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In the U.S., what does ordering a "plain hamburger" mean where you live?

In the U.S., what does ordering a "plain hamburger" mean where you live?

Old Jul 10, 09, 3:12 pm
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In the U.S., what does ordering a "plain hamburger" mean where you live?

One of the interesting/annoying things I've discovered is that across the U.S. the notion of a "plain hamburger" varies a lot.

I'm a literalist, but have finally figured out that "plain" (literally, bun 'n' meat. Period.) doesn't mean plain depending on where you are.

Where I live now, it is ubiquitous for a "plain" hamburger to mean meat, bun, and "hamburger sauce" (a nasty Thousand Island based concoction).

I've been in places where "plain" means meat, bun, mustard, ketchup.

In another place, "plain" meant "only mayo" (weird, huh?)

Does it vary regionally for you, or just by the restaurant/chain?
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Old Jul 10, 09, 3:37 pm
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i think its by restaurant.

some people think plain hamburger means "just hold the cheese"
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Old Jul 10, 09, 3:47 pm
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I finally just got in the habit of ordering plain and dry because I was tired of getting condiments on my burgers. That seems to be more in restaurants though. When I go to fastfood places like In and Out and say plain cheeseburger it is just meat, cheese and bun, just the way I like it.
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Old Jul 10, 09, 3:48 pm
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This is like the regional variations for coffee.

When I moved from Minnesota to the East Coast to attend graduate school, I encountered the concept of "regular" coffee.

At a Midwestern restaurant or lunch counter, the default option is black coffee, so the first time a waitress in a diner in an Eastern city asked whether I wanted my coffee "regular," I said, "Sure."

Imagine my puzzlement when she presented me with a cup of coffee that had been dosed with cream and sugar.

I also had to learn that a "chocolate soda" has chocolate ice cream in the Northeast and that to get vanilla ice cream, you have to ask for a "black and white soda."

On the other hand, I grew up with the Minnesota notion of a "California hamburger," which is a hamburger with lettuce and tomato. To me, a plain hamburger is a meat patty on a buttered bun, period.

In the Pacific Northwest, I encountered the practice of snacking on JoJo potatoes (big, fat French fries) with ranch dressing.
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Old Jul 10, 09, 3:57 pm
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I've always assumed that a plain burger had meat, buns, and ketchup/mustard, that's it. guess there's always that regional variation
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Old Jul 10, 09, 4:34 pm
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I think the key to success in this endeavor...and yes it does seem that way at times...regardless of the restaurant, lies in the request being made to have it "plain and dry".

It might not be 100% effective where you live, but in every burger joint in Austin, Texas where I have made the request this way, it comes with a bun with meat only.

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Old Jul 10, 09, 4:45 pm
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I like plane burgers.

For a while, UA served them in biz class transcons.

In NY, they don't server burgers with mustard. When we were out west when the kids were young, they got their burgers with mustard on them. Not to worry, they were replaced.
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Old Jul 10, 09, 4:51 pm
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Originally Posted by dhammer53 View Post
I like plane burgers.

For a while, UA served them in biz class transcons.

In NY, they don't server burgers with mustard. When we were out west when the kids were young, they got their burgers with mustard on them. Not to worry, they were replaced.
The kids or the burgers?
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Old Jul 10, 09, 5:02 pm
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This is why for burgers I like Fuddruckers. Just order a 1lb burger medium rare and that's what you get, a plain, meat and bun medium rare burger that you dress yourself. I only use mayo and onions. Fudds is also one of the very few places out here that will serve a medium rare burger. Most places are still stuck in the 1950's mindset that hamburger has to be cooked at least medium or the eater will die from bacteria.
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Old Jul 11, 09, 12:50 pm
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I thought plain was just beef paty and the bun.... (???)
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Old Jul 11, 09, 1:14 pm
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This is a guy who has been ordering plain burgers for about 30 years. Mostly in the midwest and east coast, but I have eaten burgers from Tokyo to Moscow.

Depends on the burger. So for me, plain excludes anything that doesn't change the base definition of the burger you are ordering. In other words, if it isn't in the name, don't put it on the burger.

If I order a hamburger at McDonald's, plain should mean bun + meat. If I order a plain cheeseburger, then you get bun + meat + cheese. To get a cheeseburger without cheese is a hamburger and therefore upsets the definition of the item.

If you go to TGI Fridays and order a bacon cheeseburger, plain should be bun + meat + cheese + bacon. After all, if I didn't want the bacon or the cheese, I could get a regular hamburger or cheeseburger.

I often have ordered a plain burger and received everything but that appears to be a mistake rather than a misunderstanding of the definition of plain. I once ordered a plain burger in Budapest (in Hungarian) and received two pieces of bread and a cheese. That was puzzling. However, when ordering in the United States or Canada, I have never ordered a plain burger where the person took plain to mean anything but bun + meat + cheese.
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Old Jul 11, 09, 1:30 pm
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Originally Posted by Gaucho100K View Post
I thought plain was just beef paty and the bun.... (???)
That's what you get when you order a plain burger in Los Angeles.
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Old Jul 12, 09, 12:21 am
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I know that you asked for US examples, but I couldn't help myself.
In Australia, you ask for a plain hamburger from a chip shop and you'll get something close to the following;

Meat, bbq sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion (usually fried) & beetroot.

So I love that a plain burger in the US contains so little ingredient. Probably a closer description of "plain" than us though!
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Old Jul 12, 09, 12:53 am
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Originally Posted by cblaisd View Post
"hamburger sauce" (a nasty Thousand Island based concoction).
I don't remember how many years you lived in California, but virtually all old fashioned 'drive-in' burger joints as far back as the early 60s (probably earlier) used a thousand island type sauce (like In-N-Out's) on their burgers as a standard condiment along with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles. It's what I grew up on, and therefore IMHO what a hamburger should be. It wasn't until many years later I found that it was mostly a California thing. I also remember some places being reluctant on altering that standard burger which was why (I always thought) BK started the "have it your way" deal. Luckily for me there are still a few old fashioned drive-ins in most every city in CA that still make burgers just like I had when I was a little kid.

As to your question, I never order a plain burger, but I've heard plenty of other people say "just meat and cheese" or "just meat".
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Old Jul 12, 09, 1:08 am
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Originally Posted by braslvr View Post
I don't remember how many years you lived in California, but virtually all old fashioned 'drive-in' burger joints as far back as the early 60s (probably earlier) used a thousand island type sauce (like In-N-Out's) on their burgers as a standard condiment along with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles. It's what I grew up on, and therefore IMHO what a hamburger should be. It wasn't until many years later I found that it was mostly a California thing. I also remember some places being reluctant on altering that standard burger which was why (I always thought) BK started the "have it your way" deal. Luckily for me there are still a few old fashioned drive-ins in most every city in CA that still make burgers just like I had when I was a little kid.

As to your question, I never order a plain burger, but I've heard plenty of other people say "just meat and cheese" or "just meat".
Just remember that if you want thousand island and the restaurant doesn't have it, ask for some mayo and ketchup and mix them together. It works.
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