We set out to drive through the heartland of Michigan in search of Small Town USA and a good woman to wife.
I’ve been keeping an eye out beautiful hitchhikers so we can recreate this video.
No luck yet.
We drove Route 52 through towns named Chelsea and Munith, past corn fields, men on riding lawnmowers, and giant hay bales on grass fields. On the radio, there’s an “assist” button that presets the top six strongest radio signals – all easy-listening and Christian radio.
Our mid-day stop was Marshall, Michigan. As soon as we stepped out of the car, Angeleno I am, I looked to the parking signs and a nice lady came up and told us it’s free to park in downtown. Main Street is quaint and filled with antique stores, luncheonettes, and a craft store called, “Just Bead It.”
The American Museum of Magic was closed, so we settled for a few doughnuts at Louie’s Bakery. The lady there pronounced the doughnut I bought as TOE-sted KOH-KOH-nut.
We drove through Battle Creek and then west to Kalamazoo. The only thing I know about Kalamazoo, Michigan, is that’s where Tony the Tiger lives. When I was a kid, I had to send him four Frosted Flakes cereal box tops and he sent me back a whistle. It was a fine whistle. Judging by the people in Kalamazoo, Tony definitely has a neck tattoo.
By late afternoon I returned my rental Hyundai with 842.7 more miles on it and we swapped over to Jonathon’s yellow Mini Cooper to get to the Windy City.
At 7:20 PM we we’re at Kasey’s Tavern watching female athletes on ESPN power snatch more than I weigh at the Crossfit Games. An hour ago we put our names down at a restaurant and they told us they can seat us four hours later – this place better be stellar.
At the bar, I start talking to Jean-Pierre next to me. He was born in Haiti but grew up in Montreal and has lived in Chicago for the past ten years. His English accent is more Haitian than Canadian, and as the topic turned to women he says, “the market is easier in New York than it is in Chicago.” He showed me pictures of his bride-to-be and we started plotting places for him to throw his bachelor party.
I bid au revoir to my new friend and we walk over to the Willis Tower to get to the Skydeck. By the time we got there, I got a text from the restaurant, Au Cheval, saying they can seat us in twenty minutes. A quick Uber later we were there anxious to try what Bon Apetit Magazine calls the “best burger in America,” which I’ve been searching for all my life. Food and travel are some of my greatest passions, so it’s always a must for me to try a city’s “best” anything. At some point though, “the best,” becomes incremental when you’re talking about the elite level of anything, so there really is no wrong answer.
The tattooed server took our order and we started out with a pint of Bell’s Two Hearted, a Moscow Mule, and bone marrow with beef cheek marmalade. The server cleared our table and we waited for the main event. The anticipation got to me. This has to be the longest anyone has ever waited for their main course since sliced bread. That doesn’t make sense, but speaking of sliced bread, where’s my damn burger?
The plates are set down and we stare at what’s in front of us. Two circles with a line above it. The burger is set open face with the patty on one side and the egg on the other. A pickle creates the eyebrow. Since it’s too dark to be Asian and take a food photo, we’ve got nothing else to do but take a bite. I set the ground rules:
“Two bites and then we’ll give our verdict.”
I take the first bite and yolk drips down my fingers. I can’t yet taste anything. My tongue must be still coated with beer. I take a sip of water. After the second bite, I place the sandwich down, wipe off my fingers, and look to the second judge.
He picks up his napkin and dabs his mouth then looks at me and says the following:
“Not to belittle this trip, belittle this city, and the awesome time we’ve had this past week, but we waited two fucking hours for this thing and…this is the best burger I’ve ever had.”
Fucker. And you know what? He’s right.