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grub: Wrestling with the "Pounder"

Cheeseburger Cheeseburger

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Cheeburger Cheeburger has been open for seven months in a strip mall off Nuckols Road in the West End, the first Virginia installment of a franchise concept born in Florida. Pink neon and blazing white lights round out the diner theme, along with chrome-ringed tables and a life-size cardboard cutout of Marilyn Monroe touting lots of life-size cleavage. But this is not why we came.

The deal at Cheeburger Cheeburger is simple: If you finish the Pounder, you get your Polaroid picture tacked to the wall. This is a sad accomplishment at best — the ability to completely gorge yourself on command — yet the hundreds of pics on display indicate the overwhelming desire to be immortalized for it. There's even a so-called "repeat offenders" wall, for customers who've done it more than once. Props to the guy who's managed the feat 14 times, and again to the shirtless stud who ate two in one sitting(!). Taking this in, it's hard not to imagine some feisty dietician fingering these Polaroid monuments as a huge warning shot across our cultural bow.



Yet here we are getting all giddy about the discs of meat coming our way. You notice, also, a palpable camaraderie among those in the midst of trying to choke down the Pounder, an unspoken communique that says, "We're all in this together." When Beth, our waitress, returns I see for the first time what we are in for — a burger so big you have to assign directionals to each side: With my palm supporting its great heft, I begin gobbling away at the south rim of the thing.



After six or seven bites, a few fries and a long sip at the vanilla shake, it hits you: You were never this hungry. At a table across the room, Beth makes an announcement: "Ladies and gentleman, can I have your attention? ... This gentleman here has just finished a Pounder." The room bursts into applause, and she snaps a Polaroid of a 350-pound Haas in a football jersey and billed cap who probably knocks back two whole chickens for breakfast.



Regret leads to grieving: Why couldn't you have just popped out for a BLT somewhere? Burger juice and ketchup gum up your digits and still you have an ungodly heap of beef on your plate. At eye level, a Polaroid of a 7-year-old kid heightens your pending failure. Beth finds it in her to tell us, "Sometimes you'll see someone eat that last bite, then go running for the bathroom." You look back at the kid's picture. You want phone numbers and addresses. There's no way this can be done.



But such is the psychology of conquering Big Meat. Leaving without that Polaroid is suddenly not an option, and with everything I can muster I cram the last two chunks of beef between my cheeks, hoping my saliva will simply dissolve them away.



And with that, Beth announces our victory: "Ladies and gentlemen ..."; the flashbulb pops, and were I not gripping my stomach in desperation I might have pumped a fist in the air. SCheeburger Cheeburger



11363 Nuckols Road, Glen Allen



270-2088



Open daily 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.





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