Hundred Dollar Hamburger

On May 16, 2013 · 9 Comments

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the last person to find out about things. A reader who identified himself as "Jasper" mentioned a $100 hamburger when I put out a call for southeastern Kentucky travel suggestions. I thought he was referring literally to a hundred dollar hamburger. Such a thing does indeed exist so I didn’t rule it out as a possibility. Maybe he had a thing for ground beef wrapped in gold foil, infused with truffles and rolled in caviar, or something. I don’t know. I try not to make value judgments (and generally fail miserably).

Jasper provided a convenient link to explain the hamburger reference as term of art used in general aviation in the United States (perhaps with variations on the theme elsewhere?). A lot of pilots like to pick a random airport a couple or a few hours away, drop-in for a meal, refuel, and then take off again to fly back home. The sheer joy of flying seems to serve as the primary motivation, like someone taking a sports car out into the countryside for a weekend getaway. The $100 price tag refers to the cost of flying to a distant runway for no reason other than wanting to fly to it, and not specifically to any meal that may have been purchased there. It’s a euphemism, or a wink-and-a-nod, or both, even though fuel prices today would make a hundred dollar round-trip flight a bargain.

This sounds like the most awesome idea ever. I’d be all over it if I were a pilot. My county counting abilities would be over the top, too.

I had to check into this further. Various sources mentioned anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 different fly-in restaurants. The 100 Dollar Hamburger is a website for a book with the same name that provides a compendium of such locations although it requires a subscription. A competing site provides a similar service and takes pride in NOT requiring a subscription. Do I detect some bitterness, perhaps?

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Jasper said he flew into London-Corbin airport for his $100 hamburger, stopping at The Hangar Restaurant found on-site there. That’s an example of a restaurant AT the airport, probably offered as a service by the airport’s fixed-based operator (FBO). It surprised me how commonly general aviation airports provided restaurants within their facilities, albeit usually in the larger ones. Their clientele extended beyond $100 hamburgers, though. Fly-in restaurants are patronized by airport staff and also by plenty of local residents especially in the smaller towns.

I consulted several websites in search of the best $100 hamburgers. One source included a list compiled in 2011. I can’t vouch for Rick’s Crabby Cowboy in Montauk, NY (map) or the Pik-N-Pig at Gilliam-McConnel airfield in Carthage, NC, although I liked both of their names so I thought I’d give them a mention.

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The Hard Eight at Clark Field in Stephenville, Texas, came up on the list and also on several website forums where pilots share information. I figured those mentions qualified the Hard Eight as one of the better $100 hamburger opportunities. It was an example of a restaurant NEAR an airport, and looked to be about a ten minute walk.

Airplane at the Beaumont Hotel, Kansas
Flickr by JMD Pix via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

I think my favorite location might have to be the Beaumont Hotel in Kansas (map). It’s a Bed & Breakfast inn, it’s a restaurant, AND it has its own dedicated turf runway. The hotel reportedly averaged about 38 aircraft operations per week.

Thank you Jasper for acquainting me with the $100 hamburger concept.

Completely Unrelated

Has anyone managed to snag an invitation for the test version of the new Google Maps? Does anyone know how I can get one? — I did submit a request although I haven’t heard back. What’s a geo-geek gotta do to get a little map love?

Most Remote Chinese Restaurants in North America

On April 9, 2013 · 14 Comments

I wonder if I’ve observed a genuine phenomenon or if I’m falling into a confirmation bias trap. Everywhere I travel, and I meander through extremely rural areas as a matter of preference, I notice Chinese restaurants.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this peculiarity. I posted Not Fusion, CONfusion a couple of years ago. The subject matter differed — I focused on oddly bifurcated business in that instance — although Meh’s Canadian & Chinese Cuisine in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia would certainly qualify as an example of a Chinese restaurant in a rural area. I wrote at the time, "I’m continuously amazed to find Chinese restaurants in even the smallest, most remote and undoubtedly obscure towns that I’ve ever visited." That odd fixation of mine hasn’t dissipated over time.

It came back to life when I was in Guymon, Oklahoma recently.

I noticed a Chinese buffet practically across the street from our hotel. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised by the Guymon occurrence. It’s the "big city" of the Oklahoma panhandle with nearly 12 thousand residents. About 2.7% of the population (~300 people) self-identified as Asian in the most recent census albeit many of them Burmese not Chinese. Guymon probably fit within the definition of confirmation bias now that I’ve had an opportunity to consider the math. To my credit though, we’d been driving through empty terrain for several hours and the juxtaposition flashed on my conscious brighter than a neon sign.

It’s hard for me to conceive of the cultural isolation that these proprietors must endure in the most extreme examples. I came across one article that highlighted the story of a family of Chinese immigrants with US-born children that settled in Lexington, Nebraska. The ability to own one’s own business and earn a decent living in small town America provided an enticing option to urban problems, so maybe the American Dream makes up for the difference. They seemed to be assimilating just fine.

There are several dimensions one could use to determine the most remote Chinese restaurant in North America. I’m not sure I’ll ever answer the question to my complete satisfaction although I offer a few tantalizing possibilities. Obviously I’ve never been to any of these places and I have no idea if the limited online reviews I could find are even remotely true. I’m also sure theses places represent the most bastardized version of westernized Chinese cuisine imaginable to match the tastes of their clientele, and I’m a sucker for that. I enjoy authentic cuisine too. I try to appreciate the dichotomy separately for what it is, and recognize that they should never be compared.

Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant, Glasgow, Montana

Glasgow has about 3,200 residents with 0.3% of the population (about 10 people) self-identified as Asian. That’s not to say that every one of those residents identify as Chinese of course, a distinction I’ll note similarly for the remainder of the article, although it does provide an indication of the potential population pool.

The Google Street View image led me to wonder if the Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant was still open. Reviews in Yelp dated as recently as 2011 however and Street View dated to 2008. Maybe it simply needed a good coat of paint.

One person said, "This is the most awful restaurant I’ve been to." Another said, it was "One of the best meal[s] I had in Montana." Turning to Urban Spoon, a reviewer noted, "Average is ok in this case — I didn’t get sick after eating here either. This is my first criteria when writing a review for any Eastern Montana restaurant." I learned a couple of things. First, Chinese food in Glasgow, MT is either excellent, terrible or average. Second, the standard of excellence might not be very high in Eastern Montana. I wonder if Weekend Roady would agree?

Golden China Restaurant, Nome, Alaska

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Nome has 3,700 residents with 1.54% of the population (about 55 people) self-identified as Asian. That’s both a larger town and a higher percentage than the previous example. I’m including it on my short list anyway because anything in Nome has to be considered remote by definition.

Golden China Restaurant has some photos on Yelp and a small number reviews on Google+. One said, "The waitress never smiles, she looks mean." There was also a review in Korean which Google translated with the usual mangled results: "Korean pineapple chicken boss recommended. Tang manipulative called look. My Mongolian beef was too salty and sweet taste. Atmosphere clean and good music."

In Nome, be sure to look for the surly waitress and stick with the Korean pineapple chicken boss.

Viking Chinese Restaurant, Viking, Alberta

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Viking has about 1,000 residents. However it’s in Canada and I don’t know enough about the Canadian census to determine demographics. I highlighted this location primarily because I was amused by the possibility of Viking-Chinese fusion cuisine. It’s too bad Viking is the town’s name and not an indicator of culinary style.

I couldn’t find any online reviews. However, strangely enough, two people checked in with foursquare from Viking Chinese. You can do the same if you need to kill some time in Edmonton and want to take a 137 kilometre road trip.

Ying Bin Restaurant, Kenmare, ND

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Is Ying Bin Restaurant the champion of remoteness? Kenmare has 1,000 residents with 0.7% of the population (about 7 people) self-identified as Asian. That’s a tad better (meaning fewer) than Glasgow, MT. Conceivably, just about every person in Kenmare of Chinese heritage could be associated with the Ying Bin Restaurant. I found only one brief review: "Food is superb, when made fresh."

Those are my candidates for the most remote Chinese restaurants in North America. Can the 12MC audience do better? — double bonus points if you’ve actually eaten there. Triple points if you’re the restaurateur.

Restaurant Split by 3 Counties

On November 3, 2009 · 4 Comments


A restaurant sitting atop the intersection of three different counties? If I were ever to ever become a restaurateur, that would be the place that I’d have to own. Loyal reader Glenn from Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina(1), has been following the Twelve Mile Circle for the last several months. He saw just such a restaurant mentioned on his local PBS television station the other night and thought of me. Thank you, Glenn. Some of my most memorable articles come from user suggestions just like yours.

This tri-county honor goes to Famous Louise’s Rock House in Linville Falls, North Carolina, which claims to rest directly atop the intersection of Burke, McDowell, and Avery Counties. Google Maps doesn’t have county lines but OpenStreetMap does, and here’s what it shows for Linville Falls.

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It’s a bit difficult to tell if all the lines actually meet on top of the restaurant because I’ve noticed before that county lines on this site are often just a bit off. Nonetheless it seems to be within the margin of error. It appears to be a fairly decent possibility based on a quick eyeball examination.

Famous Louise’s Rock House was once called the Linville Falls Tavern and it dates back to the first half of the Twentieth Century. It’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places under its original name.

According to the Avery County Historical Museum,

By walking across the dining room, you visit three of the state’s counties. The food is cooked in Avery County, but the waitresses pick it up in Burke! Then they may have to go to Avery or McDowell to serve their customers. Or maybe both – a few tables sit right on the county lines… When you’re done eating at the Rock House, it’s only a few steps to the cash register – in Avery County – and back to your car – in McDowell. Unless you park on the right side of the building, then you’re in Burke.

This is now included on my extensive list of places I need to visit someday. Readers should always feel free to pass along any tips or suggestions. I never would have learned about this wonderful place otherwise.

(1)Interesting name, Kill Devil Hills. It’s notable on various levels. Wikipedia claims that the name derives from rum that was strong enough to "kill the devil." It was allegedly scavenged from shipwrecks and hidden in the nearby dunes during the colonial period. It lacks a citation so it might just be folklore. I dunno. On the other hand, the location definitely figured more prominently in history in 1903 when the Wright Brothers took their famous flight here, on this spot just south of Kitty Hawk.

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