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Cheap Thrills

By CHRIS SHERMAN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 6, 2001


Pasadena Bar & Grill

Maybe Pasadena Bar & Grill is not your kind of place, but I'll bet it has your kind of hamburger: slow-cooked, juicy and BIG.

It's a little spot, dark in the daytime but friendly -- has to be, with only 15 stools at the bar -- and more bar than grill. Shirt pockets hold more cigarette packs than cell phones.

Yet for all the beers and shots of Tanq on the bar, there also are ketchup and mustard (yellow, Creole, sweet and hot and Plochman's) within easy reach of everyone.

Some locals come to drink lunch and talk, trading wing sauce recipes and tax rebate tales; most come to eat. Choices are limited: Manager Bill "Trucker" Church might make an egg sandwich, ham and cheese or, if you're lucky, a pot of chili, but every day he will make burgers. He has for 18 years. "That's one thing I liked when I was on the road, a good sandwich," he says.

Hard to say how big these burgers are. When Trucker plops one on the grill, it looks like a 1-pound packet of ground beef.

It takes almost 20 minutes to cook, and when done it's still an inch thick and takes three slices of cheese on top. Slide it onto a bun, with ripe tomato, an onion slice and slab of iceberg, and it stands 4 inches tall. It can take a grown man four napkins to get through it, and the end is still a messy affair.

A burger like that stands tall in a place that likes its sports as simple as its sandwiches. There's only one TV but a parade of pennants starting with the World Champion Cleveland Indians of 1948.

The bar was a rookie that year. A half century later, it's a champion in the burger big leagues.

Pasadena Bar & Grill, 796 S Pasadena Ave., S Pasadena; (727) 345-3312. Hamburgers, $3.50 to $4.

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