Wednesday, June 27, 2012

'The Burg' mixes comfort food, politics and nostalgia

Originally printed May 6, 2012, in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

"Okay boys," Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan said as he and his wife eyed their hamburgers warily, "it's time to turn the cameras off. No pictures while we're eating."

It was 1999, and a coterie of local journalists formed a half circle around the Ronald Reagan table at Hamburg Inn No. 2. I had just finished asking Buchanan a series of unmemorable questions about his quixotic campaign, but I was far too young of a reporter to realize that I really should have asked him what he thought of the Hamburg.

After all, both Buchanan and his immaculately dressed wife wore thinly disguised looks of confusion, even frustration, as they began to eat their hamburgers with a knife and fork.

"Didn't those campaign guys check out this place before they put it on the schedule?", I imagined Buchanan was thinking before he raised his fork and announced a forceful, "Great burger!"

His wife, sitting in half-smiling silence, probably was asking herself, "Why would there be a table dedicated to Ronald Reagan in a restaurant where the waitresses have pink hair, tattoos and nose rings?"