With the news that former New York Times food critic Frank Bruni has gout, I write my latest dispatch to you between bites of salad, haunted by the Ghost of Lunches Future. (He looks like the Michelin man: made not of stars, dear reader of more moderate tendencies, but of doughnuts.) There but for the grease of dog go I, to Griddler's Burgers and Dogs — a restaurant that serves a hot dog topped with clam chowder.
Let's settle this chowder thing first: I found the suggestion inexplicable and unsavory, but the chowder in question is more of a thick, bacony clam dip, more structured than the brothy mess I imagined. The "Chowder Dog" ($4), a slim wiener split, grilled, and served on a buttered, New England–style bun, is dolloped with this, and crowned with fried clam strips. I found myself dredging waffle fries ($3) through the pseudo-dip. Somehow, this is not the dog that earns the "Boston" title — that one ($4) is served with baked beans, barbecue sauce, and onion rings. If shellfish on your tube steak doesn't strike your fancy, there's plenty of peppers, sauerkraut, and other traditional toppings.
Burgers are griddled, flat-patty style ($5/single; $7/double), unless you go for the "Gooey Griddler" ($7; $11, plus a 10-minute wait), which is essentially a meat pocket filled with American cheese sauce. I'm not sure this beats a standard double patty, since it's a fairly explosive endeavor, with melted cheese running everywhere and leaving behind the well-done, steamed meat. The regular patties are just fine; my onion burger featured a pile of caramelized onions, red-onion slices, and a few oversize battered onion rings. Buns are of the potato persuasion, soft and yellow (from bags perched atop the grill). These are the flavors of fast food: yellow mustard is just the thing for this fare. An entire fire department placed their dinner order ahead of me one night.
For dessert, an array of milk shake flavors includes "Frosted Flake" ($5). Cereal-infused milk is blended with vanilla ice cream; it's rather fun to crunch up the fragments of cereal that make it up through the straw. Hey, it's cheaper than a trip to Momofuku.
GRIDDLER'S BURGERS & DOGS, located at 204 Cambridge Street, Boston (Beacon Hill), is open daily, 11 am–11 pm. Call 617.973.0480 or visit griddlersburgers.com.