The man who ate Lincoln Rd was about to head off to Carl's Jr. on Wednesday night when word on the street came through that the Lincoln Rd store had closed down. The jungle drums were beating! They sounded from the Te Atatu Facebook page, which is forever banging on about nothing and getting its facts wrong.
I called the store, and said, "Are you open?"
A woman said, "Yes."
"But the Te Atatu Facebook page says you're not."
There was a silence.
I said, "Hello?"
The woman said, "Hello."
I said, "They're saying you got closed down due to your hygiene rating."
There was another silence.
I said, "You have a hygiene rating of D. What's that about?"
She said, "It was because of some stuff underneath or like behind something."
"There were pipes that needed cleaning. And a bit of stuff on some wheels on a thing."
A bit of stuff on some wheels on a thing! Is that all! At any rate, I'd discovered Carl's Jr. was open, and that was good enough for me. I showed up just as night was falling, and there was the dreaded letter of the alphabet, taped up right beside the front door: D. And in capital letters, beneath it: POOR STANDARD.
Well, what of it? Inside the brightly-lit, slightly infantile food joint there were families with young children, couples fighting, couples not talking, teenage netball players in green skirts, and two old men. One of them looked at his reflection in the window and saw a nervous face look back; his mouth twitched at the corners. Actually I always look like that.
Despite the shame of the D rating, Carl's Jr. held no fear for the man who ate Lincoln Rd. In fact I was looking forward to it. The first New Zealand franchise of the US chain opened in Takanini in 2011, and there are now about 16 stores in the North Island, most prominently the big, pompous store near Auckland airport; I'd never eaten at Carl's Jr. but always heard good things about its signature chargrilled burgers.
I didn't muck around. I went top dollar. I ordered the Jim Beam Bourbon Burger, a half-pound Angus "thickburger" with onion straws, bacon, cheese, tomato, lettuce, and Jim Beam Bourbon sauce for $14.50.
It was as classic as classic rock - it was a Led Zeppelin burger. The meat was a pounding riff. The bacon soared like one of Jimmy Page's guitar solos. The cheese and bread kept rhythm, and the sauce was Robert Plant at the top of his voice - shrill, lascivious, meaningful.
It was a stadium rock burger. It was a concept album burger. God it was good, and I seriously don't know if anyone is making better burgers in New Zealand right now.
I also got a $5.90 side of crisscut French fries topped with pulled pork, Memphis BBQ sauce and melted cheese, and I seriously don't know if anyone is making a worse side anywhere in the known universe. It was disgusting. Essentially it was a warm bowl of sh*t with some scraps of food in it.
There's something about Carl's Jr. which screams LOSER. It baits the poor, almost always setting up in low-income zones - Avondale, Otahuhu, Hastings, Rotorua. Its Twitter page is pathetic, with only 386 followers. It does ice-cream sandwiches. It was the subject of a union picket last year when the new owners of its Gisborne store sacked employees with only one week's notice.
Lame. But it does such an awesome burger! I can forgive the D rating. It's bound to improve, and in fact the next Auckland Council regrading is due next week, on June 13. I can forget the crisscut French fries with pulled pork apocalypse, so long as I keep taking my medication. The point is that I'd so totally go back to Lincoln Rd for another Jim Beam Angus thickburger. Rating: 9/10.
STEVE'S EARLIER ADVENTURES ON LINCOLN ROAD:
• Episode 1: Entering heart attack alley
• Episode 2: Moto sushi
• Episode 3: Sierra
• Episode 4: Sal's Pizza
• Episode 5: Langtons On Lincoln
• Episode 6: Nando's Chicken
• Episode 7: The man who ate Lincoln Rd's doughnut dilemma
• Episode 8: The man who ate Lincoln Rd rates Eves Pantry
• Episode 9: The man who ate Lincoln Rd rates Burger King
• Episode 10: Bad times at Burger Fuel
• Episode 11: Mr Burger
•All views expressed are the author's.