See Also: The Great Kobe Beef Swindle
The Guilty Pleasure: Allen Melt Where To Get It: Pomeroy's Price: $7.25 What it Really Costs: There's enough oil that the serving size should be one per lifetime.
Someone, anyone, please tell me that the trend of fancy burgers has run its course. I'm tired of burgers topped with arugula and heirloom tomatoes on house-made brioche. Don't get me started on the scam of burgers made with "American Kobe" beef. In the arms race for creating the fanciest burger in town, so many places have forgotten that technique is even more important than ingredients for a great burger.
This is where a good old-fashioned dive bar kitchen comes into play. The cook is well-versed in the art of short-order, and has long since achieved mastery in the field. The flat-top griddle is, to say the least, well-seasoned. The jet-black patina from not scraping down the grill nightly helps form a delectable crust on the patty. Those shiny, well-maintained griddles at chichi joints can't come close to what an ancient bar griddle can turn out. While I can wax poetic about a bar burger, my heart belongs to the bar patty melt. Griddled rye bread gives even more crunch and flavor than a bun, Swiss cheese melts beautifully, and griddled onions make the whole package extra-savory.
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One of my favorite places for a patty melt is Pomeroy's. It hides behind the Starbucks on 7th Street and Missouri. You might have driven past dozens of times and never knew it was there. Despite the incognito location, they've been there for at least 30 years. Little at Pomeroy's has changed through the years; the sign by the door still warns "microwaves in use". Inside, minor updates are evident (such as a very nice Golden Tee setup and the dreaded Internet jukebox), but the place still has serious old-school dive bar charm.
The folks at Pomeroy's could probably turn out a flawless patty melt with one hand tied behind their back. The patties are smashed on the grill (all the better to create that optimal crust) and well-seasoned with garlic and pepper before cooking. Almost everything else goes off without a hitch. Sure, the fries are from a freezer bag, but this is a dive bar, you ain't getting fresh-cut here. They're hot, they're crisp, you can't ask much more.
Then there's their over-the-top number, the Allen Melt. Some people would argue that the patty melt is a work of perfection, that any addition would be gilding the lily. I was in this camp until I tasted the Allen Melt; it adds bacon, sautéed mushrooms, and a layer of American cheese to the classic combo. You know, sometimes I like my lilies gilded. It's gooey, it's greasy, it's glorious. And, it's a much better bang for the buck than any fancy-schmancy burger in town.