Sometimes when you go somewhere, there's something you always have to try. If you're in Italy, you need to go for pizza. If you're in Hong Kong, you need to check out the dimsum. If you're in Japan, you need to track down some sushi.
And if you're in the US, you really ought to have a burger.
I'd heard folk rave about In-N-Out before, and been impressed by Harold and Kumar's quest for White Castle, but as I was based in Evanston, the place I was interested in was a small, independent joint called Edzo's Burger Shop.
Open every day except Monday from 10.30 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon, Edzo's is a quirky treasure. Whilst it's true that the bottomless soda machine comes as standard, there's also a range of unusual soft drinks such as bottles of guava and tamarind pop.
And the four dollar milkshakes come in a range of enticing flavours, with specials for a dollar more - the day we visit, the specials are Spicy Mexican Chocolate and Michigan Blueberry, but we happily settle for a standard hot fudge shake.
We also order a Char Burger, medium rare with swiss cheese "and everything", a Hand Dipped Corn Dog, and two different types of hand-cut fries - Angry Fries (which come with four types of chilli), and Cheese Fries - sadly they're all out of the Truffle Fries (with truffle salt and parmesan).
The genial Edzo himself (aka Eddie Lakin) takes my order and asks my name - this startles me before I realise it's just to identify me when my food is ready.
The hot fudge shake arrives first. This is the best milkshake I have ever had, bar none.
Rich, saucy, creamy, caramelly sweet, and topped by swirl upon swirl of real whipped cream and a glace cherry.
My name is called again, so I spring up to collect the Char Burger, Corn Dog and fries.
The Char Burger is fat and perfectly medium rare, dripping meaty juices and tastes of proper beef (it's USDA choice chuck which they grind themselves every morning). No wonder it was voted Best New Burger of 2010 by the Chicago Reader.
It's so good I wonder just how good the special Farmer's Market burgers they do on Saturdays must be - those babies are made from well-hung, artisan beef and cost $15 a pop.
The Corn Dog is also fantastic - a crunchy batter shell gives way to moist cornbread surrounding a fine dog inside.
The Angry Fries are a little too OTT for my liking - the jalapeno peppers are a nice tangy touch, but the pepper sauce (Tabasco?) is a dousing too far, rendering the hand-cut fries a bit of a soggy, spicy mess.
However, the Cheese Fries are a guilty pleasure - somehow the clagginess of the fries is forgiveable when hot melted cheese is the cause.
Portions are huge as well as delicious, the atmosphere is fun and friendly - I can see why Edzo's is packed every lunchtime, and if I'm ever in the area again, I'll definitely stop by.
Edzo's Burger Shop
1571 Sherman Avenue
And the word verification is "cookerea" - spooky!
@chumbles - Yeah, everything in moderation
Especially the guava and tamarind pop. And milkshake. And burger. And another milkshake.
They're not hung up by such trivial consideration as health and so are free to slather stuff with cream and cheese and all sorts of fatty salty goodness.
Great pic at the end, you look like you're really enjoying them fries.
@The Grubworm - Oh, Grubworm - that's not a fry in my mouth, it's a cherry. I was trying to be Audrey Horne (and clearly failing).
You of all people to miss the reference in the caption ;)
The food doesn't look as unhealthy as Chicago-style pizzas, which include about a cubic metre of cheese.
I love that he serves 8oz charburgers (which are always cooked perfectly to temperature) as well as 4oz "smashburgers" on cooked on a griddle. Each is a perfect example of the form, and he gets all the details right.
Despite all the different delectable toppings for the fries, I think I prefer them plain; they're just so good on their own, they don't need dressing up.
Before settling on the Evanston location, Eddie came very close to opening in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood, which would put him just a few blocks from my apartment. I'm equally bummed and thankful that Edzo's isn't that close to my home. I ride my bike to the Evanston location as often as I can, but if it was in my neighborhood I would most definitely be a total and utter fat bastard.
@Oliver - I don't know how I failed to try Chicago style pizza.
@Jay - You're so right - those fries are wonderful naked. I love the term "smashburger". Edzo's is on the same street as my husband's office :)
@Joshua - But I LOVE Disney food. Especially the gargantuan Smoked Turkey Legs!
Yes, cornbread battered hot dog sausage - poifect!