It was balmy and pleasant when we drove to midtown Atlanta Sunday to eat what is reputedly the best hamburger in America.
Holeman and Finch Public House is also famous for serving an awesome brunch and exotic entrées like roasted bone marrow and braised calf brains. But we were there for the burgers.
The wait for the dining room was two hours, so we opted to elbow our way into the crowded bar where the average age was 35 and the acoustics are a hair short of dismal.
I have a feeling that restaurant builders design these new places without taking conversation into consideration, and rightfully so. After all, with the endless list of techie gadgets and toys, all anyone wants to know today is if the place has free WiFi. The menu is almost an afterthought.
The ambiance at H and F is very upscale, a bit snooty but casual (something like wearing a mink and pearls over faded torn jeans). It is trendy, with high shiny metal stools and higher round tables; a difficult climb for seniors. But we bravely managed to get on and stayed on.
We ordered at the bar while they made our table ready. It took 30 minutes for our burgers to arrive. But it was worth the wait.
The famous H and F burger is a two-patty stack of ground prime beef sirloin and brisket mixed with grated sweet onion, cooked to perfection and crispy at the edges, oozing with tasty American cheese, sitting on a buttery homemade bun. The bar makes its own spicy mustard and ketchup with a hint of smoky barbecue.
Trust me, the burger needs neither one. It comes with a generous serving of piping-hot fries. Oh, and you get sliced sweet pickles, too.
The bar is famous for its creative original drinks. My sister and I didn’t dare, and instead settled for Southern-style iced sweet tea. Talk about a perfect combination.
We were told that on weekdays, hamburgers are served only for lunch until 3 p.m. and then again at 10 p.m., when only 24 double burgers are made. When these are gone, burger service stops. As a result, the line outside the restaurant starts forming as early as 6. Great gimmick, if you ask me.
The place truly lives up to the hype. And although it is quite a drive from Norcross, I know we will be back.
Seeing all those burger fanatics lining up brought back memories of The Roadrunner in Concord, California. It was a real mom-and-pop business ideally located at the end of the BART line.
The double burger was our bestseller. We had our own secret sauce. Almost as popular was the adobo sandwich. It was hard work, but it kept my children busy and off the street. Good memories.
Today, between concerts, my son takes to the barbecue grill at home and plays Roadrunner for family and friends. Good fun. Good burgers, too.
Stuffed and happy, our next stop was Center Stage, a vintage theater just a few blocks away.
We absolutely enjoyed “The Concert Queen and Mr. Shades” and became one with an adoring, almost 100-percent Filipino audience. Some came from Alabama, from Savannah, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. There were even a few who came all the way from Texas. Everybody loved the show.
Backstage, surrounded by bouquets of flowers, I was filled with nostalgia.
Cheering with our kababayan that night, I wondered how long ago it was since they left home and why they did. I caught myself worrying if any number of them were overstaying, illegal, and how many had risked it all just for a chance at a better life. I silently prayed that they were content and had no regrets.
I felt a close kinship with them.
It brought back bittersweet memories of a visa running out, the fear of being discovered, of someone turning us in, of having no money and how one day the hand of God manifested through a generous friend and a kind immigration lawyer.
I remember the anguish, the fitful sleepless nights, and later the immense joy and gratitude we felt when it was all over.
Tale to tell
Every immigrant has a tale to tell. Today’s news is filled with sad stories about children, mostly boys in their teens, sneaking into the US to escape poverty and violence in their own homeland, some hoping to be reunited with family already “on the other side.”
Only in the last couple of years, over 50,000 unaccompanied young people from Mexico and Central America have been nabbed as they crossed the border into the US.
They are given a health screening and immunization shots, and a choice of voluntary departure without a hearing or detention.
If they choose to stay, cases are filed in court. Some end on a happy note. Others are not so lucky. The images are heartbreaking. But that’s the law.
This will be an issue in the 2016 elections. At stake is the future of thousands who savor the American Dream. It may be time to revisit the words on the Statue of Liberty.