Patty Cake

I once stood right here and watched President Gerald Ford ride by.

My folks are in San Diego this week.  They’re visiting Mom’s sister Tootie.  My family lived there in the 70’s when my Coast Guard father (now retired) was stationed at the tiny downtown airbase.

This is the whole thing–just the rectangle below the freeway.

I wasn’t crazy about living there.  Although to be perfectly honest, I was in junior high at the time, and it’s the nature of the adolescent beast to ooze ennui regardless of circumstance.

But for vacations, San Diego is practically perfect.

The weather is consistently amazing.  Geographically they’re right next to many different beaches, and within an hour or so of Mexico, the desert, or snow-capped mountains.

san diego

San Diego offers a ton of stuff to do, as well.  Among them are shopping, dining, lots of funky little tourist districts, Lego Land, two professional sports teams, whale-watching, sky-diving, and the renowned San Diego Zoo.

But my very favorite place in all of San Diego is Balboa Park.

It's OK...just exhale slowly.

It’s OK…just exhale slowly.

It’s as if the Smithsonian, New York’s Central Park, and the Old Globe Theater had a California love child.  The Spanish Colonial architecture is literally breathtaking.  There are performance spaces and multiple museums.  They have a little street of cottages staffed with people from all over the world who happily share their culture.  You could literally spend two weeks in town and never leave this awesome place.  I think it’s a terrific model for Raleigh to look to when making plans for the Dix hospital property.

I told Mom not to bring us anything because they already do too much for us.  But I did ask her to visit our old neighborhood of Claremont.  We often ate at a joint called Troy’s Family Restaurant, which happily, is still in business

I requested that Mom go and indulge in something we both love.

At Troy’s I had my very first patty melt.  Like chocolate and caramel, buttered rice and peas, and bacon with anything, a patty melt is the very definition of gestalt; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  And even better, the components can be tweaked with no loss of quality and deliciousness.

Classic patty melt

1 ½-2 pounds 80/20 hamburger

8 slices Swiss cheese

2 large yellow onions, sliced into half-moons and slowly sautéed ‘til golden

8 slices seeded rye

4 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

patty melt

Make 4 patties and mold them into the same shape as the bread, but about 20% larger all around (the meat will shrink while cooking).  Make a slight depression in the center so that when cooked, it stays flat.  Season and cook in a medium-high skillet 5-7 minutes on each side.  Remove and wipe out pan.

Construct sandwiches: Layer cheese, onions, burger, more onions, and the second piece of cheese (cheese is your sandwich glue).

Turn burner to medium-low.  Place 2 tablespoons butter into pan and swirl to coat bottom.  Place sandwiches into pan and cover (if pan is too small for 4, do two at a time or use 2 pans).  Cook 6-8 minutes until bottom bread is toasted and bottom cheese is melty.  Flip, add rest of the butter, and toast second side. 

Any of the ingredients can be changed.  Mix chiles with the onions for some heat.  Switch out the bread or cheese; I’m usually a sourdough/cheddar girl.  Tonight we had chicken kale burgers and provolone on multi-grain bread.  It all depends on mood and pantry.

*Disclaimer: I absolutely promise this column was not provided by the San Diego visitors’ council.  It’s just by me, The Enthusiastic Melty Cheese and Burger Eater’s Council.

Thanks for your time.

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