Guitar Encounter


Sign my napkin, sign my stomach, sign my sandwich!!


Somebody splash me with cold water.

Lea of Creston Guitars and

Mark Spencer of THE Mark Spencer came through the virtual door the other day around noon, with Hot Hamburgs on their brains. Creston’s got a new book coming out, so with that off his mind he can concentrate on more important stuff, like lunch.

Creston Lea:
When are you gonna come write about Hot Hamburg Sandwiches in Vermont?

Midnight Snack:
What in the name of Sam Hill is a Hot Hamburg Sandwich??? I need to know. And could I have your autographs?

Creston Lea:
Get Mark Spencer rhapsodizing about Hot Hamburg. In fact, when I first met the Bottle Rockets, Mark was there and they – having not seen him for a while – got real reverent and asked, “Tell us about that sandwich again?” He’s waiting for your query. I’m sure he’ll provide a memorable response.

Midnight Snack:
Okay to quote you on my blog? Very excited about this! And could I have your autographs?

Creston Lea:
I think this was meant for Mark “Hot Hamburg” Spencer? If not, sure quote me however you like. I told you he was your man.

Mark Spencer:

Here’s some thoughts on the Hot Hamburg Sandwich, and I may consult my mom
and brother for any additionals.

I generally remember it being served, both by my mom and a variety of diners
around Northern VT as follows…


•Hamburg patty, fairly well done, with my favored 70s fantasy version being
made from some real hamburger as opposed to a frozen or other prefab style
patty, with some slightly pan-or-grill crisped “patty fringe” as opposed to
the prefab, boring edge look.

•1 Piece of white toast

•Brown beef gravy…the Northern VT/Southern Quebec savory kind that
although delicious and comfort-ey is more than likely somewhat industrial
(at least these days). As you’re probably already aware, brown gravy is to
Northern New England and Eastern/Central Canada as white gravy is to a lot
of the south. Wherever the gravy comes from, it’s insanely important.

•French Fries, or Mashed Potatoes. There’s usually a healthy serving of one
of these forms of potato involved. I’m sure there’s been a version served
with some wonderful “real” mashed potatoes involved, but in my wayback
machine, for accuracy, it would have to be instant mashed potatoes.

•A vegetable, and that vegetable is canned peas.

The way it’s served is probably pretty predictable…the patty sits on the
toast, “open face” style, with the potatoes and peas on the plate with it,
and then the gravy is poured liberally over the “sandwich” and the
potatoes…the peas get a little just from being there. I’ve seen a couple
variants, slightly different veg (peas AND carrots), and I think there was
maybe a second piece of toast on top variant, but that may have been
something my brother and I dreamed up so there’d be more gravy getting
soaked up somewhere.

I am salivating just thinking about it. My mom, like many VT moms in my town
(Bakersfield, VT) was a master, but, my favorite diner versions were at the
(both) now defunct “Don and Shirley Ingham’s Johnson Diner”, in Johnson, VT
(home of a remembered, longed for, searched for, and never found ultimate
homemade coconut cream pie), and at the Oasis Diner, in Burlington, VT, both
who listed it correctly on their menus as a “Hot Hamburg Sandwich” (Hot
Hamburger Sandwich would also be acceptable). My best route towards easy
explanation to the flummoxed has been “open faced hamburg sandwich dinner,
like a hot open face turkey sandwich, but with a hamburger and brown gravy”,
which is too much talkin’ about it for what it simply is. For a beverage I
suggest fountain root beer over ice.

My shared interest in regional, lo-fi foods with my pal Brian (Henneman,
from the Bottle Rockets) eventually led to the Courtesy Diner in St Louis
where he ushered me into the world of the “Slinger” (you’re probably already
aware of this monstrosity), which seems to come from a less stoic, more
suicidal, but similar realm as the H.H.S.. We still have vague plans to
enjoy a Hot Hamburg Sandwich at some point in time. Brian also seems to be
interested in another specialty from the north that fascinated him…
Salmon Pea Wiggle“, which was a place I just wasn’t able to go as a child.

I’m going on and on here, but, I feel like Waffle House could add both the
Hot Hamburg Sandwich AND the Slinger to it’s menu, and I’ve taken it upon
myself to get those “special ladies” to “create” them for me, late at night,
with all the ingredients that already exist there…with various, humorous,
but generally dissatisfying results. I should photograph more of that stuff.

Hope that helps, now where’s my Lipitor…


Creston Lea:
Don’t forget the salt and pepper!

Midnight Snack:
Nothing like a sandwich to get a person rambling. And could I have your autographs?

Creston Lea:
Yeah, he copied me on that Hamburg Expose. Now he and I are engaged in a
deep email back-and-forth about which diners still have it. The news is
pretty good. Better plan a trip.

Quote at will. I’m proud of any HHS affiliation, though all this talk has me
thinking about its pork and turkey cousins….

Mark Spencer:
Someday I am going to ask for one of these hand-lettered paper signs at (one of my) favorite awesome Italian delis here in Brooklyn (it will be my version of taking a set list) that lists whatever sandwich of the day as a “sangweetch”, and believe me, it is irony-free.

Here’s a pic of a joint in Lafayette that has quite delicious sandwiches.

Midnight Snack (thinking):
Hmmm, I think I heard about this place when the Bottle Rockets were recording Lean Forward in Brooklyn, but I could not get the name of it. Zipped lips, or foggy memories, not sure which. And could I have your autographs?

Creston Lea:
Next: Martone’s Market

Mark Spencer:
P.s. I have been thinking a lot about sandwiches and hamburgers a lot, and
probably will pester you with more content.

Have you heard of Wilson’s in Findlay, OH?

Creston Lea:
This bread is too crumbly.

Midnight Snack:
In the toaster firming up now.

Creston Lea:
I hope this will do. Sharpie doesn’t like slices.

Midnight Snack:
This will be gorgeous on our Toast Wall of Fame.

Creston Lea:
Stale piece!

Midnight Snack:
Master piece!


Jumping on Martone’s and Wilson’s. Could Findlay be en route to Louisville, a February destination for a Hot Brown Sandwich and Bottle Rockets fix?? As for a Hot Hamburg, needa drive north along the New York Thruway and cross  over to Vermont, the chainsaw bear state. Long cold winters up there – 9 months, they say, followed by 3 months of bad sledding – and hot oughta rule. Just call me Patty Fringe and bring on the gravy.

To be alive is to eat sandwiches. Hear! Here!

(I’m making plans to get to Libby’s Blue Line Diner for a HHS this week. I’ve
been tortured with longing ever since this correspondence started up. CL)


6 responses to “Guitar Encounter

  1. I have relatives close to Vermont (in New Hampshire). Road trip sometime for the HHS?

  2. Yes! To Libby’s. Did somebody say “GRAVY”?

  3. I like the menu offering “MEAT SANDWICH.”

    Yeowww. Scary.

  4. Oh shoot: I mean “MEAT SALAD.”

  5. An addendum….the other, and fighting for top spot in the veg with this dish….CANNED GREEN BEANS or maybe the JULIENNE STYLE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s