It's just one man's opinion, but our culture started to unravel when drive-thru burger restaurants started offering everything but burgers on the menu.

We're not here today to discuss cholesterol, super-sizing or even why we often add a Diet Coke to the end of an order to make us feel better. This is about the good old American hamburger.

If nothing else on this January morning, it might allow you to downshift for a slow drive down memory lane without causing too much heartburn.

Driver-in burger joints really became popular in the '60s. Americans loved their cars as well as their hamburgers. Why not make it as convenient as possible to marry beef, buns and bucket seats? The straws, napkins, bags and empty cups were merely the collateral damage of a family trip to the favorite family pit-stop.

Everyone had a favorite burger place. It's also a good bet everybody in the car already knew what they wanted without looking at a menu.

Want fries with that?

Around Charleston, there were a number of just such places. In North Charleston, Robert's on Rivers Avenue was a hot spot. In Moncks Corner, Little Berkeley cornered the market. In Charleston, The Holly House and Piggy Park served families and hungry teenagers burgers, fries and shakes for years.

In Mount Pleasant, the Patio served that purpose.

There was no attempt to be anything but what it was. And no real, self-respecting burger joint would think of also offering fried chicken, pizza or a taco salad.

Do what you do and do it right, right? That's always been my feeling about such matters.

Little extras were sometimes important. A frosted mug for the root beer or lightly battered onion rings might be a nice touch, but the burger was the reason the stop was made to begin with.

Recently, I read about Seattle's locally owned most popular burger restaurant, Dick's.

Esquire magazine called it the "most life-changing burger joint in America." They don't seem to buy into the "have it your way" approach to food service.

They only accept cash, no electronic payment is available. And the cashiers won't allow a customer to order a variation on a particular burger's preparation. I got'cha special sauce right here!

Hold the cheese

It's crazy how competitive the burger restaurants have become. And the effort by many of them to become all things to all people's tastes sometimes leaves them with no identity at all.

It starts in the morning with the sausage biscuits. There's a mid-morning melt into lunch time when the burger menu somehow also might include a sub sandwich, a taco or a salad.

Some are now keeping the drive-thru open all through the night for selected items. Like I said, it's competitive and you can be sure the folks under the golden arches are keenly aware of the prices and items available from the guys across the street.

Before you try to figure out how many sesame seeds are on that bun, take a moment to remember those days when wrapping your hands around that juicy hamburger felt so good.

The essence of what made it so tasty was its basic goodness. The fries didn't have to be curly and the mustard definitely not gourmet.

Sometimes, whether at the drive-thru menu, or just in general, we overwhelm ourselves with so many options we lose sight of what simply is good.

Reach Warren Peper at