Monday, June 25, 2007

Beef-a-Roo


I oftentimes find myself craving Beef-a-Roo like a compulsive drug addict craves his next high. Beef-a-What? Don't let the name scare you. Beef-a-Roo is my all-time favorite fast food joint. No pun intended. Luckily, I had the opportunity to stop at the most recently built South Beloit location for dinner during a road trip this past Friday night. I ordered the usual: Deluxe Junior Cheeseburger, Cheddar Fries, Big Cookie, and a Cherry Coke. Tasty.

Beef-a-Roo began in Rockford in 1967. Since then, the local operation has expanded to nine northern Illinois locations, all of which feature a theme that is carried out in the restaurant’s design and d├ęcor. Themes include Rock N’Roll, Firehouse, and North Woods Lodge Beef-a-Roo.

Over the course of my adolescent years, I dined at Beef-a-Roo hundreds of times. Usually, I frequented the Rock N’Roll themed diner on Riverside Boulevard. The menu features many fast food staples like burgers, sandwiches, shakes, and fries, but also lots of healthy alternatives such as wraps, salads, Boca burgers, and fruit plates. My mom and I were always obsessed with the Junior Cheeseburger and Cheddar Fries. I also very much enjoyed the California Club when I was feeling like something a bit healthier. Beef-a-Roo also has the most amazing bled of season salt that I generously sprinkle all over my fries. I think there’s crack cocaine in the “special salt,” and I’m a total junkie. Luckily, you can purchase your very own stash in a small paper bag to bring home and sprinkle on everything. I think they started offering this opportunity for buying in bulk once they noticed that all of the salt shakers were rapidly disappearing from tables. Another very unique and loved aspect of Beef-a-Roo is that they employ a “mint fairy” who goes from table to table to offer a smile and a mint— your choice of peppermint or chocolate.

When I was in high school, we had open campus for all except my senior year. For three years over the lunch hour, all of my friends and I would pile into one of our cars and speed off in search of cheap and greasy grub. That is if our recently acquired and somewhat questionably licensed driving skills could get us there, which wasn't always the case. When we weren’t dining at one of our other favorites, like Little Caesars or “Deek” (Dairy Queen), you could usually find our caravan at Beef-a-Roo, which we affectionately referred to as “Beef.”

When I finally went away to college, leaving my life in Rockford for good, I was luckily never too far away and could return to my cherished Beef-a-Roo at least a few times per year. Since I conveniently passed through Rockford on many road trips during college, many of my college friends came to know and love Beef-a-Roo. At first I had to force them to stop since they were utterly appalled by the name, but they quickly changed their tune and learned the true meaning of “you can’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it”. And whenever my high school friends and I are back in town, like for weddings or Buffett, one of our first stops is always “Beef.” Last November, when we were all back in town for my friend Beth’s wedding, a few of us met there to catch up over milk shakes and cheddar fries. Beef will have a special place in my heart forever.

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