The neon signs overhead are blinding and I am in serious danger of being trampled by a horde of incoming customers. So why am I so excited? Because my husband and I just gave our name to the hostess at Terry’s Turf Club and I know that no matter what abuse I may be about to suffer — it doesn’t even matter if one of those neon signs crashes on my head and sets my hair on fire — I’m about to eat the most wickedly delicious burger in town.
But before I can even think about eating, we’re going to wait for over an hour. Because we’re in the way wherever we stand, we grab a couple of drinks from the bar and head into the 34 degree night to wait it out. This is the Terry’s way and either you can love it, work for it and earn it or you can go home.
We sit in the movie theater seats just outside the door and I quickly start to lose feeling in my hands. Even so, I manage to work my way through an entire bowl of peanuts. If I didn’t like peanuts, I’d still get them for the shear liberation of throwing the shells on the ground. The shells, by the way, are also all over my shirt and in my lap. Thankfully, my husband (who is in a euphoric haze over the exotic beer selection) doesn’t seem to mind.
I can’t even believe this, but when we are finally called by the hostess, I do a fist pump and shout out our name again as if I were yelling Bingo. We are led inside to a high top table that seems to be strategically placed in the middle of a busy aisle. Traveling passersby knock my coat off the back of my chair every two minutes but I don’t care because I am part of the Terry’s culture now – the busy lights, the mumbling crowd, the swinging bathroom door — all of it.
I scan the beat up, laminated menu, which happens to include hamburger toppings like foie gras and lump crabmeat. I almost have a hysterical fit trying to decide between two sauces (red wine with wild mushrooms and truffle or roasted red pepper goat cheese?) But when the waitress comes to take our orders, I go confidently with my gut.
At long last, the paper plates arrive, stacked high with freshly cut fries and our very own, custom made burgers. They are patties of black angus beef sandwiched between two ends of a Shadeau bun and they’re dripping with juices and sauces and melted cheeses. Ceremoniously, the waitress hands me a large, serrated knife to slice the burger into two more manageable pieces. I do this, and then, with a stack of napkins nearby, I attack the burger with two hands and the zeal of a child who just discovered Disneyland.
Suddenly, I don’t see the busy crowd around me, I don’t hear their murmurs and I don’t feel the stinging in my right knee (which is being repeatedly slammed into the table by people shoving their way to the bar.) My entire world becomes the hard to handle stack of glory in my hands and for the next 20 gorgeous minutes, I relish every soul satisfying bite. In the passing moments, I try to register individual ingredients so that I might recreate the recipe at home, but I fail. Only two dieties know how to create this kind of hamburger magic: Terry and God. Heroically, I finish the seemingly insurmountable contents of my plate and sit back in my chair. In my wake, I leave only 8 messy napkins and a rim stained wine glass.
After we pay the bill, we rise from our stools and head for the door. With a discernable decrease in agility and speed, we stumble down the stairs and start to realize just how full we really are. Even so, I know we’ll be back … junkies always come back. Despite the bruises, despite the crowd, the noise, the garishness, the calories or the weather, they always come back. And when it comes to this little slice of Americana, they come back hungry and wanting more.