I Found the Best Burger Place in America. And Then I Killed It.

The way Stanich sees it, he has two options: he can either partner with another restaurant operator to open it back up, or he can franchise. Both options are on the table, and he needs to decide what to do, but until that time, Stanich’s will likely not re-open. And no matter what happens, in all likelihood, the Stanich’s that had been open since 1949, the Stanich’s that I fell in love with, then clumsily broke like Lenny with the rabbit in Of Mice and Men, will never be the same again.  

And that fact is the thing I can’t quite get past. That a decision I made for a list I put on the internet has impacted a family business and forever altered its future. That I have changed family dynamics and relationships. And it could very easily happen again.

I’ve been asking myself what the other side of this looks like. How do I do this better? Is there a way to celebrate a place without the possibility of destroying it? Or is this just what we are now -- a horde with a checklist and a camera phone, intent on self-producing the destruction of anything left that feels real, one Instagram story at a time?

Clearly, I don’t have an answer. I understand there are larger forces involving tourism and technology and society writ large at play here, and I’m not enough of a hypocrite to turn this into a morality play about the internet and the consequences of our actions, but maybe if we were all as kind to each other as Steve Stanich has been to me, we might just survive this apocalyptic puddle of shit we currently find ourselves in.

Before I left, Stanich told me he had one more thing to show me.

He walked me out behind the office to the vast green of the Rose City Cemetery. There, not more than twenty five yards away, lay the graves of his parents, George and Gladys Stanich. As we stood and stared down at the black gravestone, Stanich told me a story about how his parents had started the restaurant in 1949 to help pay hospital bills after he was born prematurely. He was wistful and philosophical and clearly in pain, but it wasn’t a pain he wanted to reveal to me in detail, and I wasn’t one to ask anything of Steve Stanich except forgiveness, so I tried again to apologize for putting in motion a series of changes he wasn’t asking for. He looked at me for the first time since we were out at his parents grave, and gave a quick nod, then he started to hobble off back towards the restaurant.

He’d forgotten, he said, to close it back up.