A recent opportunity to serve as a judge for the Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance Heirloom Recipe Contest
at the Missouri State Fair took me to Sedalia, Missouri. (Thank you Cathy2!) It has proven a good policy, chow-wise, to pay particular attention to the downtowns of county seats, however far-flung. (Attorneys and bail bondsmen appear to demand good lunches.) My brief exploration of Sedalia’s center bore out the wisdom of this approach. The Bothwell Hotel hosts not only retro-upscale coffee, but a white-tablecloth option, the Ivory Grille, located adjacent to the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation.photo.JPGphoto.JPG
I was charmed by the mix of architectural styles, and especially by some outstanding signage from earlier eras.photo.JPGphoto.JPGphoto.JPG
Along a main artery that features the sprawling homes of the prosperous, past and present, and a Masonic Lodge, sits Eddie’s Drive-In (Est. 1937). Eddie’s claims to be Missouri’s oldest drive-in, though car-hop service is available only on evenings devoted to gatherings of antique car enthusiasts. A 1983 clipping posted on the wall indicates that the original name of the place was Garst's, for the establishment's original owner. According to this account from the local paper, it was renamed Eddie’s by Eddie Boysel, a returning WWII vet, the drive-in’s longtime burger chef. Boysel reportedly obtained an early discharge from the service to cook for the state fair crowds of 1945. He owned the drive-in, known for its “steakburgers” aka "Boyselburgers," from 1945 through 1983, when the business was sold to a local banker. photo.JPG
Eddie’s doorway proclaims not the steakburger, but another local specialty, the Guber Burger. (Mr. Peanut does get around, doesn’t he?) According to the posted newspaper clipping, "Goober Burgers" and peanut butter milkshakes were being served at The Wheel Inn, another Sedalia burger spot, after WWII. It wasn't clear when Eddie's introduced the Guber Burger, but, for those who are interested, there is a roadfood.com thread on The Wheel Inn that has pictures of the original building and its door, featuring Mr. Peanut and the spelling "Guber." What is clear from the roadfood thread is that the Guber Burger has a substantial nostalgic appeal.
Certain that I would later equally regret the eating of or the failure to eat this unique burger, I was hovering in indecision at the description of its elements: a burger patty atop a peanut butter-slathered bun, topped with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. But the exclamation of glee and disgust that came from the teenage chef in the kitchen at the prospect of serving “the Guber” served as a dare. I would have to taste this thing. photo.JPGphoto.JPG photo.JPG
The burger looked innocent enough, in its wrapping of crisp white paper.photo.JPG
Contrary to expectations, it was not that bad. Let me explain:
It's important to mention that I normally avoid mayonnaise. It may be that, in this case, the forced combination of peanut butter and mayo induced a sort of intense conflict that paralyzed both my instincts and my critical faculties and overrode my anticipatory revulsion. Really, it was not that bad
. Pressed, I might even describe the Guber Burger as acceptable. You may be skeptical, but I am pretty sure that this judgment had to do with the specifics of execution: robust browning of the patty, (a Schoop’s style lacy-edged disc), and a judicious amount of peanut butter on the bottom bun. Had the patty been topped with peanut butter (as in some Youtube videos), I think the effect would have been different. As it was, the peanut butter and beef formed one taste impression, the tomato, mayo and lettuce another. I'm not sure if it's absurd or merely odd to describe the Guber burger as "balanced," but that's what it was. While I dreaded the prospect of a lingering peanut flavor, there was no aftertaste. I drove away from Eddie's with the sense of having eaten a mild-ish burger without the benefit of mustard, ketchup, pickle or onion.
My compliments to the Chef!photo.JPG