Friday, June 3, 2011
Almost as quickly as a new edition of Hamburger America was released, I was lucky enough to be out and tasting the newest findings. This time, it was the Penguin Drive-In in Charlotte, North Carolina. We walked in shortly before six on a Friday and didn't have any trouble getting a seat. Our server came over quickly, and she was pleasant during our whole visit. She offered us the house special appetizer, fried pickles, but I'm certainly at a loss for shy see are so popular. My hometown favorite, Memphis taproom, blows them out of the water.
The beer selection offered standard big brews from across the us and world, as well three craft beers on Draft. I drank a beer from Old Meck right in Charlotte and Widmer Pale ale. Fat Tire was also on tap. The temperature on these beers was a bit warm, and the pours were anything but generous. Still, when the bill came out and I saw they were $2 each, my complaints vanished.
I was dining with Mom, Charlie ,and Laura, and everyone went for burgers. I stuck with the name sake, which came with lettuce, onions, friend pickles, and smothered in pimento cheese. The cheese isn't bad, but is still a novelty. American would taste be better. George Motts wrote about huge 1/3 pound patties, but these are nowhere to be found. Instead, small, griddle cooked burgers were served. They had that distinctive char taste, and the only disappointment with the patty was that it didn't cover all of the bread. It was a good burger, but certainly doesn't deserve a write up in a book that chronicles the country's best burger joints.
The best burger was ordered by Mom: southern style. Essentially a chili cheeseburger, it was quite tasty. We also ordered a few sides, onion rings and sweet potato fries. The fires were covered in cinnamon and sugar, making them like a dessert and frankly, ruining them. The onion rings weren't terrible , but lacked any real flavor and crispiness.
The atmosphere here is fun. Seat yourself, and look at pictures from the business over the last sixty years. It's part bar, part family restaurant, but it works. There's even a Rockola jukebox in the corner with an impressively bad playlist offered.
The bottom line: it seems this place recently came under new management, and maybe not for the better. Still, the burger is good, the beer, like everything else, is pretty cheap. Worth a stop, but don't go out of your way.