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Basin Burger

Cy Whitling

The grease is leaking through the paper bag, big dark splotches that become nearly translucent as they dry. I like that, it’s a little preview of what’s inside

McDonald's recently started using brown paper bags to package their burgers. It makes them look more authentic and sustainable, at least that’s what I’d assume they are going for. All I know is that I don’t like the fact that my Big Mac paddy is now the same color as its packaging.

My brown paper bag is a little different though. It isn’t some attempt at revitalizing brand relevance to millennials, or some other drivel. It features no logos, or catchy sayings. It’s just a paper sack, like your mother used to pack your lunch in. Except there are no nice notes with little hearts dotting the “i” sharpied on the outside

From those humble beginnings it has come to fulfill its grand destiny, transporting my dinner from the gas station at one end of town to my house on the other.

When I tell people that my favorite restaurant in town is in the gas station they look at me funny. Inside I can see them judging me, justifying my naivete and lack of class, “poor kid, he’s lived in Idaho his entire life, he has no idea of real fine dining.” Sometimes I think they might be right, especially when I’m consistently impressed by the $4 sushi at the grocery store.

And it is true that I have a soft spot in my heart for gas stations. Most of my favorite stories start at gas stations, and some of my most prized possessions were purchased at these empires of refueling.

But really, Basin Burger is no ordinary gas station fare. Usually the kid who takes my order has one hand permanently jammed into his back pocket, and a toothpick between his teeth. And he never starts the conversation. It’s never some canned “Welcome to Wendys, how can I help you on your transcendental journey to fatty perfection today?!” Complete with a fake smile and a flounce of the hair. I like to think that’s because they know it’s really all about the food. It’s sort of like those high-end sushi places that are absolutely bare and minimalist, no fluff from the staff, no unnecessary decoration, just the food. Except here there are people buying gas and cigarettes at the other counter.

Once you’ve ordered, and the high school kid has finished checking all the correct boxes on the little page, you can head over and grab your soda while they get your order ready.

These are gas station sodas, designed to keep potbelly truckers hydrated as they cruise overnight, so there’s no silly “low calorie, petite sized” options. Instead, for 99 cents you get any size cup you want. To really get your money's worth you need to go for the Large. I did the math, you can fit 5 and ⅓ regular sized cans of soda into one Large cup. That’s really the genius of it too. People might judge if you sat down with 5 cans of soda and drank them all one by one, but just one cup is no big deal.

Meanwhile the deep-fat fryer is bubbling away merrily. This, combined with the sizzling grill, and the occasional screech of a small child, composes most of Basin Burger’s ambiance. If you pay attention, you can watch your food being made in front of you. I’d recommend against this though, I’m happier eating in ignorant bliss.

By this time I’m usually worried that I should have gotten the double instead of the single. I’m starving, and I start to doubt if just one patty will do the trick. However, in about 15 minutes all my weak worries will have been put to rest. I’ve never ordered the double, and never intend to, the single is always more than I can comfortably handle anyway.

Pro Tip: When possible, avoid eating the burger in the restaurant. It’s sort of like that biblical boiling the calf in its mother’s milk taboo, it just doesn’t feel right.

Instead, get it to-go. That way you can watch the grease stains spread through the sack as you rush home. Don’t let your self-esteem get the better of you, suck down that soda, and make short work of your fries and then start making plans for something stupid and painful to do in the mountains so that you can justify getting another Basin Burger.