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Kicking the Cheeseburger Habit

I have a dining problem.

Not an eating problem. A problem with the things I choose to eat at restaurants.

Most of my healthier-than-thou friends will no doubt shout, "See! I knew it! He's finally hit rock bottom, and he's ready to seek help!"

Not even close.

I don't have a problem, everyone else has the problem.

("See? Classic denial. 'It's everyone's else's fault but mine.' Let's stage an intervention!")

I'm ashamed to admit it, being a creative professional who appreciates new experiences and events: my family thinks I'm boring and predictable when it comes to my restaurant food choices.

Predictable? I shudder to think that I'm predictable. I prefer "oddly quirky, but mostly harmless."

My sin is that I have a few favorite dishes that I order over and over when we visit a new restaurant.

Well, one favorite dish.

My go to meal is a restaurant's signature cheeseburger, extra crispy French fries. Unless they have tater tots. I'm a sucker for tater tots. (The one in the photo is the Boogie Monster from Boogie Burger in Broad Ripple, Indianapolis.)

That's not predictable, is it? Careful, yes. Steadfast, of course. Predictable? Hardly.

It's basic research. A cheeseburger is the standard by which I judge that restaurant. If they can't even master a simple cheeseburger, how bad will the rest of the food be?

A cheeseburger is difficult to master in its simplicity. Sure, it's just a piece of ground beef with a slice of cheese, but you'd be surprised at how hard it is to do the simple things well.

And if they do a great job on the cheeseburger, then why bother trying anything else? They've mastered one of my favorite sandwiches, so why abandon a sure thing? I don't get to eat at restaurants that often, so I want something I truly enjoy, which means going back to my favorite.

But my family doesn't understand this. They hassle me about the childishness of my cheeseburger, hand me a children's menu, and ask me if I want Pirate Pete's chicken planks or a peanut butter and jelly "sammich."

No, but I do want to color the menu and help Pirate Pete find his way through the maze.

I'm not the only person who does this. Everyone has a favorite restaurant dish. Whether it's the chicken nachos, the pasta bolognese, or the blue plate meatloaf special at their favorite diner, all of us have a go-to meal when we're not really sure what we want to eat.

Speaking of food ruts, what's the point of restaurant meatloaf? I never understood going to restaurants that advertise home-cooked meals. The whole point of a restaurant is to get something you don't normally eat. And we don't normally get half-pound cheeseburgers with bacon, a fried egg, and barbecue sauce at my house.

We eat meatloaf; we had it tonight, in fact. We have spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, and pot roast. So we avoid places that specialize in home-cooked meals. If I wanted a home-cooked meal, I'd eat at home, and do the things I normally do.

Like sneak a bowl of Cap'n Crunch after everyone else has gone to bed. Restaurants frown on patrons breaking in to eat cereal after they've closed.

Furthermore, I don't order a cheeseburger at fancy restaurants. There, I'm willing to try just about anything. I'll get salmon, steak, or a pasta dish. If we go to a French restaurant, I'll try the duck, and escargot for an appetizer. If we visit a German restaurant, I'll go for the schnitzel or sauerbraten. And if we're at a South American restaurant, I've been known to eat tripe.

See, that's new and adventurous. That's not boring. I've eaten frogs legs, for Pete's sake! I AM NOT PREDICTABLE!

Still, I'm not the only one who does this. I'm not naming names, but certain people I'm married to, will frequently order the same dish whenever she goes to her favorite Thai restaurant. She insists that she only orders it half the time, which is probably true, because I don't go there often enough to see if there's a pattern.

Ultimately, I've reached the age where I've experienced all the major changes I care to experience. It's not that I fear change, I just don't see the point in it anymore. I've changed enough, my world has changed enough, and I want something that's a little stable and reliable. And if a bacon cheeseburger is my anchor to everything that is good-hearted, pure, and true, then so be it.

Just put a fried egg on the burger, and pass me the kids menu.

Pirate Pete needs my help to find the buried treasure.

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


  1. I have the same kind of test at Mexican restaurants: I need to check out the tamales and the refried beans. Those two will tell me how committed the place is to good food and authenticity. :)


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