"It is possible to die from eating. But I think to be professional means you don't die." (Takeru Kobayashi)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

DAVE AND THE GIANT BURGER (PART 1)

From the moment we left Burlington, all I could think about was a two-pound burger. Skipping breakfast will do that. We finally arrived at the Clinton Station Diner in Clinton, New Jersey—as of yesterday, home of the world’s largest burger at just over 100 pounds—after about four hours of driving.

Once we were seated, I asked our waiter (a kid about 19 years old who mumbled a lot) if the giant burger was still here, maybe sitting somewhere in a back room, half-eaten but still photoworthy. He stared dumbly at me, said he didn’t know, and that he only worked on Sundays. To be fair he did add before leaving to fill our drink order, “But I think there’s a contest to name it.”

Two quick glances over the menu revealed no one-pound burgers, no two-pound burgers, no 50-pound “Mt. Olympus” burger and no tiny, nano-burgers. I was beginning to get worried.

Our waiter returned with our diet Cokes. I asked about giant burgers, driving the point home by holding my hands up to my face as if clutching a monstrous, non-existent sandwich. He grunted something and pointed to some tiny print in the center of our place mats. Sure enough, there they were. All the giant burgers and the nano-burgers crammed into a few square inches of text, the descriptions running together in what looked like one long yet tiny paragraph. So much for proud and prominent placement on the menu. I quickly also realized that none of the sandwiches were accompanied by costs. Maybe it’s like seafood, I thought, the constantly fluctuating seasonal price of low grade beef precludes the actual printing of pesky things like prices.

I ordered the Hercules (two pounds of meat and three pounds total) cooked medium—with fries. I used the cooking time to go poke around and ask about the 100-pounder that our waiter had no idea about.

I found a semi-alert looking waitress in her late teens and asked if she knew anything about the giant world record burger that had been unveiled the day before. Was it still here? Could I take a picture of it? “Oohhh, I don’t know,” she said, drawing out her “oh” the way you would if you were trying to buy some time to think. “Let me take a look in the kitchen. Maybe it’s in the fridge.”

While I waited, I began reading one of dozens of photo copied stories about the 50-pound Mt. Olympus burger that were taped randomly to walls throughout the restaurant. Clearly someone was proud of the diner’s burgers, even if it was clear that the waitstaff wasn’t.

She returned, saying, “They don’t know.” (I had no idea who “they” were, but it was good to know that cluelessness wasn’t limited to those on the main floor.) “Maybe you can ask that guy in the white shirt,” she said, motioning to the 60ish year old guy behind the well-stocked desserts counter and then turning awkwardly to leave me standing there.

He looks old and in charge, I thought, that’s a good sign. This time I decided to preface my inquiry with something that might gain me some credibility. “Excuse me, I have a website about competitive eating and giant food items. Do you know if the 70-pound burger is still here for a picture?” (I didn’t say it would earn me some credibility at a White House press briefing, but I figured it would work in a diner that supposedly prided itself on giant burgers.)

He fired back, “No sir” without ever making eye contact and then busying himself with something else. I didn’t know if he meant “No, I don’t know if it’s here” or “No, it was here yesterday, but not today.” I asked again, changing the wording of the question a bit to try to get a different answer. It was an old trick I learned as a journalism major in college. “No sir,” he repeated almost as if it were a recording of his first response. So much for that trick. I was getting mad.

Two steps to my left was another waitress, maybe in her 40s. I asked the same question, not caring if Mr. No Sir heard me asking someone else. This was my fourth attempt. “Oh, I’m not sure. I think they ate it.” I wondered if the hungry “they” she was referring to was the same “they” that the 19ish year old waitress talked to in the kitchen. Since she actually (sort of) answered my question, I decided to go for broke and pose a follow-up. “Is there a Wall of Fame for people who have finished the giant burgers?”

Simple question. After all, if there were a Wall of Fame, some physical presence in the diner, a plaque with some names engraved on it—SOMETHING—she should know, right? Wrong. “A wall of fame? I don’t know,” she responded before immediate posing my question to a kid working alongside Mr. No Sir.

“Not yet,” said the kid. Finally, a straight answer. I returned to my table.

TO BE CONTINUED (with pictures)...

8 Comments:

Anonymous ojrifkin said...

Thanks for your research. I am awaiting part 2 to see what, if any, Hall of Fame the diner has.

12:30 AM

 
Blogger Wing Tut said...

Did you finish the two pounder or what?

Getting ready for Saturday?

8:32 AM

 
Blogger steakbellie said...

you've got me rolling

I've called up there twice and always gotten an informative person on the phone, who was able to answer my silly questions about the big burgers....

11:35 AM

 
Blogger Mega Munch said...

Yeah, I really think I caught them off guard because I find it hard to believe that the staff is that unhelpful all the time.

Unfortunately, OJ, there is no Hall of Fame yet. I promise, though, that when we go to Denny's next weekend, that we'll get lots of photos of their Hall of Fame. (Now THAT'S a restaurant that respects the giant burger!).

11:54 AM

 
Anonymous liz said...

So funny! I think you hit on some sort of conspiracy.

3:26 PM

 
Blogger Carey said...

Jersey.

1:30 AM

 
Blogger Mega Munch said...

Precisely.

8:11 AM

 
Blogger Dan said...

Hey, watch it with the "Jersey" talk. I'm a proud native!

12:37 PM

 

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