The last time I stopped by Gayle’s Superburger, on its final day in business, the atmosphere really wasn’t as jovial and congratulatory as it should have been. As a matter of fact, it was decidedly depressing—despite the milestone, the former owners could only muster one other grungy customer in the joint, and he didn’t even know, or seem to care, that it was the last day they’d be serving up their famous King Burgers.
I related this scenario to a few different people later on that night, and I quickly learned that the former owners weren’t what you’d call necessarily well-liked. I remember going to parties at the house next door in the mid-‘90s and listening to the house’s tenants complain about how mean the owners were, which is pretty funny considering that we routinely sneaked over onto Superburger’s roof to drunkenly light off fireworks in the middle of the night, but apparently the sentiment spread throughout the land. Though I never had any truck against the old owners—why would I?—I was surprised to hear some of my best friends vilifying them as if they were the human incarnate of Mr. and Mrs. Satan.
I stopped by the vacated Superburger the next day and ran into Bill Cordell, the new owner, as he prepped the small space for its reopening (that’s the transitional phase, pictured above). Things looked promising—Bill was friendly as could be, and Modest Mouse’s “Perfect Disguise” played on the stereo inside, which I know doesn’t have anything to do with food, but still. I asked about the overhaul, and Bill assured me he wouldn’t change the place much, short of scraping off the gum on the counter, slapping on some fresh paint, and making a few non-intrusive additions to the menu.
It took me a while, but I finally got down there today, and even at a late lunch hour the place was filled—only one seat remained at the horseshoe counter. And friends, I didn’t think I’d say this, but the place has changed for the better. You know how, like, you’ve got an old car that you love but it’s kinda fucked up, and you think the reason you love it is because it’s fucked up, but then you take it in and give it a tune-up and wash it and wax it and you’re like, if I loved this fucked up car so much, why didn’t I do this earlier? That’s what Superburger is like now.
Don’t worry—there’s still a pile of newspapers at the door, some old regulars, and the serve-yourself condiment tray on the counter. There’s still the old Schaefer ice cream freezer and the Hamilton Beach milkshake blender. There’s still the fixed stools. But all of these things are simply put to a much better purpose these days. I got a cheeseburger with fries and it was like nothing had changed, except the cheeseburger tasted a lot better and the people around me were a lot happier.
As for the menu, I could tell you about the nifty ingredients, like apple-smoked bacon and gorgonzola cheese. I could tell you about the burgers with cute local names like the St. Helena and the Montecito, about the chicken sandwiches and the sausages. But you know what? All you really need to know is that there’s now a huge jar of jalapeños sitting on the counter, free to be smeared upon your food at will. Hell yes. Count me in.