Burgers We Ate


I felt like a character out of a Dickens novel, slinking past the DuMont on Union, on my long walk back to Greenpoint with five dollars I could either spend on the subway, or an egg and cheese sandwich from the deli. Inside DuMont there were people eating, drinking, and laughing; I was on the outside, down to my last few bucks, waiting for the biggest freelance check I had ever received, the one that signaled it was finally safe to start working less hours at the coffee shop.

The absence of said check (supposedly on its way, according to the editor who was kind enough to update me minutes after my daily e-mails hit his inbox) kept me from a friend’s birthday dinner at DuMont. Although another friend offered to pay my share, saying that no person should be denied a perfectly balanced burger on a grilled brioche bun, I declined, giving our host an excuse about having to work.

The check arrived the next day, and was deposited into my bank account minutes after I tore open the envelope. I was back in the clear, vowing never to get that low on funds again, no matter what happened.

Anaïs Nin once said that “Poverty is the great reality.  That is why the artist seeks it.” I guess maybe that’s true for some people, but when you get a decent paycheck after a week or two of getting creative with different types of ramen dishes, you want to eat something great. I wanted nothing more than a burger from DuMont.

I feel almost bad saying that I hate-ate that burger, but that’s the best way to put it: I showed that burger who’s boss. I didn’t savor it; instead, I chewed it with the intention of fulfilling some weird vendetta I had against DuMont for teasing me all week with scrumptious burgers I couldn’t afford.  That’s why it was one of the most satisfying meals of my life.

Last week the news broke that Colin Devlin, owner of DuMont and several other Brooklyn restaurants, had committed suicide. I never met Mr. Devlin, but the news of his death did cause me to recall the nights I spent at the restaurants he opened, but it also made me think about how that burger was like winning the Stanley Cup after weeks and months of feeling like I was going nowhere. DuMont doesn’t necessarily make my favorite burger in New York (I’m partial to the ones at Corner Bistro and Minetta Tavern), but the one I had that night was the best I have ever had.

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