So two days ago was Ash Wednesday, when dirty Papists like Yours Truly went to church to get a right good humbling (both from the priest who reminded us that we're all going to return to dust and the random pedestrians about town who were like, "Ew, what's that thing on your forehead?"), marking the start of Lent for another year. The list of stuff I'm giving up this year is pretty much the same as last year's, with one change -- I'm giving up red meat instead of heroin. (Oh, I gots to have my sweet, sweet heroin.)
That's actually not a huge sacrifice for me in the grand scheme of things, since I don't actually eat that much red meat unless I'm going out to a restaurant or something. On the other hand, I do have to walk by a Ruby Tuesday on my way home from work every day, and resisting the fragrant lure of Ruby Minis and onion straws wafting out of that place is gonna be a challenge. Just to torture myself, this week's +5 is the Five Best Burgers I've Ever Had In My Life.
Chez Fon Fon, Birmingham, Alabama
This is one of three restaurants in town run by world-renowned chef Frank Stitt, and it might sound like kind of a foofy place to get a burger, of all things, but I promise it's worth it. This is where I went Tuesday night to enjoy a last evening of gluttony and decadence before Lent started -- cheeseburger, French fries (which are also fantastic there), and a steady stream of vodka martinis. One of the best hangovers ever.
Brick Store Pub, Decatur, Georgia
Listed as one of Forbes magazine's "Best American Beer Bars," and not without reason: They have a list of high-alcohol-content Belgian beers that runs into the hundreds, along with a Scotch list that's nearly as long. But they also have a pretty good selection of pub food, including a juicy cheeseburger served on challah rolls handmade by angels.
The Burly Earl, Birmingham, Alabama
This place is right down 7th Avenue from my office, and sadly, it appears to have closed -- whether just temporarily or for good, I don't know, but either way it's kind of hard to figure since this place always seemed to be packed at lunchtime. Their very simple, no-nonsense bacon cheeseburger is/was an excellent hangover cure, and their steak fries aren't bad either.
Cavalier Store, Lynchburg, Virginia
The overwhelming majority of the reviews I saw of this place on the Web bemoan its stand-offish, sometimes surly service, which kind of made me laugh -- it can be kind of intimidating if you're wandering in there for the first time, but if you've lived in Lynchburg for a few months and have achieved the status of "regular," the staff is perfectly fine and will take care of you in a hurry. Fantastic burgers, steaming-hot potato wedges (which are great with ranch dressing), and they also had a few pool tables where I spent many, many hours in 1999 and 2000, guzzling cheap beer and trying to forget that I lived in Jerry Falwell's backyard.
Texas Inn, Lynchburg, Virginia
Right down Rivermont Avenue from the Cavalier, just on the edge of downtown Lynchburg, is a goofy-looking blue-roofed building called the Texas Inn, which is not a motel but rather a diner-style restaurant that serves up one of the greatest innovations in burger history: the Cheesy Western. The Cheesy Western is about the size of a regular hamburger from McDonald's, but it has a slice of cheese, a dollop of hot onion relish, and -- the crowning touch -- a fried egg on top. On fall weekends in the L-boogie when I had nothing to do but sit around and watch football, I'd head to the Texas Inn (or the T-Room, as the locals called it), pick up a couple Cheesy Westerns to go, grab a six-pack on the way home, and consume the whole lot of it in front of a steady stream of games on TV. I shudder to think of how many calories I consumed per sitting doing that, but that was back in the days when I was running four miles every morning and wasn't the lazy tub of goo I am now, so I don't feel too guilty about it.
And now the Ten:
1. Talking Heads, "Psycho Killer"
2. Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton, "Our Hell"
3. Bill Withers, "Ain't No Sunshine"
4. Fatboy Slim and Earth, Wind & Fire, "September/The Joker"
5. Pet Shop Boys, "You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk" (live from the Aerial Theatre, Houston)
6. Pet Shop Boys, "London" (Thee Radikal Dub)
7. Chemical Brothers, "Marvo Ging"
8. Johnny Cash, "The Long Black Veil"
9. Pet Shop Boys, "Paninaro '95"
10. Dr. Octagon, "No Awareness"
Did I leave any vital burger joints off this list? Let me know if I did (and put your own Random Tens in the comments while you're at it).