Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Burger Museum

(The piece below was previously published on Atlas Obscura. You can see it here.)

Memorial Day presents itself to me as a holiday with a bit of a multiple personality disorder: on one hand it's a time to remember the dead - those who lost their lives in active military service. Yet it's also the unofficial start of summer - beaches, pool parties, beer and yes, hamburgers. This last item has me reflecting not only on service members who have passed on, but also on wonders that exist now only in memory. Hence my post of this previously published piece on the Burger Museum.

Though the museum is no more, it served as one distinct stage of the evolution of "Burger Beast" who I've come to know and appreciate for his extraordinary and highly specialized expertise. He continues to blog, he has a book that you should check out, he's opened a restaurant and he keeps serving up the freshest burger-related wisdom anywhere on planet earth. Who knows - maybe one day the museum will return. In the meantime, you can always revisit it here.

This shrine to bovine consumption and all things fast food is a slice of culinary history both rare and well done.

In a 1984 Wendy's commercial, actress Clara Peller carved out a permanent place in pop culture by asking, “Where’s the beef?” Some three decades later, we have a definitive answer in the Burger Museum at Miami’s Magic City Casino.

The museum, created by Sef “Burger Beast” Gonzalez, began as a blog documenting and celebrating his lifelong passion for burgers. When a friend familiar with Gonzalez’s particular obsession sent him an old Burger Chef restaurant sign, it sent him on a path toward amassing an extraordinary collection of all things burger-related. When his collection outgrew his old, unused bedroom at his parents’ house, he pitched the city’s Magic City Casino on the idea of leasing him space to showcase his fast-food fascination. The casino agreed, and in December of 2016, the Burger Museum was born.

Today the collection includes over 3,000 artifacts and collectibles, not only from the larger chains such as Burger King, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s, but from lesser-known restaurants (including a sign from the failed Burger Queen chain—no affiliation with the King) and “mom and pop” shops as well. From vintage uniforms and menus to dishware, toys, and statues of mascots (the Hamburglar, of course, makes an appearance), the vast collection tells the story of America’s enduring love for the ground beef patty on a bun.

Update: The Burger Museum closed its doors on September 29, 2019.

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