The Burgers of Mizzou
Hello Hamburger Friends. We hope you're enjoying our ode to National Hamburger Month this May as we share burgers all month long. We're about to start seven state burger march thru the Midwest as we take a look at places in IL, IN, IA, WI, MN, MI & MO slinging their takes on America's classic most well known signature food item. We took a classic roadtrip from Chicago down the Mississippi Delta then into New Orleans this past Fall. In fact looking back, we were on the road eating for five days and only had one burger the entire time. Easily a record low for me as far as Foodventures go. You can almost always find a good burger place no matter where you're at in America. The first stop on this trip down South was St. Louis where we had to pick up a good friend who was coming along. One of the OG's from the foodventure crew. We only had time for a quick lunch and this was a no brainer for the three of us on the trip. I say this because one of the best burgers in all of America and a "Top Five All Time" of mine is found in da 'lou. Carl's Drive In is located right on Route 66. Classic Americana.
Carl's Drive In on Route 66
The old longtime sign at Carl's, not seen up above, was blown down in a storm over the summer of 2011 so they were getting that fixed when we were there (It's since been fixed). Other than that, there was nothing that changed between my two year absence or for that matter since Carl's came about in 1959. A 16 stool burger place for people driving 'The Mother Road' Carl's became thee place to grab a smashed burger, a style that was the norm then, and a root beer to go with it. Despite the demise of Route 66, Carl's still stands today. It was a quiet day when we arrived which was fine for me since the wait can be out the door during warm months. As you can see in the pic below they still do their root beer in the glass and that was a nice change of pace since many of the homemade root beer stops I've been too of late served their RB in paper cups. Knock it off numb nuts. IBC's root beer comes from Carl's recipe. It's the real deal and the perfect non alcoholic pair to a hamburger.
For those unfamiliar with Carl's they do the "30's style" griddled burger to perfection, nobody does it better. It had been a minute since my last visit so I forgot that they too, like Schoop's, pile on the toppings. Everything includes ketchup, mustard, chopped raw onions (grilled avail.), lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo. It wouldn't be this popular style without the cheap old regular bun too. I ended up with a double cheese (a must, perfect beef to bun ratio) with everything but ketchup to eat there and took a double with grilled onions, mustard and pickles to go.
Hamburger Heaven found on Route 66 in St. Louis
My buddy who's the mayor down there is a regular and knows everyone in there so I was introduced to each and they're all one big family. I forget her name but the grillmaster in training that day was working the grill, the "heir apparent " as my buddy called her and the burgers were as good as ever. I've had alot of great crispy edged burgers but none had crunch like Carl's, Hamburger Dan's in Springfield IL came close on my visit there, but Carl's kept the crown this trip around.
If you don't know about the crunch you need to taste/hear it. The best bites on these burgers are around the end, the beef crunches like the crust on a tavern thin pizza. My friend insisted we get a "Seth special" as it's called, not on the menu but ask them and they'll know. Named after his buddy, also a regular, it's a hamburger with one of their 'curly q' hot dogs on top with chili smothered over all of it. The dogs are just Hormel foot longs, but they're slithered in a way which makes them curl up when fried. This is so that they fit on the hamburger buns. Not exactly something you want to eat if you have a long trip down Old Route 66 ahead and more like one of those things that a die hard Cardinals fan created outside his trailer. But nonetheless genius in a mulleted man with a Tony LaRussa cut-off T-Shirt kind of way. Great stop, as good as it ever was and that's 'cause nothing's changed.
"Seth's Special" from the secret menu
On the ride down south we enjoyed a Gooey butter cake, another STL specialty, from Gooey Louie's. I've had random acts of fiendness for some ever since. It's a shame I haven't been able to further document (eat) St, Louis but now that I realize this you should stay tuned because I just I'm headed down soon and a report will come not too long after. Please put your computer screens in their upright position and keep them away from your mouth as we continue the ride.
Also found along Route 66 near Carl's and Ted Drewes
Carl's Drive In
9033 Manchester Road
St. Louis, MO 63144
6483 Chippewa St
St Louis, MO 63109
Just putting this out there: if you've got a gooey butter cake fix in Chicago, Mathew Rice, the pastry chef at Nightwood in Pilsen has a dessert that includes gooey butter cookies ( http://www.lottieanddoof.com/2011/12/day-5-mathew-rice-and-gooey-butter-cookies/ ).
Mathew used to be the pastry chef for two of St. Louis's most highly celebrated restaurants, the sublime and frequent "best restaurant in St. Louis" award winner Niche, and Obama's apparent favorite pizza in the country (I love it, but I still don't see it versus the deep dish from Pequod's or a Malnati's), Pi.
Great article! I will be visiting the Chicago area for business within the next few months and I'm dying to try some of these places you've recommended! I'm from Jersey and although it isn't easy to find a great burger in NJ doesn't mean it's impossible.. but I am ready and excited to see what the Windy City has to offer. Thanks for the reviews!
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