Burger Shoppe, I love you
September 26, 2011
NEW YORK, USA – It isn’t everyday you hear a stranger say “I love you” and mean it. Especially not in a restaurant. And especially not in the most unromantic of circumstances: try walking from Union Square to Wall Street in a heavy smog of exhaust and misty humidity, and you’ll understand what I mean when I say that when I was hit by the winds from the bay (which ripped mercilessly through my hair and impractical tissue-thin cardigan), I looked a bit worse for wear.
I hadn’t eaten since the previous night and felt miserably like something out of a Charles Dickens novel–a small and lowly child, disheveled, chilly, and starving. And I was on WALL STREET–the Armani-clad brain of New York; the land where money never sleeps; the colorless, odorless, faceless stretch of banker Eden. Getting a bite to eat? The only taste I was finding here was the taste of success.
But then I turned a corner, and lo, a beacon of light! The yellow glow of an illuminated brick sign revealed BURGER SHOPPE in bold, black lettering. It was as if a vibrant rainbow had sprouted up between the sky-thrusting sheets of silver steel and expensive glass. I practically skipped up the steps into one of the most welcoming sights since 14th Street.
It’s a burger joint, for sure, and hailed amongst hometown critics as one of Manhattan’s best. At the back, two black boards with white lettering above the main counter advertise its permanent menu, which includes timely names like the Obama Burger, Merger Burger, and Bankers Dozen. I would have devoured five, but decided to play it safe and go for their tried-and-true signature Shoppe Burger. The cashier, with one of the better smiles I’ve seen a man have, flashed me what must’ve been his best and yelled my order to the cooks in back, who were having a good laugh beside the open kitchen.
Amidst the sprawl of financial towers, the place is quite quaint: just twelve chrome stools wrap around the white Formica counter, spoiling early-comers and teasing the unlucky ones who pop in at peak hours only to have to stuff themselves standing up. When I ducked in mid-afternoon, only a pair of sisters and a corporate lawyer (you could tell from the way he clutched his leather briefcase and fat law bible tucked under one arm) hugged the bar, alone in their little worlds. So though red neon letters advertised an upstairs bar room, I needn’t seek space at higher ground.
Slipping onto a stool at the counter (or rather, hoisting my tiny-legged self onto one of the much-too-tall brown-cushioned pedestals), my eyes wandered to the framed posters hanging along the white-tiled wall in front of me that advertised their specialty burgers, sold on different days of the week. Above, built-in velvet letter boards advertised fun messages like “Great people deserve high fives” and “Delicious All Day K Hooray.” Shadows in the velvet of former occupying letters alluded to age, though it’s only been open since 2008. This new neighborhood gem was soon to become my downtown go-to, as I bit into the succulent 4 oz. burger of beefy goodness and sipped the creamiest strawberry shake known to mankind.
Stomach satiated and ready to brave the elements, I abandoned my stool to pay, attempting in vain to flatten my wind-tousled mane of hair and look presentable as I handed the guy behind the register (who was currently enacting a song-and-dance routine to The Killers) his tip.
“I love you,” he said immediately, stuffing his copy of the receipt in the register and handing me a sweet Burger Shoppe sticker for my notebook in one fell swoop, “We love you. Tell your friends.”
As I exited out into the monochrome financial sprawl with shake and sticker in hand, I took a final look at the shop front and smiled back. Oh Burger Shoppe, I love you too.