Central Illinois hamburgers demand special attention. They hit the grill as spheres of beef and get spatula-smashed flat so their edges turn crisp and lacy as they cook. They’re plenty fatty and stay juicy however much they are pressed, but they are thin enough that a double makes good sense. Preferably a double with cheese, and with pickle, tomato, onion, ketchup, and mustard. So it is at Green Gables at the shore of Lake Bloomington. Each burger is presented swaddled in paper so that the whole package has quickly steamed into a great mound of savory goodness by the time it’s unwrapped. What a fine handful of food!
Sides are OK: deep fried cheese balls, deep fried corn nuggets, deep fried mozzarella sticks, cauliflower, onion rings, etc. The Italian beef sandwich we sampled was no big deal. It’s the burgers that put Green Gables on the Roadfood map.
The burgers … and the place itself. It is an absolutely hypnotic kaleidoscope of culinary genres: a dark tavern with a pool table up front, a brightly-lit grocery in back (with shelves of products marshalled like they’re in a museum of contemporary Jell-O packages and detergent bottles), a liquor store, a town meeting place and also a bait shop, with a hyperbolic menu that tells customers they are in the “resort capital of the world” and they are about to experience “the best food known to man.”