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The Historic Hamburger Wagon (Since 1913) of Miamisburg Ohio

The Historic Hamburger Wagon (Since 1913) of Miamisburg Ohio
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  • The Historic Hamburger Wagon (Since 1913) of Miamisburg Ohio

    Post #1 - August 28th, 2011, 10:03 am
    Post #1 - August 28th, 2011, 10:03 am Post #1 - August 28th, 2011, 10:03 am
    The Hamburger Wagon first appeared in Miamisburg's town square nearly a century ago. During the devastating flood of 1913 a wagon was rolled out to prepare hamburgers for the relief workers. It's been there almost every day since. The Hamburger Wagon is pushed out of its garage every morning to take its place in Market Square at 10:30, rain or shine. At 7 in the evening, as the town's bells ring, it's pulled back into storage. Curb service is a popular option.

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    The interior is tiny but it holds a staff of two—one to fry the burgers, another to prep the buns and collect money. Only recently have females been hired to fry the burgers; when we visited, the Wagon was staffed by two young women (that would have been unheard of not too long ago). The menu has changed little since the early days—you have a choice of a single ($1.10) or double ($2.20). Raw onions, dill pickles, salt and pepper are the only condiments. "No stinkin' cheese or sloppy sauces." Beverages and potato chips are fairly recent offerings.

    The burgers start as unattractive grayish blobs—some starchy filler is almost certainly added to the meat but the recipe remains secret—tossed into an ancient skillet of fat. We were told the fat is never discarded and that is one secret of the burger's unique flavor. Who knows, maybe we got a few molecules of grease from the flood year. As the burgers sputter in the grease they are moved to the dry side of the pan and pressed down, hard. Double patties get fused together during cooking and pressing.

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    Meanwhile the small buns are prepared. The top gets a slice of onion, a strip of pickle (doubles get two crossed strips) and shakes of salt and pepper; the bottom receives the patty. Burgers aren't wrapped but are simply placed in a paper bag, which immediately turns translucent from the grease.

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    I was in awe of the whole process. Pulling a burger from the bag is like holding a little piece of history in your hand.

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    Definitely a unique burger—greasy and meatloaf-like with a crisp exterior. We went back for a second order.

    After our meal we got to witness an historic moment—for the first time ever an all-female crew was responsible for dragging the Wagon back to its garage. It didn't look easy (we offered to help) but the two did a great job.

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    It's an absolute wonder the Hamburger Wagon still exists.

    Hamburger Wagon
    10 E Central Av
    Miamisburg OH
    937-847-2442
    http://hamburgerwagon.com/
  • Post #2 - August 28th, 2011, 1:03 pm
    Post #2 - August 28th, 2011, 1:03 pm Post #2 - August 28th, 2011, 1:03 pm
    Totally awesome! Thank you, for sharing this piece of history with us.

    This is one helluva glorious image . . .

    Image

    and this pretty much says it all . . .

    "We went back for a second order."

    Next time I'm driving through Ohio, this seems like a must-stop.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #3 - August 28th, 2011, 1:35 pm
    Post #3 - August 28th, 2011, 1:35 pm Post #3 - August 28th, 2011, 1:35 pm
    HI,

    This is Ohio just east of the IN-OH border and as far south as Indianapolis.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #4 - August 28th, 2011, 1:43 pm
    Post #4 - August 28th, 2011, 1:43 pm Post #4 - August 28th, 2011, 1:43 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:HI,

    This is Ohio just east of the IN-OH border and as far south as Indianapolis.

    Regards,

    Less than a 2-hour drive from my MIL's house. :)

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #5 - August 28th, 2011, 2:59 pm
    Post #5 - August 28th, 2011, 2:59 pm Post #5 - August 28th, 2011, 2:59 pm
    Hi,

    I thought you'd like to have a destination to check out when you are out there.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #6 - August 28th, 2011, 7:41 pm
    Post #6 - August 28th, 2011, 7:41 pm Post #6 - August 28th, 2011, 7:41 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:HI,

    This is Ohio just east of the IN-OH border and as far south as Indianapolis.

    Regards,


    Miamisburg is a southern suburb of Dayton, OH.
  • Post #7 - August 29th, 2011, 2:32 pm
    Post #7 - August 29th, 2011, 2:32 pm Post #7 - August 29th, 2011, 2:32 pm
    Rene G wrote: We were told the fat is never discarded and that is one secret of the burger's unique flavor. Who knows, maybe we got a few molecules of grease from the flood year.

    LOL. Great post, it's a lot of fun to think about eating a burger from a century-old food truck. Not so sure you convinced me about the burgers, even if you did go back for seconds. Wouldn't it be a health hazard to re-use the grease? Still, this post makes me think of another early burger spot, Louis' Lunch (Est. 1895) in New Haven, serves their burgers on bread with tomato and onion, and the optional cheese. Sauces must have come along later. Does anyone have other examples of sauceless burger classics?

    Rene G wrote: It's an absolute wonder the Hamburger Wagon still exists.

    Yes, it's an absolute wonder.

    I got to looking around for something like the Hamburger Wagon. From what I can tell, a cookshack, even around the turn of the century, was a larger affair, more like an actual shack on a railway-car sized chassis, whereas the traditional chuckwagon looks more like the Hamburger Wagon (particularly the wheels). Here is a link to a forum for chuckwagon (mostly cowboy cookery) enthusiasts, "Old West Classifieds." But the Old West seems a bit far afield. As it happens, historians of the American Diner, including Gutman, have covered lunchwagons, which debuted in the 1880's in New England. There there is a picture of a wagon similar to the one profiled in this thread here and a brief history of the lunch wagon here:

    http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/lunch_wagon/
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #8 - August 30th, 2011, 8:28 am
    Post #8 - August 30th, 2011, 8:28 am Post #8 - August 30th, 2011, 8:28 am
    My favorite part is from the online menu:

    "Catering available"

    Would they set up outside the door of your venue, or haul the cooking apparatus and its decades-old grease inside?
    :lol:
  • Post #9 - August 31st, 2011, 1:21 pm
    Post #9 - August 31st, 2011, 1:21 pm Post #9 - August 31st, 2011, 1:21 pm
    Josephine wrote:
    Rene G wrote: We were told the fat is never discarded and that is one secret of the burger's unique flavor. Who knows, maybe we got a few molecules of grease from the flood year.

    LOL. Great post, it's a lot of fun to think about eating a burger from a century-old food truck. Not so sure you convinced me about the burgers, even if you did go back for seconds. Wouldn't it be a health hazard to re-use the grease?

    Well, at least the grease would be close to sterile. When I said maybe we got a few 100-year-old molecules I wasn't really being serious. Good thing. A quick calculation shows that even after three months there's little chance of any original molecules remaining*.

    The Hamburger Wagon isn't the only famous old burger seller that claims to reuse its grease. Dyer's, in Memphis since 1912, does the same: "This famous grease, strained daily, has continued to produce our juicy Dyer's Burgers for almost a century now." Here's a photo of Dyer's burgers being deep-fried in a manner very similar to Miamisburg (except they're pounded flat before being slipped into the grease).

    Image

    I liked Dyer's burger—served with mustard, pickle and onion—quite a bit, much more than the Hamburger Wagon's. The Miamisburg burger itself doesn't rank high on my list but the whole package is absolutely great. Honestly the burger would benefit from a squirt of ketchup or some other "sloppy sauce".

    * Assuming an average molecular weight of 800 for the fat molecules and a density of 0.9g/mL, a liter of tallow would contain about 7x10^23 molecules. Further assume the fresh grease from each day's cooking dilutes the starting grease by a factor of 2. After 90 days of being cut in half, the dilution factor (2^90) would be greater than 10^27, making it improbable any original molecules remain.
  • Post #10 - September 1st, 2011, 4:26 am
    Post #10 - September 1st, 2011, 4:26 am Post #10 - September 1st, 2011, 4:26 am
    Rene G wrote:A quick calculation shows that even after three months there's little chance of any original molecules remaining*.

    * Assuming an average molecular weight of 800 for the fat molecules and a density of 0.9g/mL, a liter of tallow would contain about 7x10^23 molecules. Further assume the fresh grease from each day's cooking dilutes the starting grease by a factor of 2. After 90 days of being cut in half, the dilution factor (2^90) would be greater than 10^27, making it improbable any original molecules remain.


    I also came up with those exact calculations. :shock:

    I also concur (concur!) that the Dyer's burger in Memphis may be greasy as hell but is quite tasty and worth overlooking its Beale Street circus location.
  • Post #11 - September 1st, 2011, 4:26 pm
    Post #11 - September 1st, 2011, 4:26 pm Post #11 - September 1st, 2011, 4:26 pm
    PIGMON wrote:
    Rene G wrote:A quick calculation shows that even after three months there's little chance of any original molecules remaining*.

    * Assuming an average molecular weight of 800 for the fat molecules and a density of 0.9g/mL, a liter of tallow would contain about 7x10^23 molecules. Further assume the fresh grease from each day's cooking dilutes the starting grease by a factor of 2. After 90 days of being cut in half, the dilution factor (2^90) would be greater than 10^27, making it improbable any original molecules remain.


    I also came up with those exact calculations. :shock:

    I also concur (concur!) that the Dyer's burger in Memphis may be greasy as hell but is quite tasty and worth overlooking its Beale Street circus location.


    :lol: :lol: :lol:
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #12 - September 25th, 2011, 11:17 am
    Post #12 - September 25th, 2011, 11:17 am Post #12 - September 25th, 2011, 11:17 am
    A bit of a detour, but those who are following this thread might also be interested in this post which links to a recent article about the history of tamale wagons.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.

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