DP Blowhard's musings over the current incarnation of the "Forties" Diner have got me musing over the state of the cheeseburger. I'm not "a classic burger 'n' fries guy", nor am I particularly fond of the sort of nostalgia-based dining that inspires chains like Ruby's and Johnny Rocket's. It's possible the Diner epitomizes the very best America has to offer from its culinary past, but I see no reason to make this a point of pride.
If you want to get me in a nostalgic mood, pour me a bowl of borscht, or schabelzup. The latter is a broth-based green bean soup, with spring potatoes and little bits of ham or (preferably) farmer sausage added. Drop in an egg and boil for a few seconds, and you will hear me begin to purr. From time to time I enjoy indulging in a plate of werenicke with fried onions, all drenched with a hefty ladel of schmagas (perogies and sour cream is a none-too-distant cousin). If Mennonites had beat Ray Kroc at his own game, our fast-food emporiums would resemble barns of pine, and house picnic tables with plastic tablecloths. And our nation's children would be even more obese than they already are.
Having said all that, I will admit I do from time to time enjoy a good cheeseburger. I'd rather cook the burger myself, over coals in my vented Weber drum. Failing that, there is one Toronto establishment that makes an incomparable burger: The Pilot Tavern. The bonus: it comes with a plate of incredible fries. I prefer my Pilot Burger with blue cheese and roasted red peppers; sometimes I'll ask for sauteed mushrooms, too. A little malt vinegar for the fries, and two pints of Steamwhistle Pilsner to wash it all down, and I'm in heaven (I'm also ready for an afternoon nap, but nevermind -- naps are mandatory in heaven).