Saturday, May 14, 2016
Hugo's Off The Square, and the Burger I Couldn't Photograph.
Hugo’s is Cheers in a mountaintop town in the Ozarks. Try not to fall down the stairwell when you come in off Block Street. The place is dark, crowded, cluttered, loud and wonderful.
One of the original owners, Liz Page, is responsible for the dashed-together décor. She spent months bringing in all sorts of finds from thrift shops and antique stores to furnish the place. She didn’t find the Typewriters sign - that pre-dates Hugo's by a lot.
I came in with a bunch of other people on a hot July afternoon in 2013 and sat under that Typewriters sign and was told I was going to have a Blue Moon Burger. I mean, yeah, someone handed me a menu but everyone
And boy, look at all that red, and that's AFTER Photoshop. Really.
The burger had been stupendous, but what I could best record was its flavor, since even my eyes could not adjust to the burger's true appearance, even after 30 minutes under the red. The quality of the beef and the sharpness of the cheese stuck with me.
But I did my research, and asked my questions of locals, and looked stuff up on the internet. I found that Hug's was one of the first places to offer nachos in all of northwest Arkansas, and that the burgers had always been the standard fare. The menu has not changed a lot. And its star had always been this Blue Moon Burger, despite a full bar, 32 beers on tap, wine and all the other consumables you might find at a bar.
The barkeep looked at me with narrowed eyes and proclaimed I could not take any photos of her patrons. Now, wait, no one had complained when I had taken photos with my phone the previous visit, or that anyone else in my party had shot merrily with their smartphones. What was the deal?
With teeth somewhat clenched, she mentioned that some of the clientele within the restaurant at that very moment were regulars who did not like to be photographed and should not be photographed. And, for my own security, maybe I'd better just shoot the burger.
and after a few photos, the barkeep leaned over and growled "eat it" at me. Which I did. Quickly. I enjoyed it, but by this point she had seriously unnerved me so I was anxious to enjoy my burger and go. I'd have asked for a box, but she's already made me feel I'd been an imposition for even hinting that I might want to take a photo.
I've been back since, and have rather enjoyed the hot pastrami and cheese sandwich and the Hot Peach and Amaretto Crepes. But never again have I dared shoot a photo within the den below Block Avenue. Somehow, I feel I've been warned, and that breaking the rules might tempt a fate that would bar me from future entry.
You'll find Hugo's down the stairwell at 25 1/2 Block Avenue in Fayetteville, half a block north of the downtown square. Check out the restaurant's Facebook page for happenings and photos the restaurant provides - which will save you a growl or two from a barkeep looking to protect her patrons.