Spring break Cheeseburger Tour up next


I have a weekend coming up. Kind of a spring break kind of thing with a little cholesterol involved.
I read the Des Moines Register in the morning. Not all of it, but I hit the highlights and look for things that interest me.
Cheeseburgers interest me. Not Cheeseboigas from Billy Goats and SNL fame, but those are damn good. But the interesting stacked concoctions that are a thing in Iowa. Maybe even more so than tenderloins.
I’m smart enough to know that cheeseburgers should be a thing to enjoy in moderation, but I’ve made a commitment next weekend to pile into the truck and head across the state looking for the best cheeseburger. I’m taking my brother and his son Hayden. We are not 'digestively brave', just cheeseburger curious.
We’re making t-shirts that read “I’m into Fitness. Fit’nis Cheeseburger Into My Mouth – The 2024 Cheeseburger Tour.” We want to have the waitstaff sign the t-shirts. Then we'll vote in the DMR’s Best Cheeseburger contest.
I had suggested a cheeseburger tour about four months ago. I have a tendency to drag my family around to weird crap. We went to a shrimp and crawfish boil on the Iowa State Fairgrounds last year. We stayed for about 90 minutes, ate our share of crawfish and corn  and jambalaya, and headed to our hotel. We dragged the kids around, too. They get memories, we get to pay.
We’ve created a list of about a dozen places to stop and get a cheeseburger and frankly I’m a little worried. I’m sure Dr. Thurman is reading this and thinking of upping the statin for a month, but I think some lemon tea in the morning and coffee will help with the added cholesterol. Maybe throw some avocado on there for the "super food" aspect. Kale chips before sleepie time.
But seriously, there’s some anxiety about this. I mean, think of eating 12 cheeseburgers in two and a half days. And I’m sure these aren’t the tightly wrapped drive thru types, these are gonna be big. Some with possibly a fried egg, or blueberry sauce, peppers, I don’t know….mac and cheese, bacon. I mean this doesn’t sound healthy to me. And if a yolk runs on the burger, I’m out.
I’ll try to slip in a workout in the hotels in the morning before we head out and I’ll up the fish oil and add an aspirin or something. Extra water. Maybe some red wine at the end of the day. Maybe I’ll just share my burgers with two guys who, frankly, are a lot bigger than me. Definitely getting one side of fries to share or maybe just a side salad.
But a road trip sounds good. Especially if the weather is nice. We may stop in Cedar Rapids on Saturday and catch a baseball game. There’s at least one or two places in the city of five seasons that are on the itinerary. I love a good road trip around Iowa. I used to drive my mom and wife crazy when we would travel. They wanted to get there. I wanted to drive through all the little towns and look for holes in the wall to try pizza, a sandwich, or a soup. Some have been very, very good. Those places usually have history and recipes that have transcended the times. I wanna try those dishes.
But next weekend is a spring break Cheeseburger Tour. It’s very likely these will have pickle and mustard because that’s how I roll in the Shire. Onion only if it’s sweet purple onion, none of the white, radishy root that’s supposed to be cooked in olive oil as an aromatic with some minced garlic. Just a dial of purple sweet onion works. Absolutely no mayo. Mayonnaise does not belong on meat. Miracle Whip, which is NOT mayonnaise, is fine, but I usually save that for salad dressings and peanut butter sandwiches. You heard me right, peanut butter and Miracle Whip is a sandwich. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Don’t blame me if you don’t like it - but you will, unless you don’t like peanut butter, and you don’t like Miracle Whip.
Burgers should have grilled buns, cheddar – not American, cheese, should be seasoned appropriately in the beef mixture prior to grilling or frying. Either method is just fine. The bigger the better. I made burgers one time at mom’s that were grilled, but they were the size of small meat loaves or very large meatballs and took quite a bit of low and slow cooking.  It helps retain the moisture. That’s just a backyard or patio burger. This quest is a burger adventure and something my mother would have loved in her prime.
I’ve told just a few people about it and I plan on writing about it. The people I’ve talked to love the idea, but I think they love it vicariously because nobody really wants to eat 12 gourmet cheeseburgers in three days. But it shall be done and it shall be done in a smart way, whatever that means.
The itinerary includes Spirit Lake, Oskaloosa, Ames, Huxley, Fairfield, Dubuque, Davenport, and a few other pineknots. Somebody told me another place to go in western Iowa this morning when I was rock hunting in Riverview park with about 50 other good-intentioned people.
Speaking about the river, there’s a few burger joints along the Mississippi that we’re gonna hit on our way back southeast. And then maybe, just maybe, hit Jake and Walt’s to wrap it up, since the Marina won’t be open yet. I’m imagining a pretty good cheeseburger there, too – But that’s Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

Beside the Point, Cheeseburger Tour 2024, cheeseburgers, Iowa, weekend, trip, opinion, editorial. commentary, Pen City Current, Chuck Vandenberg, Sunday


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here