Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Best Burger? Nope, Not This One

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 11:30 AM

By CHARLES FERRUZZA

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I’ve been doing in-depth, investigative research for the past few months, looking for the perfect cheeseburger – one good enough to be honored in our upcoming Best of Kansas City issue. Interestingly enough, both a co-worker of mine and one of our readers suggested the same joint in the same week: the “300 Burger” at the Retro Bowl Fun Center (906 W. Liberty Drive) in Liberty. “It’s the best cheeseburger I’ve ever eaten,” my co-worker insisted.

That’s some pretty strong praise, so a couple of days ago I drove to Liberty – with cheeseburger-loving Bob and Addison – to see if the sandwich lived up to the praise.

I’m sorry to say that it’s not a contender; I wouldn’t even list it in my Top Five. “Maybe,” Addison suggested, “it would taste a lot better if you had ordered it after you finished one of the Retro Bowl specialty cocktails, like the Retro Bitch.”

It’s actually called a Retro B*tch (this “Fun Center” is a family-friendly venue, don’t you know) and is described on the menu as “a rainbow of peach and pineapple rum.”

Retro Bowl, for all of you bitches who have never been there yet, is a big building painted in shades of peach and pineapple, and the first thing that hits you upon opening the front door is a whiff of stale, snuffed-out butts. The fast-growing hamlet of Liberty hasn’t outlawed smoking yet, so it’s perfectly legal to light up in the little restaurant-lounge combo – a room with smoky glass windows to the left of the main entrance.

Bob, Addison and I were the only customers in the spacious joint, which is, roughly, the same size as a parochial school cafeteria. “Sunday afternoons are kind of slow,” explained the languid young woman at the cash register who took our order. She sort of reminded me of Veronica in the Archie comic books.

The cook came out of the kitchen. He was as young as the cashier, and neither of them looked old enough to be selling or serving liquor, but luckily, we didn’t order any. Addison ordered a diet soda instead of a Retro B*tch since, as he confessed: “I don’t need to drink one, I am one!”

I think every Baby Boomer is a retro something. I have particularly retro tastes and I’ve still never had a cheeseburger that quite stacks up to the legendary ones at Reid’s Drive-In http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM26AD in my father’s home town of Lockport, New York. But last year’s “Best Hamburger” choice, LC’s Hamburgers, came close.

The Retro Bowl “300 Burger” is impressive at least in terms of size: two three-quarter pound patties with cheese. The bun was disappointing (it looked kind of beat up, as if it had survived a brutal train wreck), but it wasn’t expensive. And the burger included a choice of fries (not so good) or tater tots. Patrons dress it up at a modest “condiment bar” that had mayonnaise, pickle slices, chopped onion, relish, mustard and ketchup. Sophisticated, it wasn’t.

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The other featured menu items are pizza, corn dogs, chili dogs and jumbo pretzels. And something called the “Greek Church Platter” which boasts two onion rings, five fried mushrooms, two mozzarella sticks, two potato skins and three hot wings.

“What makes it Greek?” asked Addison. “Do they serve it with hummus and tzaziki sauce?”

We never did find out how the platter got its name. But since everything on it is deep-fried, I suspect it was named after grease, not Greece.

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