Let’s go beyond the obvious – “Flavor first,” says Al Bowers of Al’s Burger Shack, knowing that’s a given – and into an advanced study of his Classic Burger:
Although he possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of old-school chains like Tastee Freez and Big Boy, Al’s own past inspires him most. “This is my favorite meal. A burger, fries and a vanilla milkshake. I vividly remember being 7 or 8 years old at a place … in Chase City, Virginia, where my mother grew up. Sitting at that counter, having that burger. It changed my life. I feel like I’ve always been chasing that.”
The lettuce is shredded because it stays in place better and creates a nest for Roma tomatoes, whose small size help keep them in place. Al loves Martin’s Potato Rolls for their softness, density and strength: “These buns have a strong hinge, and they hold everything in place with a snug fit.” Of the cheese, he says, “You have to have ‘meltability.’ American is the way to go.”
Sometimes, the eyes call the shots. “I love red onion on burgers,” says Al. Why? “It’s just a prettier onion.” Remember, a thing of beauty is a joy for … well, for as long as you can keep yourself from biting into it.