The regular with cheese @ Char’s Hamburgers

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This one probably is your father's hamburger.
This one probably is your father’s hamburger.

Char’s Hamburgers is a throwback to the burger joints of yore, like a smaller, African-American version of Arnold’s from “Happy Days” with an ordering window, hodgepodge menu signage and neither tables nor booths; dine-in customers can choose to sit at a counter that runs along the windows or lean against their cars.

This is the kind of restaurant that eventually morphed into the fast-food conglomerates that dominate the market these days. McDonald’s used to look like this. Burger King, too. Dairy Queen still sort of does.

The menu is basic, with the kinds of items one might expect from this sort of place. Fried goodies. Hot sandwiches. Soft-serve ice cream. But the place is named for its burgers.

This one probably is your father’s hamburger: a salt-and-peppered patty browned on an ancient griddle, served up with a handful of crinkly fries. I got mine the old-fashioned way, with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and ketchup.

Char’s gets points for technique: the cheese — always American — goes on the bottom of the patty, so it doesn’t get lost in the toppings of vegetables and sauces, all tucked neatly between an oversized, soft, white bun.

But other than that, it’s a baseline burger. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s honest, it’s cheap and it’s fast. And it probably tastes like the original Whopper, before mass-production techniques turned the thing into a hamburger-flavored sandwich.

636 Waughtown St., W-S, 336.784.5418

— BC

[This article is part of the cover story “The Hamburger Renaissance” published on July 2, 2014.]