When I got this job back on November 2004, my new boss and I made the short jaunt over to the Adams Farm Shopping Center to tip a celebratory beer together at McPherson’s, the only actual bar for miles around.
In the ensuing years I’ve held meetings there, drank my lunch, written columns on my laptop at the tall tables, held impromptu staff meetings and dodged phone calls. Suffice it to say, I thought I knew McPherson’s pretty well.
But I was wrong. A recent visit to the concern, under new ownership, sees some slight changes to the interior: larger booths along the wall, bigger TVs and a little video poker action to the side. At the bar, the same sort of neighborhood types populated the stools, drinking the usual domestic, bottled brews.
The real changes, however, are happening in the kitchen. Back in the day, I usually settled on soup and grilled cheese when I hit McPherson’s for a quick bite. Now the bar boasts a restaurant-quality menu, with dinner specials that include shepherd’s pie, fish tacos and prime rib. There is a house chili now, and appetizers that don’t require the use of a deep-fryer to prepare.
But the burger selection grabbed me and would not let go. Yes, I’m writing about burgers again, for the second week in a row. Unintentional, but with a list like this I have little choice.
A Dirty South burger with chili and slaw. The Diablo, with salsa, guacamole and candied jalapeño. The PickleBack with barbecue sauce and boutique relish. A Thai burger with chiles, grilled pineapple and a coconut-basil aioli.
And then there’s the Dusk 2 Dawn burger, topped with bacon and egg and just a little bit of béarnaise, like brunch on a bun.
They made one like it at Gus’s, a Long Island diner in a shiny chrome trailer, an unofficial outpost of my high school known as much for its cantankerous owner and his disdain for the drinking-age laws as it was for the Bull Burger, which achieved legendary status among my cohort. The consumption record, I remember, was five, though I forget who held it. I do remember that I once attempted to take down two of them, with a side of fries with gravy, an experiment that did not end the way I wanted it to.
The Dusk 2 Dawn is significantly larger than the Bull, so big that I gasp when it arrives, and I have to take off my jacket to eat it. The first bite gives me a small cramp in the underside of my jaw, but I am not deterred because the thing is delicious: The huge beef patty is meticulously cooked, with fresh lettuce — not iceberg, a plus in my book — and generous tomato slices. The thin sheen of béarnaise seems a little chintzy; I can barely taste it. But any more and the burger would have been a complete mess. As it is, the thing is so large and sloppy — in a good way — that once I pick it up I am afraid to put it down again for fear that the whole thing will become unmanageable and I will have to take it down with a knife and fork, which a man eating a burger at a bar should never do.
So I soldier on, munching my way through the burger, dipping it in the puddle of egg yolk that formed on the plate, cramming in a few fries with my loose hand when the burger gets down to the last bites.
I will never be able to finish two of these things, but I surely will be back for another one soon.