Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blame It On Cain’s (Tulsa Road Trip 9/09, Part 3)

Never say die.

Robert: As previously recounted, I'm a Whatafarm veteran, but Shaw, Jeff and Ryan had never tackled one -- so before embarking upon the arduous drive home, we headed to Whataburger.

Shaw: In preparation, I drew up a new Whatafarm diagram that included the full complement of Whataburger toppings. We figured giving them that would be easier than saying “I want a burger -- add chicken, bacon, fried egg and anything else you can throw on there.”

Robert: Except fish. No fish.

Shaw: Spirits were high as we pulled into the parking lot, even though the Whataburger that Ryan's GPS led us to seemed a little sketchy. Chatting about the domination soon to be taking place, we ran into one of the managers walking to her car, and showed her the diagram to confirm we weren't going to get any static. Impressed yet also clearly relieved that she was now off duty, she said making us Whatafarms shouldn't be a problem -- and then promptly sped away.

Once inside, following Robert's pre-established protocol, I stepped up to the counter, looked the employee dead in the eye, slid the diagram across the counter and said, “We'd like four of these, please.”

Robert: Your form was 100% correct. For the life of me, I can't figure out what it was that threw this particular Whataburger into total chaos.

Shaw: The diagram caused much commotion and umpteen looks of horror. Eventually every Whataburger staffer was up at the counter. All except one.

They took our diagram to the back, and a couple of minutes later a guy -- I'm not sure if he was the head manager or what -- emerged and said, “I'm sorry, we can't make that.”

Robert: Whaa? Excuse me? What do you mean? You can't? Or you won't?

Shaw: We asked for an explanation, and he just repeated, a little more sternly I might add, “I'm sorry, sir. We can't make that.”

Robert: Come on! It’s not like it's made out of unicorn! You've got everything you need right there!

Shaw: At this time, I will point out the irony of the current Whataburger campaign: “Customize Your Burger.”

Robert: So we did the only logical thing. We piled back into the car and went in search of another Whataburger.

Shaw: There was some anxiety in the air, since we were running out of time before 11:00, when breakfast hours end and you can't get a fried egg anymore. The egg is critical to the equation! If you don't get an egg, then you're just some jerk with a fried chicken-burger-bacon-cheese sandwich.

Turned out there was no need to worry -- this location looked like the crown jewel of the Whataburger empire, and when we showed the crew what we wanted, they were excited to join us on our adventure. They even asked if they could make a copy of our diagram.

Robert: Not to mention they gave us free fountain drinks after hearing the sordid tale of how we were turned away at the other Whataburger.

Shaw: When our four Whatafarms arrived, the table supports audibly creaked. This thing is just as much of a beast as you think it is.

The first bite is almost overwhelming, a dancing assortment of flavor, but thanks to a sound structure the Whatafarm quickly settles into a nice balance. About halfway through, I started slowing down. By the end I had a little sweat going, yet I still powered through and finished proud. Also a little regretful, but mostly proud.

Robert: Indeed, I'm proud to report that we all finished our Whatafarms. As we were wrapping up, the general manager came over and chatted with us for a couple of minutes. He apologized again for our experience at the sketchy Whataburger, and gave us kudos on our refusal to give up on a dream.

While I don't know if he'd want to see his name on Lunch Blog or not, it must be said that Whataburger #303's general manager deserves a raise, a promotion to corporate and full access to the Whatajet, which I'm not sure is a real thing but if it isn't it certainly should be. Whataburger bigwigs, please email me and we can let you know who your #1 employee is and sing his praises even more.

Shaw: Everything about the food and service here was topnotch -- I couldn't be happier with the experience. It'll be awhile before I need another Whatafarm, though. Next time, I'll have to try something from the regular menu.

Robert: You should. I'd say Whataburger serves the best fast food burgers around, but to me they actually taste a step above fast food.

Smokey Ben's
Shaw: Four hours later, we stopped for barbecue. That was a truly awful idea.

Robert: Jeff, Ryan and I -- or maybe it was just me -- really wanted Hot Momma's. They're these little spicy sausages we got here on our last Tulsa road trip. One or two of them would have been a fine afternoon snack.

Shaw: But we also got ribs.

Robert: We should not have gotten ribs. They were fine, but four hours after a Whatafarm, we should not have gotten ribs.

Ill-conceived barbecue pit stop notwithstanding, it was an awesome trip. And now I'm ready to go back for another show at Cain's Ballroom. Who's up for Drive-By Truckers? How about Hank III?

Little bit of bad news, though, guys -- we totally missed the Hanson show.
The good Whataburger, not the sketchy one:
4726 East 41st Street | Tulsa, OK 74135Whataburger on Urbanspoon
Smokey Ben's:
610 West Mary Street | Yates Center KS 66783Smokey Ben's Incorporated on Urbanspoon
(Although no matter where you may find yourself, if you want a Hot Momma bad enough, Smokey Ben's will magically appear.)


  1. OK, great review, as always. Though I must point out one major error; never was the word "sir" uttered by that foul gentleman back in the kitchen at the sketchy Whataburger. I'm certain his reponse to our request was not nearly that polite. If I recall, it was simply "Naw, we can't make that!" And then a second time, but more angry. You were too kind when explaining his reaction to our order.

  2. Great write-up, gentlemen. You made me salivate all over again for the deliciousness that is Whatafarm. I've told the tale many times, but people just don't get it. They know nothing of legendary, nay, EPIC burgers.

    Here's to hoping that Wilco makes a spring stop at Cains!

  3. I remember the guy laughing as he said it, at least the first time. He seemed more stubborn than angry, with a touch of "these damn crazy kids" layered underneath.

  4. Seems to be a bit of a half Az review of Smokey Ben's, but if you like Hot Mama's your taste buds are dead and your reviews are of no value to me.