Legend: Joe’s Hamburger Place 

She’s open from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, or until she runs out of meat. Which means, I’m happy to report, that your hamburger order is filled with a handful of ground beef, flattened with a spatula as it cooks on the griddle before your eyes; no frozen patties here. Nor modern cash registers. My bill — $1.72 for an RC (pulled out of a Coca-Cola cooler that would send an Antiques Roadshow agent into spasms of envy) and a basic burger — was calculated with pencil on the single formica countertop. The shooting-gallery sitting arrangement means you either can order your burgers to go (and wait in the air-conditioned car, as some folks do) or brave the political firing line. The only other time I’ve been there, at least 16 years ago, a friend from Laredo brought me, and just as quickly dragged me out the door when he was offended by something she said. The burger I enjoyed on a recent sunny afternoon was seasoned with talk of Palin (hopefully she’ll straighten out those Republicans), Obama (couldn’t ever vote for him, but not because he’s black), and the time the Express-News (allegedly) reported her dead and her business closed. Although she’s still deeply offended by that slight, it might serve her interests. Joe’s has been serving burgers at that location for more than six decades, and she’s not interested in new traffic, she says, so no pictures, no new sign, and no, she won’t share the recipe for the secret sauce that accompanies the onions and mustard; her daughters don’t even have that. All I’ll say is that if you want to step straight from central SA into small-town Texas, circa 1940, drive up Blanco from Hildebrand a little ways, and look for an unassuming cream stucco building with inviting double screen doors in front. Do not say the Current sent you.

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