Ends Must Come to All Good Things: A Steerburger Eulogy
The primeburger from the Restuarant Steerburger Tous les Jours might have been the best in the city—especially when you take the price into account (about five dollars). The old diner opened in the seventies and, sadly, closed about seven months ago. Fans of the primeburger (like me) are still in mourning. This post is a ridiculous homage. -JRS
EXT. FUNERAL HOME – DAY
An old funeral home somewhere in Montreal. Summer, late afternoon. Sunny.
JONATHAN enters from the left, running. Near the entrance to the funeral home, he drops a pile of papers and has to stop, stomping on the pages to prevent them from blowing away. He gathers them into his arms hurriedly.
INT. FUNERAL PARLOUR – DAY
An old room. Fluorescent lighting. Paneling on the walls, painted a yellowing white. Rows of chairs, most filled with guests.
At the front a table. On it sits a large photograph in a gold-colored frame: a hamburger, on a plate. To the right of that is a podium with a microphone. In the left corner lies a wooden coffin.
Fast-paced footsteps approach. A door rattles and opens at the back of the room (off-screen).
Jonathan enters and walks to the podium. He is wearing a dark suit and white shirt and is visibly sweating, his face red. He sets down the stack of papers on the podium and loosens his tie, leans towards the microphone.
Good afternoon, everyone. Sorry about that. Missed the bus.
He arranges the pages in front of him, clears his throat, and begins reading.
We are gathered here today to pay our respects to a hamburger — a burger that was, I’m sure you’d agree, one of the the best in the city. The Primeburger from the Steerburger Tous les Jours on Mount-Royal, now closed.
Nodding heads here and there in the crowd, grunts of affirmation. Jonathan looks to the photograph on the table and then back to the guests.
I walk by that restaurant every other day. Though it shut down over six months ago, it still looks exactly the same. The booths with vinyl-covered seating in pastel pink. The pine trim. The coffee station, the cash, the griddle, the grill — all those markers of the modest, blue-collar diner.
He pauses, noticing the coffin in the corner to his left, looks confused.
Does anyone know why there’s a coffin here?
MEMBER OF THE CROWD
Yeah, I think there’s another service after this one.
Jonathan ponders that for a moment, shrugs. Searches for his place on the page.
Okay then. The Primeburger was a consummate classic. The patty, formed from never-frozen cuts of beef, was prepared over a charcoal grill, taken to about medium or so. There were strips of bacon, a single slice of Canadian cheddar cheese. Tomato, lettuce, onion. Mayo. That soft sesame-seed bun, the perfect top and bottom.
The crowd is silent. Jonathan, noticing that he has their attention, straightens, gains confidence.
This burger had flavour. The smoke from the coals, the seared caramelization from the hot metal. One bite left the burger leaking — the bun, a sponge, soaking up that fat and juice. The meat came apart in your mouth, dripping with wet beef flavour.
The room is completely quiet. Jonathan flips to the next page, pausing for dramatic effect.
The thick slices of bacon, crisped on that ancient flattop, brought more fat, more flavour into play — the irreplaceable, unmistakable pleasures of pork. Between the bacon and the burger patty, that meld of melted, orange cheese. The lettuce and tomatoes played their part, adding a fresh, light contrast, a cooler textural component.
Silence. Someone to the right shifts in their seat; we hear a harsh, metal squeak. Half of the heads in the room shoot a quick and angry look in that direction.
And maybe the most unbelievable part? The price. About five bucks.
He stops, shakes his head.
Your first bite of this burger made you smile like an idiot, as endorphins exploded in your head. It was that good.
Jonathan is speaking more quickly now, on a roll.
How many burgers had you had before that bite? All of them, forgotten. This was it: the standard. Every burger that followed would be measured against it. And …
Yet another dramatic pause.
… would, inevitably, fall short.
Heads nodding again, more vigorously now. Murmurs among the guests.
MEMBER OF THE CROWD
You got that right, my friend.
Jonathan raises a hand, waits for the group to calm.
But that was fine, because we could always go back to the Primeburger. Anytime we wanted or needed that beefy, burger bliss, we could go back.
Jonathan goes silent, his lips pursed. When he speaks again, his voice breaks a little.
But now … now we can’t go back. The Primeburger — our burger — is no more.
From the crowd comes the noise of someone blowing their nose into a handkerchief and gentle, quiet weeping. Staring at the photo of the hamburger, Jonathan continues.
Ten years I was in this city before I found you. A decade. And then, six months later, you were gone.
He turns back to the group. Sighs, very deliberately.
It is better to have loved and lost, they say. All good things must come to an end. I gotta be honest though, I’m not over this one. Not yet.
He flips to his final page. Takes a few seconds to compose himself.
But maybe we should end this on a more positive note. Not only mourn our loss, but celebrate the burgers that survive. While no burgers, at least none I’ve had, can compare —
A door to the right, next to the coffin, opens. In walk several members of a family, dressed in black. They stop suddenly when they see the room is occupied.
Oh, hi, sorry. You must be here for …
He points at the coffin. The family, noticing the picture of the hamburger, appears confused. They nod. Jonathan checks his watch.
Could you maybe give us five more minutes?
The mourners shuffle out, the door closes.
While no burger, at least none I’ve had, can replace the dearly departed, there are some close ones. The cheeseburger at Pitarifique on St. Laurent, for example. Like the Primeburger, it’s simple, cooked fresh, and runs about the same cost. Others are even better than that, but come at a higher price. Like the Lawrence burger, served at lunchtime. It’s great, and classic — like everything at Lawrence – and costs fourteen dollars. With fries.
He picks up the page, reading a little faster now.
Brasserie Harricana on Jean-Talon flips a fantastic burger, also classic in design. It has a fried oyster on top — skip the oyster and you save a buck or two, and it doesn’t add anything, anyhow. Twenty bucks, including fries and coleslaw. Oh, and they get their meat from Lawrence, by the way.
The door on the left opens again, a head looks in, pulls back. The door closes.
Let me see, there’s Foiegwa. Their burger is a take on the classic, but with a kind of French dip twist — the bun is dripping with juices and broth to the point that you have to eat it with a knife and fork. Really, really good. Sixteen dollars. Some others, at various price ranges, but all good: L’Anecdote, Patati Patata, Mile Ex. I really like Les Belles Souers. And Burger Week is coming, apparently, if you’re into that.
Jonathan flips through his papers quickly, looks as if he’s about to continue, and then stops.
You know what, I’m just going to end it there. You get the idea.
He turns to face the photograph. Waits a moment.
So that’s it, I guess. Goodbye, Primeburger. I think I speak for everyone when I say that you are sorely missed. Rest in peace.
The group repeats those final words like a refrain. Jonathan collects the papers, taps them on the podium.
Okay, thank you for coming, everyone. Have a good evening.
The crowd stands, conversations begin. They start to move out of the room.
Close-up of the picture of the hamburger.