Today, May 28, is National Hamburger Day. While the history of the hamburger is hotly debated, the fact that Americans love them is not. As our tastes also change, many new ways to enjoy the hamburger have come along. Sometimes the old ways of enjoying a burger are the best and sometimes a new way of making a burger comes along which just sounds so good you know you have to try it.
Jason Kang, owner of Seoulmate in Long Beach, described his love of burgers and the importance of National Hamburger Day. “If I put my two favorite things to eat in the world on each hand, one would be hamburgers and the other Korean food. No matter what age, race or gender, everybody likes hamburgers. It's actually pretty astonishing if you think about it. Not everybody likes Korean food, not everybody likes tacos, not everybody even likes pizza, but the burger is probably the icon of the American dining experience”.
Jason continued, “my parents are Korean but I was born right here. Despite all the good Korean food I've had, a hamburger is still one of my favorite meals ever. Even though it is National Hamburger Day today, every day is a special hamburger day to me!”.
One of the most popular ways to enjoy the old time hamburger is as a slider. Nowhere is this style more popular than in the Midwest, where hamburgers are popular when sold by quantity and not by size. Of course, there is the White Castle chain covering the Midwest, famous for their small burgers and eaten usually in quantities of anywhere from three to ten. Like most chains, however, the current White Castle slider is a far cry from the original one they started with in the 1930's.
In Ohio, one of the oldest places to buy hamburgers is Crabill's Hamburgers. This tiny place, found in Urbana, Illinois, has only room for eight at their counter. A good share of their business is people ordering them to go, getting a bag of burgers or cheeseburgers. When they started out in 1927, Crabill's charged five cents per burger. They have now gone up to the staggering price of sixty-five cents each. Three to six burgers are plenty for any person, especially if they also want a piece of Crabill's fresh-baked pie.
Going to Crabill's gives you a real sense of what an old-time burger was like, dressed simply, often only with a splash of mustard and a spoonful of chopped onions. Crabill's make them on an old grill, imparting a nice sear to the burgers like it has been done for years. Hot off the grill, with a nice crispy exterior, the meat is well caramelized and has a nice flavor that is not obscured by dozens of toppings.
In fact, the only toppings available are brown mustard and relish plus grilled and fresh onions. Cheese is the only other choice, with a nice slice of American cheese topping the burgers if so desired. Want ketchup? That's on request only and you will have to put up with stares from everyone else in the place. Crabill's grudgingly started keeping ketchup in the restaurant only in 1990.
Inside the tiny restaurant, you can feel how it must have been when Forest Crabill started cooking burgers. Today, run by his fifth generation family, Crabill's still has the homey feeling that regulars and visitors enjoy. Several of the wooden stools, in fact, are originals, handmade by Forest himself.
Just about the same size as Crabills, but 2,025 miles west, Seoulmate in Long Beach is still exploring ways to make a burger that is different and delicious. Like Crabill's, there is very little room, with five outside tables and no indoor seating. But also like Crabill's, many people have already made Seoulmate a regular stop for a meal, to either enjoy at the table or to take home.
Jason today made an announcement to coincide with the celebration of National Burger Day. “I think that the best marinade that we have is the kalbi marinade which is a beef short rib marinade. We wanted to take that taste and incorporate it into a burger, so we took an Angus beef patty and marinated it for a few hours to get that sweet honey flavor in there. We came up with a special spread, it's a sauce with relish and a kimchee puree. I think it's the best sauce we've ever made. Our employees love to put it in their food that we eat here”.
“Jason continued, “the deep fried onions add a nice little crunch a good texture that complements the whole burger. We then top it with American cheese, lettuce and tomato. For National Hamburger Day, we've announced it today and are serving it on a 'soft opening'. On Saturday, we will be officially introducing the FOB Burger to the world!”.
Jason feels he's carrying on the tradition of great hamburgers. “Because there is a tradition of places that make hamburgers going back so many years, we couldn't just come up with any old hamburger. This hamburger took us over two months to come up with. It not only needed to meet our standards of taste and our quality, but it also had to meet the standards of everybody's burger expectations. We want to meet and exceed those standards of American dining traditions”.
So ultimately, even though the concepts of the two burgers are many miles apart, the idea of finding someone to please the customers is not. That in itself is a major accomplishment of the hamburger that we celebrate today. It is a sandwich that may have many forms and many influences, but after more than 100 years, it is still a taste that people love.
4712 E. 7th Street
Long Beach, CA 90804
Ph: (562) 433-1158
727 Miami Street
Urbana, OH 43078
Ph: (947) 653-5133