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Aaron Johnson: The old fashioned way

Every small town had one.

In my hometown of Boaz, it was the Dipsy Dip. In Albertville, it was Frank’s Variety store. In Sardis, it was the Lion’s Den. You know the place; the one with the best burger on Earth.

Since the Dipsy Dip closed in about 1980, I have been on a global quest for the best hamburger on Earth.

Wherever I have traveled, the scenery has been secondary to finding that hamburger.
From Anchorage to Key West, and from San Diego to Portland, the quest has been the same. I feel it almost a divine obligation to discover the world’s best burger. Humanity needs to know where the truly best burger can be found. As serious as any explorer in history was, so too was I. As passionately as DeSoto looked for the fountain of youth, I have looked for that burger.

From time to time, I thought I had found it. Once, in Flagstaff, Ariz. I ate at a restaurant beside the railroad tracks called Altitudes. It was good. But I might have just been hungry. Three times I have eaten there and never have I been disappointed. However, none every measured up to the special at Frank’s, or the Texas burger at the Lion’s Den, or the big burger at Dipsy Dip.

No matter how good any burger was there was always something missing.

Then, it happened. As these kinds of things usually do, it came unexpectedly, without warning, it was just there. Denise and I were in Hollywood and lunch time came around. If you have been to Hollywood, you know there are few choices for lunch.

At this point the reader might want to know that the Hollywood I am speaking of is the original Hollywood in Jackson County, Ala. You will find Hollywood on U.S. Highway 72 just east of Scottsboro.

Just off the beaten path of Highway 72 sits an old store called “Shorty’s.” I don’t know if the owner is short, and I don’t mean any insult to anyone vertically challenged. That was just the name of the old store.

Four gas pumps stood like silent sentinels out front. The old brick building was weathered and welcoming. There were no claims about the quality of the food or how many billions they had served.

There was nothing more than a sign on the side of the building announcing the name of the place.

We walked in to find ourselves a classic burger joint. Chip and Joanna have never been to Shorty’s and you won’t find it featured in Southern Living. The room was large, well lit, with wooden floors, and mismatched tables and chairs. It was a place where good food was made for good southern folks by good southern folks.

We placed our order at the counter. I always ask the same question, “How is your burger?” And without fail they always claim it is the best one around. With a smile on my face and doubt in my heart, I ordered a burger.

The petite lady behind the counter looked up and asked, “Large or regular?” Offended I asked, “Do I look like I want a regular anything?” She laughed and wrote down “LARGE.”

My smile was back.

In short order the smiling waitress brought out our food. After the first bite I know I heard the sounds of harps and angel voices. Heaven opened that day in Hollywood, Ala.

Just off Highway 72, not far from my home in Guntersville, I found the best hamburger on Earth.

It didn’t come with special sauce, unless ketchup qualifies. Lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, and half a pound of USDA-inspected ground beef between two soft hamburger buns caused a seismic shift in my life. The food was simple, high quality, and served with a dash of southern hospitality.

Who knew heaven was in Jackson County, Ala.?

Simple is always better than complicated. Shorty’s is simple, kind, and good.

Sounds like a good motto for life to me.

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. He is pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.

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