? Barbecue Bacon Cheeseburger with house fries. The burger was plump, nicely cooked and beautifully presented on an open bun on a platter. Burger on the bottom of the bun; three slices of well-cooked (but not crisp) bacon, fresh, crisp lettuce, sliced tomatoes (that’s plural) and sliced onion on the right.

And so thick that, when put together, it was really more than should have been attempted as a closed sandwich. But who eats a burger open-faced?

The place? Luther’s Rare and Well-Done in Beaufort, South Carolina. I almost missed the place because, after parking on Bay Street (what would be Main Street in any other town) and walking past holiday-decorated stores, I came to Luther’s Pharmacy. Since I was looking for “Luther’s”, I paused before passing and found that it is a restaurant, not a pharmacy. Doc Luther bought the pharmacy in 1906 and sold it to his nephew, Dr. Jules Long, in 1941. The pharmacy continued until the early 1980's. Luther's Rare and Well Done was established in 2001.

Clever marketing and a desire to keep one foot in the past may have resulted in a decision to retain the signing.

A sailing buddy, Howard, and I first sat outside on the rear deck on the still-warm evening, but the cigarette smoke blown through the open door from the smoking section of the restaurant was quite strong. I knew better than to ask in a South Carolina restaurant whether there was a non-smoking section, and I didn't bring up the new Illinois Smoke-Free law, which would have controlled tobacco smoke originating in the restaurant. We also wanted to avoid the four TV screens, each showing a different sports channel and none with the volume muted.

It didn't take us long to move to the front seating section, near the windows looking out on Bay Street. Our server, Emma, stayed with us from our first seating, and she gave wonderful, attentive, friendly service. She never hurried us, nor did she abandon us. As a matter of fact, about four servers helped us at various times. And it wasn’t because we looked like big tippers.

Is there competition in Woodstock for Luther’s? Is there a reasonably-priced, delicious burger available in Woodstock? One of those that you’d be quite happy to return soon for another?

There is a burger chain called Fuddrucker’s that provides a built-your-own atmosphere. After ordering your burger, you then take your plate to the service bar and add all the toppings.

Years ago in St. Louis there was a gourmet burger joint called The Fatted Calf. Seating was on tall stools around small wooden tables attached to a floor-to-ceiling pole.

Would a gourmet burger joint on the Woodstock Square be a drawing card for an evening crowd? Or a daytime or week-end group? A restaurant where you wouldn’t have to take out a line-of-credit before ordering dinner?

Any nominations for a logical location on the Woodstock Square?

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