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And the Burger Giveth Life

Conway's Red Top burgers -- more than just a meal



True story: My friend Angie was saved from mutilation and certain death by a Red Top hamburger. Traveling along Academy Boulevard on a rainy night, Angie had just left Conway's with a to-go order and was sitting in the passenger seat of a luxury van, one of those velvet swiveling captain's chair jobs that were so hot in the '80s. She had just unwrapped her full-size gigantoburger when the idiot in front of them braked short and tried to make a turn. The van slammed into the car, and Angie, being small and unbuckled (tsk, tsk), suddenly became very intimate with the windshield. No one was killed, but the driver and other passengers ended up ingesting shards of glass, which also gave them some hairy lacerations.

The only person to come out of the accident unscathed was Angie. The position of her hands had caused her to mash her face into the burger upon impact, and the bun shielded her from the debris. The paramedics found her covered in ketchup and mustard, and aside from a few scratches and a little bit of shock, she was fine.

Which just goes to show, one is not just a meal, as the slogan goes. It's a safety device. It's a protector of the innocent. It is the burger that giveth life.

Anyone who has eaten at Conway's Red Top probably already knows the story -- it's printed on the back of the menu -- of how N. F. Conway filled in for a sick waiter in 1944 and ended up buying the business in 1962. Ten Conway kids later, the business is doing nothing less than stretching its greasy, cheesy goodness in every direction, with four locations open and a beer and wine license pending. Red Top is mentioned in all the restaurant guides, has been voted the best burgers in the country by supercritic column Taste of America and has been voted best burgers in town by Indy readers every year since the inception of our Best Of survey in '94.

The reason? The Conway family takes food seriously. When companies grow, often some of the little touches are eradicated for efficiency's sake, but not here. No way. Every day a giant mound of taters is peeled and sliced into fries in the kitchen. Each hamburger pattie -- and we're talking 9 or 10 inches across here -- is made by hand from real, never-been-frozen beef. The beef is supplied by a local packager whose process is new to the U.S., and removes more of the nasty things in red meat (like e. coli) than traditional rendering. The buns are made in Pueblo especially for Conway's, and are toasted golden brown before being piled with crisp veggies and melted cheese. For under six bucks you get the entire statuesque sandwich, but the lightweights among us can order "more than half," a smaller version of the oval creation.

But you don't want to do that. What you want to do is make sure you get the full-size burger, chicken or steak sandwich, and maybe some of Grandma Esther's Navy Bean Soup for good measure, because you never know when the only thing standing between you and death, is the simple, life-saving food in your hands.

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