What i was thinking When I first heard about the vandalism at four McDonald’s in Nassau County last month, I figured that some food critics had gotten together and taken a stand against bad hamburgers. One of the spray-painted messages left behind reportedly read: “Humans=Animals.”
Don’t blame me. I avoid Big Macs and Whoppers like the plague. If cutting back on red meat is a worthy goal, why waste your one-burger-a-week ration on that crap?
I’m also not a big fan of mayonnaise on burgers. I mean, does anyone put mayo on their burger at home?
Background check Cheeburger Cheeburger is a franchise that started in Sanibel Island, Florida. They have them in places like Ft. Lauderdale, Memphis, Atlanta and, since last December, Port Washington. The name, of course, comes from the 24-year-old classic Saturday Night Live Greek-luncheonette skit.
Casing the joint In the middle of a typical strip shopping center way down in the neighborhood known as Manorhaven, Cheeburger Cheeburger’s cutesy, vaguely retro interior attempts to evoke the malt shops of yesteryear. It probably works better in places where there are no old malt shops, like Sanibel Island. Luckily, we still have plenty of the real deal left all over Long Island. Still, the place tries hard. About 20 Formica tables line the walls. At each table is a roll of paper towels, which I take as a signal that we’re in for a messy experience. Instead of classic Heinz ketchup bottles, they have plastic ones. Something else is missing as well: There’s no counter. To be retro-correct, this place should have a counter with stools you can twirl on.
What we ate What do you think we ate? We didn’t come down here for the BLT. The cheeseburgers come in five sizes, starting with the quarter-pound “Classic” ($4.50) and ending up at “Our Famous Pounder,” which weighs in at 20 ounces before cooking ($10.95). If you finish that one, they take your picture and put it on the wall along with about 120 other “Hall of Fame” photos of previous big eaters. I was thinking that maybe someone should spray-paint “Humans=Animals” on the wall.
All the burgers come with your choice of cheese. You have to un-request the cheese. You must also un-request mayonnaise. I don’t remember having to say “Hold the mayo” when ordering a burger at the luncheonettes I used to hang out in. Maybe this mayonnaise tradition came from the white-bread-loving Midwest or South. We are sensible and go for the half-pound “Serious” ($6.65). The burger is handmade and completely covers the Kaiser roll it comes on. The meat is fresh, lean and delicious. Lettuce, tomato, onions and pickle come along for the ride. Bacon, grilled mushrooms and grilled onions are 90 cents extra. The cheeseburger’s not really messy and it’s definitely worth the trip. The fries are fresh cut and come well-done with the skins left on. The onion rings, also made on the premises, are not too greasy and are excellent. A basket of both fries and rings called Frings is $3.75.
Everything is a la carte. I mean everything. Even the coleslaw is an extra $1.25. I order it thinking it will be something special, maybe a creamy Southern rendition. It isn’t. It’s that same tired old stuff you get for free at every diner you’ve ever eaten in. In that same tiny container. It feels like a bit of a rip-off.
Your run-of-the-mill sodas are available, but something nostalgic to drink like a Dr. Pepper (popular down South) or a Lime Rickey (popular in the boroughs), both of which would fit right in here, aren’t to be found. Unlike the places in the old neighborhood, beer and wine are available.
Vegetarian alert Yes, there is a veggie burger ($5.25) and a Portobella mushroom sandwich ($6.65), and they don’t come with cheese, unless you want them to. You can get a Salad Lover’s Salad ($3.95) with romaine, cabbage, onions and carrots that comes with garlic bread, and there’s also just a house salad ($2.50).
Cavity patrol The shakes and malts are perfect. Order the regular ($3.75) and they bring you the steel container from the blender. The chocolate malted (I was brought up to say malted, not malt) is thick and sweet, with the powdered malt crunching on my tongue. They also have a root-beer float ($3.95).
Damage If you exercise some control and just get the middle-sized cheeburger and the middle-sized fries with a Coke you’ll pay just over $11 for a trip back to someone’s past. But you have to get a malted or shake for the full experience.