Golden buns leap from toaster ovens, shooting across grills aflame with burger drippings. A call for relish reinforcements goes up, nearly drowned out by the whoopee-cushion cacophony of condiment squirtings.
The sights and sounds of hamburger warfare on Sherman Avenue have some burger-slingers retrenching. But most of the seven restaurants that’ll put a hot one in front of you seem unconcerned about the latest combatant in the battle for the burger buck.
The archenemy for some is an innocentlooking McDonald’s Express storefront on Sherman near Second Street. The new burger seller in town has been around the block, oh, a few billion times.
Sporting 1950s decor and crispy french fries approaching the potato equivalent of crack cocaine, the McDonald’s arrival had some downtown eateries worried.
Coeur d’Alene best-known burger boss, Roger Hudson of Hudson’s Hamburgers, gets gruff when the subject of his new neighbor comes up. “Well, they’re doing real good over there. They obviously know what they’re doing there.”
But Hudson’s appears no worse for wear. People saddle up on a Hudson’s bar stool as much for good conversation as for the juicy burgers with thick pickle and onion slices. Just don’t ask for fries or mayo.
Next door to the east of the McDonald’s Express, Spooner’s owner Suzie Rohrback gears up her store to battle Mickey-D’s head-on. She’ll beef up her half-pound and quarter-pound hand-formed patties and highlight them on her new menu.
A few blocks eastward at Robby’s, proprietor Robby Robinson feels safe in his burgerhood with “The Monster,” a slab of fresh ground, hand-formed beef patty on a hoagie roll and buried with fixings. Once called the “Expo Burger,” the name didn’t make sense much after ‘74; hence, “The Monster.”
“McDonald’s customers aren’t my customers, usually,” said Robinson, who has owned Robby’s for 33 years. “It just doesn’t make much difference to me here.”
Mike Robb, back farther down Sherman, said he has the most historic burger in Coeur d’Alene. The “AwfulAwful” dates back 52 years when Robb’s Iron Horse Restaurant & Lounge was the Brunswick Cafe, he said. The “AwfulAwful” difference difference? “Quality items. Quality meat and toppings. That’s what makes it a classic.”
The Idaho Spokesman-Review staff saw a need to evaluate the burgers of Sherman Avenue from Zip’s on down to Hudson’s. All have their good points.
Zip’s double cheeseburger: $2. Not big on hamburger aesthetics such as uniform bun shape and presentation but quenches the taste we get for the fast-food burger.
Robby’s “The Monster”: $5.25 with fries. An intimidating loaf of juicy goodness. Generous bacon and ham slather a hand-formed patty on a hoagie roll. Crispy veggies complement this creature.
Wilson Frank’s “Stampede Classic:” $6.65 with fries. Tuck in the napkin, or tablecloth for that matter. A montage of meaty mastery, the classic tucks its secret ingredient - a fried egg - between gobs of ham, and bacon, all drowned in mayo. Get your neighbor to hose you down afterwards.
Iron Horse “Awful-Awful”: $5.25 with fries. The burger that has aged gracefully still packs a beefy punch. It’s big but manageable, so you don’t end up wearing the innards. This one delivers on its burger potential.
Cricket’s bacon, ham and swiss burger: $6.75 with fries. OK, the folks at Crickets want you to know that they’re known more for oysters and fine dining than big ol’ burgers. But the Cricket’s burger is nothing to hide, mostly because it’s too big to hide. Get past that top bun that’s larger than half the other whole burgers on Sherman, and you’ll find a generous patty with fresh veggies. “You can taste the real cheese,” commented one taster.
Spooner’s half-pound burger with cheese and bacon: $2.50 with chips. A towering creation featuring heaping bacon portions and juicy patties that taste fresh.
McDonald’s double cheeseburger: $1.77. It’s the taste you can trust, said one on our panel. The dependability of McDonald’s burgers across the country give anybody a little peace of mind: You know what you’re going to get. This burger tasted just fine, and for the price it wins on value. Our tasters suddenly ached for fries.
Hudson’s double cheeseburger: $3.57. The traditionalists in our panel devoured it. Fresh beef, strong onion and pickle presence, but it’s those spicy sauces that make it stand up and tenderize its competitors. For the discriminating burger palate.
The fervor surrounding McDonald’s arrival seems to have cooled down, said Suzanne Kaderka, executive director of the Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association. “I haven’t heard much of anything - good or bad - since they announced they were coming.” she said.
A big burger fan herself, Kaderka enjoys the fact that she can have a different burger on Sherman every day of the week.
“I think that McDonald’s just adds another choice to what we’ve got here,” she said. “Sometimes you just feel like having a Big Mac, and now you can walk right over and get it.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos
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