The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

October 22, 2013

Mike Pound: Cheeseburger theory stands test of time

I’m what you call a deep thinker.

When I’m not reading about the St. Louis Cardinals, I spend my waking hours (roughly four total) developing theories.

For example, I have a theory that you should never give your wallet to the politician with the nicest hair.

I also have a theory that, unlike Robert Frost’s suggestion, you should never take the road less traveled. There is probably a reason that road is less traveled.

On Tuesday, I was thinking about a theory I developed many years ago. It’s about cheeseburgers. It is my opinion that any good restaurant, regardless of its specialty, can churn out a decent if not great cheeseburger.

The legendary — and unfortunately now closed — Fred and Red’s was known for its spaghetti red, but you could also get a fine cheeseburger there. I know for a fact that the cheeseburger at Hackett Hot Wings is very good. I have never ordered a cheeseburger (nor do I even think there is one on the menu) at the great Kansas City Chinese restaurant Bo Lings, but I bet if there was one on the menu, it would be pretty good.

If you can cook, you can make a good cheeseburger, is my theory.

Granted, as theories go, mine is not exactly up there with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone who has read this column that I’m no Einstein.

The late, great newspaper columnist Mike Royko used to write a lot about a tavern in Chicago called the Billy Goat Tavern. So, years ago, when my wife and I were in Chicago, the first place we visited was the Billy Goat Tavern.

From Mike’s columns, I knew that the Billy Goat was a great newspaper bar. What I didn’t know was that it was and still is a great cheeseburger bar. In fact, the famous “cheeseburger, cheeseburger” skit from “Saturday Night Live” was based on the Billy Goat Tavern.

Every once in a while, I like to put my cheeseburger theory to the test to see if it still is true. That is why, on Tuesday, I drove to the Carthage Family Restaurant, 125 N. Garrison Ave., for lunch.

There is nothing fancy about the restaurant except for the fact that it serves good food. If I had to pick the one thing that the restaurant is best known for, I would have to say it would be the breakfast menu. In fact, I would say — based on my own personal experience — that on Sunday mornings, the Carthage Family Restaurant is the most popular spot in town.

I knew that the folks at that restaurant could whip up a great meat lovers omelet, but could they also whip up a great cheeseburger?

I got to the restaurant shortly after noon. The place was busy but not Sunday-morning busy. After looking at the menu, I decided to go with The House Special burger: a half-pounder with bacon and two types of cheese. I opted for Swiss and cheddar.

By the way, there was a bottle of ketchup on the table, but there was no mustard. But after the nice waitress took my order, she asked me if I needed mustard or mayonnaise for my burger. I thought that was a nice touch.

Another nice touch was the fact that my burger came with a cup of the restaurant’s soup of the day, which on Tuesday was beef barley.

I think we can all agree that one of the great things about fall and winter is soup. I know that a lot of people like cold soups in the summer, but to me, soup isn’t soup if it’s cold.

The beef barley soup wasn’t cold, and it was very good. So was my burger. Unlike those served in many burger places, my half-pound burger wasn’t thick; it was wide, making it much easier to handle. After putting some mustard on my burger, I took a bite.

I am proud to say that my cheeseburger theory still holds true.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at mpound@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.

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