It goes bun, then beef, then Swiss, then bacon, then beef, then American, then onion, then egg, then ham, then lettuce, then tomato, then bun. Plunge a steak knife through the middle of its hat and you’ve got yourself a Good Ol’ Burger. It’s almost a foot high, three apples easily, and resides in the only town with a name worthy of its residence: Tower.
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Good Ol’ Days. If you don’t think it’s worth a 45-minute drive from Hibbing, you’re too small-time to understand.
The Basics: You don’t seriously expect a Tower-based restaurant to have a website, do you? Well SURPRISE, they do! It hurts to look at, but they’ve got one! Good Ol’ Days is kitty-corner from Rick’s Relics on the town’s one significant street. It makes for a perfect day of heavy lifting and light thrifting. Back door friends are best.
On Urbanspoon, Good Ol' Days became the first restaurant I've seen with a 100% rating. Yep, all four people who have voted like this place.
ELIOT: Put every Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Paul Newman, and Elvis movie into a blender, then brush liberally onto the walls, then run a toy train track through the rafters, and you’ll have a damn good representation of Good Ol' Days.
ME: The walls are busier than Wall St. It didn't matter if it was a metal sign thrifted from across the street, a picture of old-time Hollywood, or a Packers action shot: They've got a picture hanging on damn near every square inch of the place. I've got to think Nicki Minaj's make-up team has spent time in here. And don't even get me started on the bathroom posters.
You know exactly what you're walking into when you step inside and a glass-encased giant Hamm's bear, a life-sized Elvis doll, and a rotting clown head are right there to meet you. Get to your tables and Good Ol' Days offers a unique little element in the newspaper that waits with your silverware. Here's an excerpt:
I think New York and New Jersey just started pushing for this to be illegal.
ELIOT: One can describe the dimensions and materials, but that doesn't prepare you for the first time you grip the knife handle. Knives? It's strictly for structural support, plunged straight down its heart and waiting for the next King of England to pull it out.
ME: This isn't meant to be eaten cleanly. I had to employ my "bite top half, bite bottom half" method, but even then ... when you've got a cheeseburger this tall, the top half is all fiddly with vegetables and the bottom half feels like you're holding up a car battery. The egg, of course, is dead center so you have no idea which bite is going to send yolk squirting onto your white shorts. I escaped mostly unscathed, but made a handful of trips to the bathroom to gawk at the poster above the urinal wash my hands.
The lettuce wasn’t brown, the tomatoes weren’t soggy and sad, and the ham looked deli-quality. My only beef was with the patties, no pun intended. The patties were flavorful, but they were a little too flat … and a little too round … and a little too uniform with each other. It’s difficult to just throw out the notion that these came out of a No Name Steaks frozen box. How much would that dampen the magic if it was? A little.
My only regret following its completing was that I was about to go swimming.
Oh, did I mention this cheeseburger was NINE FRICKIN' FIFTY!? Put five pounds of fries next to this and this would get a Twin Cities restaurant on "Man Vs. Food." It would also be like $40. I know I'm not comparing apples to apples, here, but the disparity is hard to just overlook.
I don't know if I could picture another trip to Hibbing without a drive out to Tower. This little town's main street is filled with small things - nine-man football team co-oped with another community, one of the last small-town groceries in Ameri-Mart, and a business district you could cartwheel down without stopping - but Good Ol' Days, with its little corner and its little space, has the embodiment of Tower coming out of its kitchen.
Even if you can't eat it, just go up there and hold it one time. Just holding it will be worth the trip.