A Morning at Grover’s
Something immediately struck me the second I walked into Grover’s Bar & Grill in East Amherst, New York. It wasn’t some abstract sense of history that accompanies stepping into the former hunting lodge of a nondescript president whose terms have been buried by the sands of time (Grover Cleveland, hence the name). It might have been the half-drunken stupor letting my imagination run wild. It was the sense that everyone had been, or was in the process of drinking. Despite the mere handful of locals sitting at the bar, the atmosphere was like that of a bizarre bar scene on a Friday night.
A Bob Seeger song coming from the jukebox set the score for a Saturday morning at the home of the perennial best burger in Buffalo and a stop on Food Network dreamboat Guy Fieri’s tour of the best eateries in the fifty states. The bar staff all but insist that you indulge in a weekend morning gin and tonic with your friends. It seems as though no man is an island, isolated at his separate table with only his family or friends to keep them company. It may have just been the twenty or so hung-over college students I came with, but there were an awful lot of bodies milling around, checking to see what everyone else is doing, yelling at each other from across the room. An elderly woman recaps the trials and tribulations of Tuesday night bingo to her wide-eyed friends in a high-pitched voice and with language that would make my own grandmother cringe. A local in a camouflage hat explains to his similarly dressed peer just how many beers it takes to get his brother-in-law into a car with him.
A chalkboard is mounted on the wall on which every incoming patron inserts their name into the queue for available table, circumventing the new trend in food service in which your wristwatch will be notified upon your reservation’s confirmation. This was news to my friend and I, and no one in our party felt the need to clue us in. We found ourselves deep on the queue behind such distinguished visitors as Chris (party of five) and Patricia (party of three). This was of no concern to our darling of a hostess, who had no qualms with bypassing the sanctity of the chalkboard to throw us a bone. She matter-of-factly stated she was going to pull us up a table next to our friends and that we had no say in the matter.
Although drinking at this time of day is generally frowned-upon by the general public, our hostess recommended the Blue Moons. All those swayed by her reasonable suggestion were subsequently asked to provide photo identification, each of which she ruthlessly but fairly mocked: “Oh look at this tough guy here… better not f*** with him.” Oh, and it was your birthday a week ago? Have a free one on the house. When it came time to order food, each of us sprung for the various burgers for which Grover’s is nationally renowned. A particularly enthusiastic local overheard our orders and recounted the story of his brother who, at one fateful birthday dinner, ate the whole burger in two minutes and fifteen seconds. I saw a burger on the next table that was the size of my head, and immediately wanted to meet this man’s brother. He must be one hell of an individual. A girl at a nearby table ordered chicken fingers, and was immediately vilified by the rest of the restaurant. Despite serving as the object of scorn to strangers, she would not relent. I admired the poor girl’s resolve.
Sure enough, when our burgers arrive, they are the size of frisbees. At first, I am unsure as to what to do with it. Do I beat someone’s head in with it, or do I eat it? And if so, how? I finally take a small bite, for which I am swiftly mocked and called a woman. So it goes. The great taste is lost on me as I strive to achieve the rite of passage that is finishing a Grover’s burger. Not to say one of these burgers can’t be enjoyed responsibly, I just don’t relish the prospect of my friends’ derision should I request a box to-go. I am worried that if I pause to enjoy the taste, the vast amount of food will catch up to me. Although my body begins to protest, and the balance between pleasure and pain is precarious, I power through and finish the meal. To my right, my friend throws in the towel. My victory is as sweet as his is undoubtedly bitter.
In summation, if you are interested in the best burger you have ever had (come at me, Juicy Burger), head down the thruway to Grover’s on Transit in Amherst. As its most beloved customer has said on the matter, “If you go to Grover’s and don’t like your burger, there’s something wrong with you. You’re more messed up than me.”