Friday, January 16, 2009

behind the burger

The Famous Big Chief Double Decker
Are your salivary glands going into overdrive?

A number of friends have indicated that the burger depicted above gave them cravings for charred ground meat when they stumbled upon it on my Flickr stream. For those of who'd like to know how I stumbled upon this beauty, read on...


Last year the Detroit Free Press carried a feature on the best burgers in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. I saved the link on my computer for use on future trips to Detroit whenever any family members felt like a light meal or wanted to try an unfamiliar restaurant.

The perfect opportunity to start sampling the featured burgers arose when Amy and I spent a day roaming around Motown over the holidays. We had gorged on Mexican food for lunch and still weren't feeling too hungry as evening approached. We spent the late afternoon shopping at Great Lakes Crossing (featured in Bowling for Columbine), where an oncoming cold made its presence known. A fog settled over my brain, other shoppers sounded a thousand miles away and every cell in my body felt numb. A quick run out into the cold to grab reading material from the car while waiting for Amy briefly perked me up, but I soon settled back into a hazy state—mall air does not do wonders for the ill. As we pondered light and reasonably quick dinner options, I remembered that several of the spots on the burger list were located along one of the relaxing ways to head back to Canada, Woodward Avenue.

After mulling our options and driving back and forth through Birmingham and Royal Oak, we settled upon the Red Coat Tavern. People nearly spilled out the door, which seemed odd for 8:30 on a Monday night. The wait was expected to be 30 to 45 minutes. We overheard the staff mention that the power was out in the surrounding neighbourhood and people had flocked in. Given the time and my woozy state, we moved on.

We headed across the road to Duggan's Irish Pub. Apart from a leprechaun staring down from the entrance, nothing stood out as being inspired by the Emerald Isle—the decor in our room paid homage to mid-century car culture and summer cruising along Woodward, with vintage gas pumps and ceiling fans made out of license plates (note the link on their website to the annual Woodward Dream Cruise).

The menu reflects the decor, with several items preserved from the drive-ins that once lined Woodward. I ordered the Big Chief double-decker burger, originally served up by the Totem Pole. Imagine a superior, meatier version of the Big Mac with two twists: sweet pickles and special sauce with a hint of curry. Both of these were a pleasant surprise, as the combination of sweetness and slight kick of heat mixed well with the standard double-decker elements. Perhaps the burger's inventor was inspired by curry powder popping up as an "exotic" ingredient in 1950s cookbooks? On the side was coleslaw (average) and onion rings (crunchy, full of onion, not greasy).

Duggan’s Chargrilled Black Angus Hamburger
Amy ordered the chargrilled Black Angus burger, which also proved tasty—the sauteed onions went well with the half-pound of meat.

One burger down, 40 to go...

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