News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
A BITE DOWN MEMORY LANE
It was time to check out Hamburger Haven—the new burger joint on Lafayette Boulevard that isn’t selling the “sizzle” so much as a beefy “blast from the past.” And I was just the man for the job; I love a good burger.
Growing up outside the Capital Beltway, my friends and I thought nothing of piling into the car and making a special trip from the ’burbs to Hamburger Hamlet on Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest D.C., to chomp on some gourmet burgers.
Of course, Hamburger Haven was a popular destination itself in Fredericksburg from the 1960s through the early ’80s, when it was located on Princess Anne Street in front of what is now Central Station. That was a little before my time in the ’Burg, so I had some catching up to do.
A look at the menu told me the Haven, now run by the original owner’s son, is “a family business, reborn. Same great quality, taste and service.” I immediately wondered whether they might not have updated things a little. I mean tastes change. Do you still want to be eating tuna noodle casserole just because it was a big hit years ago? And the restaurant scene has changed, too. There’s lots more competition today, including plenty of specialty burger places.
Plus, their new location could be problematic, tucked away as it is inside the Gulf station where T & T Deli used to hold court, garnering great word-of-mouth for their unbelievably large portions at next-to-nothing prices. Would the Haven have something to similarly set it apart?
With its limited hours—6 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays—Hamburger Haven can be catch-as-catch-can. The Haven’s menu is also limited, but its prices are tough to beat. I ordered Tiny’s Favorite, a one-third pound burger with bacon, cheese, tomato and mayo that comes with fries. (Tiny was the owner’s dad, and clearly a man with good taste in burgers.)
The Haven precooks its burgers and later steams them to order, a somewhat primitive method in light of today’s cooking advances. Things these days are more commonly grilled, smoked, flash-fried, charred or crisped, techniques that create new tastes and textures.
The restaurant staff were friendly: A couple asked how I was enjoying my burger. And honestly, it was very good: nice and juicy and satisfying, though not noteworthy in any one respect.
The eatery’s ambience and amenities made it hard to shake off the feeling that I was indeed eating inside a gas station. I was beginning to wish I’d ordered carryout instead, when I noticed a friend, a well-heeled, 50-something woman from old Fredericksburg money, stop in. I figured she was there to fill up her car. This is a gal, after all, with the wherewithal to endow a chair at La Petite Auberge.
But no, she was there to eat, and a few minutes later we were sharing a table. She’d made a special trip there, she said, a trip down “memory lane.” It turns out she used to frequent the Haven in the 1970s, while in high school. She’d skip out of class whenever a boy asked her to eat lunch there.
Still, I tell her, she’s the last person I’d ever expect to see dining inside a service station. “There are no classes when it comes to ‘old Fredericksburg,’” she said.
She ordered a King Burger double-decker with special family-recipe sauce and fries. “Mmm, this is pretty tasty,” she said. “I like saucy things.”
I asked her if I could quote her on that. She said she preferred to remain anonymous. She was sensitive about letting it be known just how far she’d strayed from her low-carb diet.
So, was the burger as good as she recalled? “Oh, I don’t remember the burger,” she said, “as much as the skipping out for lunch.”
What: Hamburger Haven
Address: 4300 Lafayette Blvd. (inside Gulf station at Lassen Lane intersection)
Info: 540/841-8534 or find them on Facebook
Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday
Prices: Breakfast sandwiches: $3–$3.50; Lunch sandwiches/burgers: $2.25–$3.50; Deluxe burgers: $4–$5.50; Tuna or chicken salad cold plates: $5
The Scoop: Retro-style hamburger stand is sure bet to induce nostalgia for dishes like Chicken à la King, Turkey Tetrazzini and other foods of a bygone era.
Kurt Rabin: 540/374-5000 | firstname.lastname@example.org