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Thread: The Murder Burger

  1. #1

    Default The Murder Burger

    November 11, 2003

    WEST FARMS JOURNAL

    Does a Burger Slay Hunger or Reflect a Violent Past?

    By ALAN FEUER


    Choochie Cervantes, a short-order cook at the First-Way Deli in the Bronx, with one of the 600 Murder Burgers he serves up every week.

    The Murder Burger half a pound of ground beef mixed with bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, adobo spice mix, milk, eggs and a dash of Accent seasoning cooked to succulence atop the skillet and served on a kaiser roll with onions, relish and secret sauce has not changed much since the First-Way Deli in the Bronx first put it on the menu nearly 20 years ago.

    But while the recipe, which has been handed down from cook to cook as culinary lore, has finally settled into orthodoxy now, the question of its name has evidently not.

    Some people on East Tremont Avenue where the First-Way, according to its awning, calls itself "The Home of the Murder Burger" say that in the early 1980's, a fatal shooting occurred outside the deli and that the burger was created in memory of the dead.

    In a slightly different version of the story, others say that the deli's first owner was himself a killer and that a subsequent proprietor made up the sandwich as a form of hamburger homage.

    Those in the know, of course, insist that name aside the Murder Burger's name is not a reference to crimes or criminals.

    "You know how some people say, `Man, that's bad,' when they really mean it's good?" said Octavio Estes, 25. "Well, it's the same thing here. These burgers are so big and so good they kill you."

    In other words: "You eat a Murder Burger and it murders you," he said.

    Mr. Estes, who has been eating the burgers all his life, drew nods from a crowd of cognoscenti who had gathered in the deli in the West Farms section of the Bronx, some to order Murder Burgers, some simply to answer questions about the origins of the sandwich. The half-dozen men were standing underneath a menu that put the price of the burger, with an order of French fries and a 20-ounce drink, at a reasonable $4.25.

    There was Julio Villallona, 30, who said, in not so many words, that a Murder Burger was to die for. There was Tawan Jennings, 36, who had not eaten one in years but still recalled that they were murder on the gut.

    "The history of the Murder Burger is a long, long, long story," said a man named Benny, who declined to give his surname but said he was an expert on the dish. "The burgers are very big, and you feel very good when you eat them."

    Fair enough, he was told. But what did that have to do with murder?

    "What does it have to do with murder?" Benny asked, a hint annoyed. "They're big, not small, you see? You eat one, and the burger kills your hunger."

    The one man missing in this crowd was the deli's former owner, Thomas Colon Jr., who is widely credited with creating the Murder Burger. Reached on his cellphone later that day, Mr. Colon said that his father, Thomas Sr., cooked the first Murder Burger.

    "He got the name from his customers," said Mr. Colon, who drives a gypsy cab these days to earn a living. "They started out hungry, but when they ate my father's burgers they couldn't eat another bite."

    "They used to get so filled up it was like their stomachs had been murdered," he went on, essentially blending Benny's and Mr. Jennings's versions of events. "You're talking about a big burger well, at least in those days it was big."

    Whatever the case, one could be excused for thinking that the Murder Burger was somehow related to actual murder. West Farms, which spreads out from the intersection of the Bronx River Parkway and the Cross Bronx Expressway, was once a violent neighborhood notorious for gunplay.

    Ten years ago, there were 40 homicides reported in the local precinct, the 48th. So far this year, there have been six.

    Fortunately, fewer murders have not led to fewer Murder Burgers, said Angel Rosario, who bought the deli from its second owner, Johnny Castillo, nine months ago. If Mr. Rosario is not quite making the killing that his predecessors made, he is still selling his fair share of Murder Burgers.

    He estimated, for example, that his short-order cook, Choochie Cervantes, makes about 600 Murder Burgers a week. (Mr. Cervantes said he went through nearly 50 pounds of beef a day, which corresponds to roughly 100 burgers.)

    "That's why the store is busy," Mr. Rosario said. "The Murder Burgers are very popular." He said that he got customers from Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey and even vacationers from Miami and Los Angeles who have heard of the burgers and stop in for a taste.

    "They are always telling me, `I really love that Murder Burger. Please, don't change a thing,' " he said. "So what can I do? I can't change anything about them, especially not the name."


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2
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    There was once a "Murder Burger" in Davis, California, but they renamed themselves to "Redrum Burger" because of the controversy.

  3. #3
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    Controversy as in recall? I can see why :lol:

  4. #4
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    You stole my line

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