We ate at Hudson’s Hamburgers in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho yesterday. Sunset Magazine recommended it as being one of the top five hamburger joints in the West. Turns out it has also been recognized in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Gourmet Magazine.
What make a hamburger so good it is recognized as one of the best in the nation? We decided to find out.
The answer, at least for Hudson’s, is buried in the past. Hudson’s has been in existence since 1907 and apparently its approach to hamburger making hasn’t changed since.
A small counter with 13 seats greeted us when we walked in the door. There were no tables. People stood patiently waiting for counter seats.
How much more old-fashioned can you get?
We lucked out. Two seats on the far end of the counter opened up almost immediately. They provided an excellent view of the action. Staff consisted of three people. Two worked as waiters… taking orders, delivering food, preparing take out orders and serving as cashiers. No credit cards were accepted.
The single cook was a master of efficiency. She created her works of art directly in front of us. There was no separate kitchen. It was public performance without a net.
A large pan of raw hamburger was on her left. She wore a plastic glove on her right hand and held a spatula in her left. She would reach into the pan and grab a handful of hamburger, slap it onto the table, squish it flat with the spatula and flip it onto the grill.
Options included single hamburgers with or without cheese or double hamburger with or without cheese, pickles and onions. There were no tomatoes and no lettuce much less any of the other numerous additions from guacamole to bacon and bleu cheese we have come to associate with gourmet burgers.
Buns, cheese, pickles and onions appeared precisely when needed. Pickles and onions were cut up almost as fast as the eye could watch… zip, zip, zip, zip. Each hamburger received four pickle slices and one onion slice… assuming that is what you ordered. Which is what we did.
“We’ll have two single cheese burgers with pickles and onions and two glasses of ice tea,” I told the waiter. He had appeared as soon as we sat down. Later we added a piece of coconut cream pie.
Our cheeseburgers appeared with the speed that would have shamed McDonald’s, but that’s where any similarity with America’s ubiquitous fast food joints ended. We added the three condiments provided (mustard, ketchup and Hudson’s own concoction) and took our first bite.
And then our second and third. I was left with only one question. How could something so simple taste so good? Our total cost for the two of us: $11.03.