206 N. 4th St., Coeur d'Alene, ID
As the rushing ravages of times and age wear on, memories of my childhood seem to be getting harder to drudge up from the grey matter. Certain things, however, have managed to not fade away into the mental miasma forever. Pulling the kitchen drawers out so I could climb up onto the counter and mix my own baby bottle of chocolate Qwik milk (age 2). My complete and utterly bizarre obsession with vacuum cleaners (age 5). My mother finally agreeing to buy me my first 45 single (Blondie's "Rapture") at Pay-n-Save drug store (age 7). My very first job as an exotic go-go dancer in a Tokyo-themed leather disco in Munich (age 9).
Okay, maybe that last one is just a case of false memory syndrome, but one thing that did happen for sure was that when I'd walk the two blocks to my grandmothers house from Harding Elementary during lunch recess, she would make the most unbelievably amazing hamburgers for me to eat. In fact, although I've had countless hundreds of burgers over the years since then, from cruddy burgers to bloody burgers to Huddy burgers to fuddy duddy burgers, and while many were fantastic in their own way, I've never been able to find anything that matched her magic recipe.
That is until now, pretty much. The patties served up at Coeur d'Alene's Scrud's Gourmet Burgers would give my grandma a moment of pause and a mildly jaundiced eye. Just like hers, these babies are hand-formed and thick, but not thick enough to have that sense of meatloaf-esque overkill that some places like to do (hi, Nosworthys). Just like hers, they're moist and juicy without being total grease bombs, and there's a certain deep auburn richness to the flavor of a well cooked beef patty that they both have in common.
Naturally, there's somewhat of an unavoidable giggle factor to the name Scrud's. In times of confusion during the internet age, we sometimes turn to the Urban Dictionary for guidance when we encounter a strange or vaguely rude sounding idiom, and that's what I did after first hearing the name.
"Unkept, greasy looking, 20-30 something individuals that take pride loitering in parking lots of convenience stores, coffee shops, 7-Elevens etc. Scruds are most often in groups, congregated around pick-up trucks wearing some sort of Nascar / Ski-Doo paraphernalia. There is really no purpose to their actions."
"Scrud is a slang term for Cannabis/Marijuana used in the town of Rotherham, UK"
As much as marijuana and delicious burgers will always go together forever like Daryl Hall and John Oates, and as much as greasy 20-something Nascar parking lot loiterers will always love food of any kind period, I thought "uh, that just can't be right, sister". And, of course it isn't - the eatery was named after the owner's teenage nickname. The Scrud's menu tells the whole story and then some:
"When I was about 16, I got up early one morning with my brother to cut firewood. I jumped out of bed, pulled a beanie over my 12 inch mullet, slipped into some insulated coveralls and put on my boots without tyine the laces. I didn't shower, brush my teeth or even brush my hair. I jumped into our pickup and fired it up, looked over at my brother who was staring at me and he said "you're a SCRUD!" and it stuck. We opened our first retaurant in Mountain View, Wyoming in 2009. We decided we wanted a little more city life and moved to the Inland Northwest and reopened our restaurant in the Fall of 2011."these restaurant names).
The building's interior hasn't changed dramatically since it's former occupant, the Kootenai Cafe (or whatever it was last called), gave up on its sadly brief life and passed on. No need, the place had been remodeled within the last year or so anyway. The main noticeable changes include the addition of some baseball-themed stuff and other forms of classic Americana.
They've hung "Wall of Fame" and "Wall of Flame" photo boards for pictures of those few proud souls with duodenums of steel who managed to successfully finish either the 5 pound "Bodalicious Burger Challenge" ($24.49) or the hotter-than-holy-f*@k hot wing "Dig Your Own Grave Challenge" ($14.99). Another fun touch is the graffiti wall around the front door where visitors can take sharpies and sign their names or draw obscene pictures (I didn't, promise).
Before I popped into Scrud's for lunch today, I hopped onto their facebook page and came across this post:
Grandma never infused her burger patties with anything but tender lovin' care, so in a way Scruds is one-upping her a bit on the creative side. And what sends it all over the edge of true culinary euphoria are the incredible, crispy brown had cut fries that make a huge dramatic ruckus that's audible from the open kitchen when they're thrown into the fryer and taste like the reason for the very existence of the Divine and Sacred Gift of Potato. These little lovers are unique to Scrud's and must be enjoyed with copious amounts pink, yummy fry sauce.
A few weeks prior, I'd ordered a "Bo Sox" burger for take out on my way to work and so far, it's my favorite Scrud's burger on offer. As regular readers may know, I'm a sucker for a bleu cheese burger, and this one actually had the pungent fromage stuffed into the burger patty itself along with chopped bacon (bacon!), and came topped with provolone on one of their toasty, buttery buns. I had to mow it down quickly, but it was so great I knew I was in love, and I knew that if the place could survive the terrible curse that seems to cause every business that moves into the place to crumble (and they've all been actually quite fab), they'd become one of my permanent haunts. And I firmly predict they will.
So if you happen to catch me in Rotherdam, UK, and I ask for some Scrud, it means I'm most likely longing for a Bo Sox burger. But if you happen to hand me something else instead, at least I'll be able to smoke my homesick blues away.