Essentials: Cheeseburger at George's Buffet, Iowa City, Iowa
A smashburger with soul
Smashburgers are having an extended national moment thanks to their lacy-edged patties and superior bun-to-beef balance. But Iowa City townies have known for decades that the best single-stack bar burger is at George’s Buffet, est. 1939, where it’s scraped off a countertop broiler the size of a window air conditioner and the age of a vintage Studebaker.
The “Buffet” is a misnomer: George’s is foremost a bar and aftmost a time capsule of velvet wallpaper, lacquered booths and liquored regulars. But you don’t need a buffet of choices. You need a basic cheeseburger (American cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles, and chopped white onions) and a bag of Sterzing’s potato chips (greasy, elemental, and made an hour and a half away in Burlington, Iowa). After a couple of pitchers of PBR, there is no better meal in the world. —Liz Cook
Liz Cook is a Kansas City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Pitch, Bon Appétit, Eater, and The Kansas City Star. She also writes the experimental food newsletter Haterade.