My culinary standards have always plunged precipitously when my wife leaves town. It’s a kind of barbaric reversion. One day I’ll be devising well-balanced, sometimes even nuanced, dinners for us; the next day I’ll be standing at the counter eating a scalding microwaved enchilada barely cooled by Sriracha, still chilly from the refrigerator.
And so it was only about 17 minutes after dropping my wife off at the airport for a quick trip out of town that I found myself pulling into the Astroburger drive through lane off of Melrose, ordering hot dogs, ketchup on the side, for my kids, two small orders of fries, and a bacon cheeseburger for myself. Maybe it was that barbaric reversion. Maybe it was a desire to comfort myself and my kids in the absence of mom. Whatever it was, we all were excited sitting in the drive through, waiting for our little greasy bag of classic junk food. (Astroburger is a bit of a Hollywood legend. Across the street from the Paramount lot, it’s where Hilary Swank famously celebrated her second Oscar win over Gardenburgers and milkshakes.)
The burger wasn’t as beefy in flavor as that other local favorite In ‘n’ Out, and it was a far cry from a Father’s Office burger, known for it’s caramelized onions, quintuple smoked bacon, or whatever they put on it to blow out your tastebuds in one bite. But for a few bucks and served up in a few minutes, this wasn’t half bad. There wasn’t much texture and flavor contrast in the burger, given that the tomato and lettuce were soggy and without much personality. If there was bacon in there, you coulda fooled me. It didn’t speak for itself. The fries, hot out of the frier, were, as is usual here, unseasoned (the restaurant intentionally leaves this up to the diner’s discretion, but you must season them while they’re hot or the salt won’t stick. Not advisable at full speed in the car). Still, Violet was happy with her hot dog. Desi ate his hot dog, zone-style, without the bun. They each had a single packet of ketchup for dessert (sorta like the food paste on the shuttle flight in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Actually, more like astronaut food, or at least the way it was eaten when I learned about it on Mister Rogers 30 years ago). And I gotta say my burger had the richness to serve as a pleasant foil to my glass of Barbera D’Alba
Mind you, my kids have probably eaten fewer than 7 fast food meals in their lives. They might have had McDonalds once, but not with me. It’s not that we demonize fast food, it’s just not in our orbit. This stuff is a definite step up from the golden arches, and I love that it’s a local, family-owned business. Though honestly I’ve seen my kids much more excited over pasta bolognese or even roasted cauliflower. And back to that barbaric reversion. The last time I was at the Astroburger drive through, my wife was with me. This place does work hard to offer some healthy options, and as such we ordered grilled chicken breast sandwiches on whole wheat buns. I admit it. The junkiness of my meal with the kids was entirely my doing. Still, we had a grand time and the meal produced not a single dirty dish. Such is the awesome power of junk food.