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Authenticity is all
Which company consistently offers the most authentic American fast-food experience? I don't want a fast-food experience that is muddled and compromised.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.

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Well said-- and I admire the touch of scholarship there-- but I prefer [HIGGINS quickly googles to learn the restaurant's canonical orthography] Steak 'n Shake, another avatar of the same aesthetic. Stark black and white tile, gleaming metal trim, accented by red neon light.

The slogans they used when I began eating there in the Seventies (not all of which have survived since) spoke from a long-ago era: the straightforward "Famous for Steakburgers," the more bewildering "In Sight-- It Must Be Right*," the hucksterish neologism "TAKHOMASAK," the tautological "It's A Meal."

I liked the sensation of time travel. Also, I have become fond of their shakes.

*Depression-era stool-squatters could watch the chef grind steak and grill burgers, assuring themselves that the claimed ingredients were really going into the meal ordered. Apparently there was reason to suspect that operators of other greasy spoons might be pulling a fast one.

Good shakes, iconic shakes, yes.

The Steak 'N' Shake in Springfield Missouri (wait, there's more than one... the one on Glenstone IIRC) is near an auditorium on the Drury College campus where big acts used to play in the 1970s. The Who, Elvis, and others ate there before and after concerts. Last time I was there, it was still good. The one in Topeka isn't as good for some reason; less leftover Elvis molecules, I guess.

From Roger Ebert's 2009 tribute to Steak 'n Shake:
If I were on Death Row, my last meal would be from Steak 'n Shake. If I were to take President Obama and his family to dinner and the choice were up to me, it would be Steak 'n Shake--and they would be delighted. If the Pope were to ask where he could get a good plate of spaghetti in America, I would reply, "Your Holiness, have you tried the Chili Mac or the Chili 3-Ways?"

A downstate Illinois boy loves the Steak 'n Shake as a Puerto Rican loves rice and beans, an Egyptian loves falafel, a Brit loves banger and mash, an Indian loves tikki ki chaat, a Swede loves herring, a Finn loves reindeer jerky, and a Canadian loves bran muffins. These matters do not involve taste. They involve a deep-seated conviction that a food is absolutely right, and always has been, and always will be. These convictions are fixed at an early age. I do not expect to convert you.


My Steak 'n Shake fetish is not unique. On an early visit to the Letterman Show, during a commercial break, I said to David:

"I hear you're from Indianapolis, home of the head office of Steak 'n Shake."

"In Sight, It Must be Right," he said. Our eyes locked in unspoken communion.

"Four Ways to Enjoy," I said.

"Car, table, counter, or TakHomaSak," he replied.

"Specializing in Selected Foods..."

"...with a Desire to Please the Most Discriminating."

"Thanks for Your Liberal Patronage..."

David didn't blink an eye or miss a beat. We had both obviously memorized the original menu. "...signed, A. H. (Gus) Belt, founder," he said, and we shared a nod of great satisfaction. Augustus H. Belt founded Steak 'n Shake in 1934, and after three changes in ownership over the years, it still preserves the original logos, mottoes, typography, design, approach, philosophy and, most crucially, recipes. The founder built well.
So I think we know what Mr. Ebert's answer to James's question would be.

The establishment on Green Street in Champaign, where Roger was introduced to Steak 'n Shake, was also the location of my own first encounter with the brand. A bond we share.

P.S. Bran muffins?

Bran Muffins?

I don't understand the question. With dates or raisins added for extra flavour and sweetness, for many years they were a regular part of the diet for many Canadians. They seem to have fallen out of favour as people eat more fresh vegetables and have a greater variety of muffin types to choose from.

This was not something I had previously known about the Canadian diet.

Probably a factor of the Canadian diet at some point in time. I don't know if the bran muffin is ubiquitous or if was a regional thing in Canada.

For the longest time Winnipeg seemed to be one of the few places in Canada where you could get good coarse garlic sausage, pyrogies, beet borscht, tortiere (pardon my spelling, the francophone part of my heritage was lost when my grandmother passed away in the 1950s), pickerel (walleye pike to people in other regions) and a few other tasty foods. Now most of there things seem to be readily available anywhere I go in the country, except perhaps saskatoon pie but that is difficult to find in Manitoba as well.

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