There are some wonderful things about spring. The leaves returning, the weather warming, the grass turning green. These all suck in comparison to the real rite of spring passage: The reopening of the Hamburger Construction Company on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ.
I don’t think I had my first burger from the HCC until I was 16 or so, despite having spent part of every summer in Ocean City since birth. So, I’ve been making up for lost time for the last 18 years by eating there as often as I can.
Let me start off by saying this: there is nothing special about the burger. They don’t put any kind of special seasonings on the meat or fry it in 100-year old oil like that place in the midwest or cook it in a 100-year old broiler the way Louis Lunch in Connecticut does. Nope, Frank (the owner) and his crew at HCC simply serve up 1/4 lbs. fresh ground beef burgers off a flat top seasoned with a squirt of Whirl. It’s delicious.
They cook ’em up medium well (the way I like a burger). The bun is put in a steamer that likely has been the same one in use since they opened the joint in 1978. The burger (with or without american cheese) is put on the steamed bun and topped with your choice of lettuce, tomato, onion (raw or fried or both), sweet or hot peppers. The veggies are always crisp and ripe and the sweet peppers (my fave) are never soggy the way they from a lot of places.
Looking for a twist? Try the Taylor Burger. It’s a burger with a slice of Taylor pork roll on it. Sound funny? It’s not funny. It’s spectacular.
One other vice I indulge in at the HCC and not many other places: French Fries. They cook them crisp (the way fries should be) and put a healthy amount of salt on them (the way they should be) and with the house cheese whiz sauce on them make just about the best cheese fries I’ve ever had. They compliment a burger, cheesesteak or hoagie from HCC perfectly.
This place is an original. An independent burger joint with both a counter and some booths, ketchup and mustard served in red and yellow squeeze bottles and fountain soda that never tastes old or flat.
Next time skip Mack and Mancos (you can get that year round so come back in the winter and eat a whole pie) and make your way to 10th and the Boardwalk. Order the Taylor burger and tell Frank the Hungry Pilgrims sent you.