"The hamburger--like jazz and comic books--is a purely American art form. Don't try to argue "Hamburger" etymology, the notion that the hamburger was developed first in the German city of Hamburg from which it took its name, because you will lose. A "Hamburg steak"--made of chipped, dried beef, onions and damp bread crumbs--was survival rations aboard ship when sailors on the Hamburg-Amerika line (and some of the immigrants riding along) ran out of hardtack, salt pork, biscuits, weevils and rat stew. It was loved only in the way the Irish love coddle or the French a nice tete de veau--as a memory of a time when one hot meal of boiled pork scraps or a calf's head with rough mustard was all that stood between them and starvation. This muddled concoction of low-grade beef, spice, bread and onions didn't become a hamburger until it touched on American shores and, even then, was more closely related to what we'd call a Salisbury steak than a proper burger.
A proper burger must, in order to be one, come as a sandwich, either between bread or in the middle of a bun. It must be the kind of thing one can eat on the move, because the history of the hamburger --and especially the cheeseburger--is also a history of motion in the United States. This is why the oft-quoted (though likely false) claim that the first hamburger in America was served at Delmonico's in New York is wrong, and the counter-claim of the Clipper Restaurant in San Fernando, California serving one in 1871 is also wrong. They served (or might have served) Hamburg steaks, and while much scholarship has been committed in the quest to find the First Hamburger in America, it is all misguided. Hamburger-the-meat is different from hamburger-the-sandwich, and hamburger-the-sandwich is different still from the cheeseburger, which stands today as the ultimate expression of the form.
All three places were suggested by readers (or, in one case, a writer). Pick-Quick was recently tagged in the USA Today as among the 51 best or most interesting burgers currently being served in the United States. RedLine Burger Co. was suggested as a place which might possibly be even better in the comments section following that blog post. And Zippy's? Well, Zippy's is a favorite of the staff here at Seattle Weekly and, this year, took the prize for Best Burger in the 2010 Best of Seattle issue. As a matter of fact, Zippy's actually took two Best Of's this year: for Best Burger and Best Veggie Burger, which is really rather remarkable.
So that's what we've got on tap for tomorrow, folks. Check it out on the stands or online. And I can't wait to hear what kind of debate this one inspires.