Back before McDonald’s was a giant corporation with restaurants around the world, it was a hamburger stand.
Dick and Mac McDonald from New Hampshire set up their stand in San Bernadino, California, in the 1940s and people immediately fell in love with the, at the time, novel idea of getting a delicious burger lightening quick and for very little money.
The spirit of the first McDonald’s is still alive in places like The Hamburger Stand in downtown Biddeford. Located in an old gas station and painted a cheery blue and white, the places serves up tasty food quick, cheap and with a smile.
A family of four can eat for about $20 or $25. Single patty burgers are $2.85, hot dogs are $2.35 and a grilled cheese is $2.
And then there’s poutine, which you won’t find at a chain burger place. It’s $4.95 per order, or $6.70 for the family size, which serves three to four. In a place with a proud French Canadian tradition like Biddeford, the poutine makes sense. For those unfamiliar with poutine, it’s beef gravy (in this case) with cheddar cheese curds on french fries.
The hot dogs are a little out of the ordinary, too. You can get grilled red snappers, a Maine favorite, or mildly spicy brown dogs. When I went on a recent Saturday, my daughter’s hot dog came on a very fluffy golden bun.
We went on a chilly Saturday in March. Lucky for us, the place has a heated, small alcove for ordering and waiting. But the wait was less than five minutes.
In nicer weather, there are picnic tables. We ate our lunch in the car, at park along the Saco River.
The place is on Elm Street, a block off Main Street, so you can get a burger and then browse shops if you want.
My other daughter got a single burger, which was more than enough for her. There’s also a smaller mini burger, a double burger for $4.10 or a beefy burger for $4.40.
That’s what I got. I was happy to see how misshapen it was, indicating it likely wasn’t pre-made and frozen. It looked like somebody had just squashed the beef into a patty, like I do at home. It was juicy and had a nice flavor from the char.
We also had some crinkle-cut french fries, done well, and some very tasty onion rings. They were big, with a crisp but thick batter, and came with a “special sauce,” which seemed like a slightly spiced mayonnaise.
Besides burgers and dogs, The Hamburger Stand offers BLTs, grilled cheese and lobster rolls in season.
My daughters also split a chocolate shake for $4.95, made with Maine-made Gifford’s ice cream. The place seemed to have a limitless list of shake flavors. You can also get a root-beer float or an orange cream float.
One bonus of eating at The Hamburger Stand was that the young woman behind the counter made us feel like she was actually happy we showed up. She smiled broadly, asked my name and called me by it throughout the ordering process, and gave us extra straws and napkins.
WHERE: 138 Elm St., Biddeford, 494-8373. On Facebook.
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, closed on Monday and Tuesday
WAIT: About five minutes
PARKING: On street
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: There’s a step several inches high inside a seasonal vestibule; The vestibule will be removed during warm weather season.