Hamburger Express menu goes beyond burgers and fries

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Two windows, a crackling speaker and a giant hamburger on William Street paint the cover art for Hamburger Express, a Cape Girardeau drive-through staple for almost 20 years.

Open the book, though and the story shows it's a neighborhood favorite for any of the traditional American fast food staples. Hamburger Express started with hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and shakes, but its menu now includes catfish, ribs and turkey legs.

"When I came I brought the barbecue," said Hamburger Express manager Ron Davis. Davis has run the to-go restaurant for about 15 years. He used to run his own hamburger joint on Broadway and made it a barbecue place when he saw the business opportunity. He carried that experience with him when he joined the staff at Hamburger Express.

"We do the old-fashioned barbecue sliced on toast," he said.

Davis learned to use a hickory pit from an old black man so many years ago that he can't remember his name. He still smokes the beef briskets, ribs and pork in a black smoker that sits in the parking lot of Hamburger Express.

"I smoke turkeys for people for Thanksgiving or Christmas," Davis said. "I've done weddings. I can get about anything anybody wants."

Davis said many people have no idea Hamburger Express caters. Those who do know, though, take full advantage. He said he smokes turkeys for the same families every year. All he needs is a couple of days' notice.

Smoking meat takes six to 12 hours depending on the meat, but serving only takes a few minutes.

"We're fast food, and we have to fix food fast," Davis said. "We try to have it ready by the time people get to the window."

The order sign sits about 35 feet from the pick-up window. Davis admits sometimes they don't have the order fully ready, but they try. He said the food — ironically mostly the barbecue — keeps people coming back.

"That's the thing I take pride in is our barbecue," he said. "It's not like I do anything special. It's just good."

The restaurant's hamburgers, shakes and Cajun fries attract customers, too. Every burger on the menu comes fully loaded with standard vegetables and condiments. Some motorists drive through just for the 99 cent sweet tea brewed fresh each morning.

Hamburger Express

573-335-4442

902 William St.

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