There was a time in my life when for lunch I would go to Albarno’s, a drugstore that had a soda fountain counter. Hard to believe that in fifth and sixth grade we would leave school without escorts and walk home for lunch. I lived far from Our Lady of Perpetual Help, so I used to lunch at Albarno’s.
In those days the hamburger deluxe with fries, onion and tomato was 50 cents. A tall glass of Coca Cola was 15 cents! I would sit at the counter without my feat touching the floor. The waitress knew my name and would start the burger when I walked in. Yes, times have changed.
Back in the school days of the late 1960s McDonalds were still new and far apart. Occasionally, while in high school we took ultimate road trips to White Castle. I wondered why they were called sliders until I slid a dozen down my throat. They always smelled good and tasted even better, but twenty minutes later felt like hot lead in my stomach.
My first few years living in the Hamptons, specifically East Hampton, gave me an opportunity to sample all the burgers. Back then getting a burger at 11 pm at O’Malley’s was a good way to meet up with other night owls. The burger there was good and affordable. I miss that place.
That is why way back in 2005 when I ordered a $20 Kobe beef burger at the 1770 House in East Hampton Village I felt decadent. It was then advertised as the most expensive hamburger in the Hamptons. More than Bobby Van’s, Rowdy Hall or even The Palm. The staff at the 1770 House were proud of that and one night I had to sample it myself.
That year I was living on my writer’s salary so I only had a burger. Being a party of one they served it to me in the basement bar area. It was Ok but also expensive. Whereas when I first sampled a Rowdy Hall burger I went back once a week for that year. I lived nearby in the village. At that time the Rowdy Hall burger was called the “biggest hamburger In the Hamptons!”
Eventually, I came to believe that of all places out east Cyril’s had the best burger, but having a few BBC’s (rum banana drinks) with the burger may have influenced my judgment.
Times have changed. Now everywhere a burger starts around $20, sometimes without fries. I actually don’t order them like I used to. I started to order lobster rolls that were between $15 to $23 dollars back in the early 20-teens. Now the average lobster roll after tax and tip is over $40!
A question many ask is what is the secret to a great hamburger? Of course, the answer is one’s personal preferences. Noted Chef Bobby Flay believes an 80/20 mix (80% lean chuck to 20% fat) but I think it comes down to how hot the grill or frying surface is.
I enjoy hot and crispy on the outside, but juicy on the inside. Most of the time I liberally put ketchup on my burger and if there is a slice of raw onion that, too. I don’t like cooked onions on my hamburger, feeling the burger then becomes too greasy. Same with cheese, I prefer the burger without cheese.
My favorite burger now is the bison burger served at places such as Tweeds in Riverhead or The Palm in East Hampton Village. When I really crave a great beef hamburger for lunch I do the drive to either Bobby Van’s in Bridgehampton or The Palm in East Hampton. I usually enjoy eating them at the bar with a cold beer.