Your Notre Dame Fighting Irish may be taking a week off, but the OFD staff writer grindstone does not. With no game to dissect, this week’s trio of observations will surround our most sacred of bye-week rituals. If you are not familiar with the origin of cheeseburger week during Charlie Weis’ coaching tenure and its place in OFD/Notre Dame lore, please see Pat’s post from earlier this week, which explains it pretty well.
We will go away from Irish music for the song of the week and enjoy a classic combining the cheeseburger and the art of relaxation. RIP to a legend:
Today we’re going to be issuing hot takes on cheeseburgers of all kinds: hometown cheeseburgers, South Bend cheeseburgers, and how to grill cheeseburgers appropriately. Let’s do this.
In-N-Out Burger is Good and No One Should Apologize for Enjoying It
Growing up in California, I was fully on board the In-N-Out hype train. To me, it was the pinnacle of fast food and I unapologetically love it to this day (except the fries, which are flavorless trash). I also recognize that when I have In-N-Out, part of what I am tasting is not beef or cheese or condiments, but memories: I’m remembering my parents taking me there after Little League games or stopping there on road trips or heading there with my high school friends on a Friday night in anticipation of the night’s shenanigans (read: roasting each other while playing video games or, if we were really daring, going on a night hike and campout where a bunch of dudes sat around a fire talking nonsense until the break of dawn). I think this is generally the case with regard to most people’s experience with regional fast food chains, which is why the subject often arouses such passionate and unhinged discourse on the Internet.
Years of remove from the Golden State have granted me some perspective, and I will allow that In-N-Out is not the best burger on the planet Earth. There are better burgers and absolutely better fries out there. With that said, where there is over-hype, there is always over-reaction to the hype. There presently exists a ridiculous trend of reaction against In-N-Out from non-Californians who wax poetic about how it sucks or it’s inedible or grossly overrated, etc. As someone who still harbors some measure of love for California I cannot stand by and allow this counter-slander to go unanswered, and having tasted the fine fast food chains of other lands over the last 11+ years, I am in a unique position to do so.
So let me say it: In-N-Out Burger is good. The burger is far above average for fast food, and the shakes are about as good as it gets within the range of basic shakes (i.e., not Shake Shack). I will admit that the fries are terrible but the overall dining experience is good and no one who loves it should have to explain why. There are far worse fast-food meals out there.
The Best Burgers in South Bend
What is the best burger in South Bend? The answer to this question depends in part on the time of day and your state of mind. If the former is after midnight and the latter is...compromised, the Five Guys at Eddy Street is where you want to be, as Sam Hartman knows:
That experience is as much about the mountain of fries at it is the burger itself, and the combination of those two is sure to vastly improve your morning.
For sheer quality of burger, within the fast food genre I’d give it to the continually underrated Culver’s, which has the bonus of offering fried cheese curds as an alternative to fries as well as extremely high-quality shakes. If you’re looking for a more gourmet burger, when I went up for the game last weekend I stopped by Evil Czech Brewery and was blown away by their options (I ended up choosing the Pig Destroyer). Paired with a stein of autumnal Scottish ale, it made for a great evening in anticipation of the victory to come.
American Cheese is the Best Cheese for a Cheeseburger and No One Should Apologize For Enjoying It Either, You Snob
To round it out, let’s get into this thing where people pretend they don’t like American cheese because it’s unhealthy and it’s trendy to hate things that were universally enjoyed until yesterday, all in spite of the fact that it is the best cheese for a cheeseburger in 99% of scenarios. If you don’t believe me, ask Ralph Fiennes’ high-end chef/murderous psychopath from The Menu:
But this isn’t just about form. American cheese on a cheeseburger is an unique and un-replicable delicious combination that practically everyone likes and if you say you don’t, odds are you are either a vegetarian or you are just lying to yourself. Fancier burgers have their place and can be great, but no one should be ashamed of enjoying that classic down-home taste or feel like they have to bow down to influencers and hatin’-ass Europeans who don’t know what they’re missing. Live!
That’s it for cheeseburger week - go Irish, beat fancy cheese.