Crown Burger And The Case For Kitsch

Tucked away on Highland Drive in Salt Lake’s east side is the city’s finest Crown Burger.

It’s neither the only Crown Burger in Salt Lake City, seven franchises dot the valley from Layton to West Valley, nor is it the first Crown Burger. That honor belongs to the 200 South location.

It’s not even that the Highland Drive Crown Burger has the best food. Every Crown Burger location I’ve visited, which is all of them, has the same spectacular fare.

The pastrami burger has been known to make grown men weep, or at least the grown man to whom I’m married. But even the less-exciting, slightly healthier cheeseburger is one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve ever had. A single square of cheddar (or maybe American? I don’t actually know?) cheese perfectly melts onto a not-overwhelming-just-rightly-seasoned patty whose drippings have seeped into the shredded iceberg lettuce, making it a tiny bit wilty and wonderfully salty.

Also, they serve greek food.

I assume this is because the founders of Crown Burger were Greek. I did zero research for this story, but that seems right.

The gyro is just as delicious as the pastrami burger, which is just as delicious as the oreo shake, which is just as delicious as the onion rings. You really can’t go wrong at Crown Burger. But again, this is true of every location, and not what makes the Highland Drive Crown Burger the brightest star in the fast food constellation.

No, what makes the Highland Drive Crown Burger so special is its commitment to decor, the theme of which can best be described as King Arthur-era Revelry. Think the buffoons in the Sword In The Stone Castle or Monty Python and The Holy Grail in its entirety, mixed with the French Revolution and a dash of Parthenon, you know, because Greek. Again, no research done, but it doesn’t matter, because we’re not here to talk facts or history. We’re here today to talk about just HOW HARD the Crown Burger design team went on the restaurant interior, a truth that’s apparent as soon as you walk through the “stained glass” entrance.

This appears to be an homage to Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and grapes. It makes no sense and I want it in my house.

After you walk through those doors you’ll notice, to your delight, that every corner of this place holds era-ambiguous, origin-unknown, slightly gothic trappings.
Like the stag cuckoo clock next to the Coke Freestyle machine:

Or the gargoyle watching over the condiment dispenser:

Or the sconce featuring a xylophone on a jug:

Speaking of lighting, every fixture looks like it was purchased at an estate sale after the death of an eccentric recluse who lived on the edge of town in one of those mysterious southern states like Louisiana.

Maybe deep Mississippi? I dunno. You get it.

Why yes, that is a knight holding a terracotta pot full of fake ivy to the right of the haunted pineapple candelabra.

There’s also ivy cascading from the skylights, which are HIGH in the vaulted ceilings. Getting up there could not have been easy, but Crown Burger isn’t about easy. It’s about big moods and leaving no corner unadorned.

Which brings us to the Highland Drive Crown Burger pièce de résistance– the fireplace, located in the center of the restaurant.

That’s a real fire. And real, albeit dead, pheasants. Maybe you missed the pheasants, which is completely understandable. There’s a lot going on.

This pheasant nests amongst your corsage from junior prom and a festive holiday garland. Because less is less, guys:

And this one spends eternity slamming into rocks because birds are, in fact, very stupid:

Next, we have the lion who just saw its first bodacious lady lion, carved beneath the mantel:

There are two of these, actually, one on each side, which means there must be two bodacious lady lions afoot.

There’s a kerosene lantern, and I have to wonder if the fire hazard is worth the aesthetic effect.

Just kidding, of course it is.

There’s a crown, because Crown Burger,

precariously supporting what must be a pheasant nest, surrounded by more deconstructed Christmas wreath, which is not seasonal, mind you. This photo was taken in April.

And then there’s the tapestry:

Is it biblical? A depiction of the Garden of Eden evacuation? Where else would a hungry lion, if that is a lion, let a goat, if that is a goat, munch on flowers unscathed? Plus there’s a snake. And fruit trees. So.

Is it sexual? If it is, she’s not into it.

Is it political? Sure, the flags are the same,

but perhaps there was a seemingly irreparable fracture in the Kingdom of Three Moons and the only thing that brought the two ideologically opposite sides together was the gift of a giant python that lives in a tiny treasure chest.

These are all questions that arise after just a cursory glance, and can be pondered over a #3 burger, fries and medium beverage.  And tell me, where else can you appreciate fine art and fry sauce simultaneously?

But maybe you’re not into kitsch. I see you and I hear you, even if I don't understand you and think you're missing the best of what life has to offer. You should know that the Highland Drive Crown Burger has a drive-thru, so you may enjoy your pastrami burger or gyro or both with nary a single candelabra sighting.

But you should also know that if you choose the drive-thru, you will miss the gumball machine at the restaurant exit, whereon someone stenciled “Hey Ace, you got anymore of that gum?"

It's a quote from 1994’s Ace Ventura Pet Detective, I guess.

This stenciled gum ball machine baffles me even more than the tapestry. I’ve often wondered what led to its existence in the Highland Drive Crown Burger. The most likely scenario I’ve imagined is that someone in a position of power at Crown Burger saw Ace Ventura in 1994, latched on to that quote, bought a gum ball machine, and then stenciled their new favorite quote on the gum ball machine for customers’ enjoyment, because why the hell not? Why the hell not seems to be the Highland Drive Crown Burger mantra. And that, my fellow Utah burger connoisseurs, is what makes it the brightest star in the fast food constellation.