Would you drive over two hours to eat a regular American hamburger in the middle of nowhere? A most resounded, Yes! and thousands of people take road trips to do just that. One particular unique place to visit that specializes in hamburgers and not much else is Moonshine, Illinois, which is about two hours away from Terre Haute and St. Louis. The town has a population of two who work in the only building in town, the Moonshine Store. This general store is where you can order burgers from the grill up until 12:30 pm every day. After that, you are out of luck. No burgers for you!.
What is a hamburger, and what makes it great? A hamburger is simply a cooked patty of ground beef, place between two slices of bread, typically a bun. Usually, the hamburger patty is fried, grilled, or flame-broiled. And to make it great or even the best burger around is all in the beef flavor and developing a nice sear trapping all the juices inside the patty.
Where did the hamburger originate from, and why is it so popular? The belief is that hamburger patty was created in Hamburg, Germany. It wasn’t until 1904 at the St. Louis World’s Fair that the hamburger became so popular. In a New York Tribune article, they referred to the hamburger as a food vendor’s innovation on World’s Fair midway. After the World’s Fair, the hamburger was everywhere all at once across the country. Now the hamburger is sold in hole-in-the-wall diners, fast food chains, and even in Michelin-starred restaurants worldwide.
The Moonshine store has been at 6017 East 300° Road since 1889 and has been serving farmers and oil field workers lunch ever since. Nowadays, you will find groups of tourists, bicyclists, or motorcycle groups stopping in for lunch. There is a feeling of family and community while you are there. Everybody sits outside on picnic tables, eating their burgers and chatting with their neighbors, asking where they are from.
Word is spreading this small but kitschy general store that serves the best burgers in the middle of cornfields. Moonshine goes through an average of 480-840 lbs. Of hamburger, 50 lbs. of onions, 20 gallons of pickles, and more than 100 packages of buns every week. And they keep track of the records of how many burgers they make per day. Some of the high-selling burger days were 2068 in 2011 and 3251 in 2014. And in April 2017, the record was 3362 burgers in one morning. Between 1992 to 2006, Moonshine has served over 414,342 hand-made burgers. That is a lot of visitors coming to this tiny two-person Moonshine store for a juicy bit of hamburger.
When you visit Moonshine, there are a few parking places in front of the store, along with an open grass lot across from the building. The empty lot also has a portable toilet if you need one after the long drive to reach Moonshine. When you enter the General Store, follow the one-way arrows around the tiny store while admiring the metal vintage signs hanging from the walls. Go ahead and grab your bottled drink and bag of chips before you get to the counter to order your burger. You can also purchase Moonshine logo t-shirts and other souvenirs as well. When you get to the counter, there is a list of available condiments you can order on your burger, and then just give them your order, pay then wait outside.
Once you find a spot at a picnic table, you can chat with the others waiting or already eating their burgers. When your order is up, they announce your name on a loudspeaker, and you pick up your burger through the little window on the side of the building. With the number of burgers they cook, they are surprisingly quick on how fast your food comes out.
The burgers are fabulously delicious! The hamburger patty is larger than the bun, so you will never find yourself saying, ‘Where’s the Beef’? And once you take one bite, you will be figuring out in your head when you can find your way back to this in the middle of a nowhere hamburger joint. Seriously, with Moonshine making thousands of burgers a day, practice makes perfect! This is an excellent place to get a good ol’ American burger, or should I say Moonburger!
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