Thursday, October 25, 2007
The burger beautiful
Kenny’s Grocery still has an old icebox with a beveled mirror along the back wall, an oak chest that was converted to electricity but rarely gets plugged into a wall socket. There are photographs of school kids behind the counter, too, between pictures of deer kill and women in skimpy bikinis. Dusty boxes of candy seem to be calling out to the kids who live here in sleepy Scenery Hill and along Pennsylvania’s stretch of the historic National Road, North America's first interstate.
Customers do stop by, though, for the hamburgers that Rick Mowl cooks on a cast iron skillet the same way they have been fried since 1949. He said the flavor comes from the old Griswold skillet that “is probably worth a lot of money” to collectors of cookware. The pan and special spices, including a little garlic and onion powder, come together to create a beauty of a burger that keeps people coming back for more. They are always served on a paper napkin with a dose of Mowl’s dry humor.
Mowl would have to kill you if he told you what is in the shakers that he uses to dust his patties that do not appeal to everyone in town. The thin lady up the road is a naturalist, he said, who must “eat berries” because she never orders one of his burgers. "She's Euell Gibbons," he says while flipping what is about to become my lunch.
This is downtown country living in North Bethlehem Township, which is home to less than 1,800 people who must drive about 10 miles to the nearest gasoline station and even further to a big box supermarket.
And the best part – Mowl’s juicy quarter-pounders sell for $1.75 apiece. Add a quarter to the bill if you want cheese, lettuce and tomato.