The balm of burgers and brews

There are times in your life when you crave basic food. My husband and I had one of those times this weekend in Kansas City, MO. Thanks to inadequate directions from the ladies at the rental car counter (bad sign: person says she doesn’t live in the city), we became epically lost trying to get from the airport to the hotel. Spectacularly lost. We ended up in Kansas. We crossed the Missouri River five times, on the same bridge. Ramps turned into exit-only lanes, and we were on three to four different numbered highways going in what we thought were the same direction, only to see them diverge. We almost went the wrong way on a roundabout. When we found a place that looked safe enough to stop, we called the hotel. The clerk said, “You’re WHERE?” but easily talked us in, finally. (Before you say it, I know – one word next time: Garmin.)

We parked the car and didn’t want to see it ever again. We wanted to see beers, many of them. Luckily, I had planned ahead by asking my colleague in the Association of Food Journalists, Jill Silva, food editor of the Kansas City Star, for restaurant suggestions. One was a mere block away: Blanc Burgers + Bottles. The beer menu was longer than the food menu, which was fine with us. We sampled two local microbrews by Boulevard Brewing, a pale ale and an unfiltered wheat, both smooth and soothing.

There are salads and sides, like the delicious onion rings with house-made ketchup and chipotle aioli, but they are but handmaidens to the burgers. The knowledgeable waiter said that all the beef, except that on the American kobe burger, is locally sourced. The brioche buns, large enough to accommodate the half-pound burgers, come from a local bakery. There are bison and turkey burgers, and lentil and portobello burgers, but I had no use for them. The Surf & Turf was tempting – an American kobe burger with lobster tail, lobster butter, fennel and asparagus salad. As was the $100 Burger (actually $15), stuffed with red wine-braised short ribs and topped with foie gras butter and onion marmalade. But my husband went with the Classic: lettuce, tomato, mustard, house-made ketchup and pickles on a sesame brioche bun. On the waiter’s suggestion, I ordered the Inside Out, a burger stuffed with blue cheese and served topped with an onion ring, bacon, ketchup and lettuce on an onion brioche bun. It contained just enough blue cheese to enhance without overpowering the beef; no mean feat.

There are times in life when a meal matches exactly what you’re craving, even if you didn’t know you were craving it. And at that time, in that situation, it’s the best thing you ever ate. That’s what happened to us that night. I felt so good that I didn’t even think about smacking our kindly waiter when he looked at the shard or two of burger and bun on my plate and said, “Gee, most people don’t finish that one.” OK, so I was a big honkin’ burger hog, but I was a happy one.

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