Saturday, October 5, 2013


I know that Dirty Martin's Kumbak Place, the venerable hamburger dive/joint on Guadalupe just north of the UT campus, has a menu. I'm sure they do. Every restaurant does. It's just that I've never had to look at it.

That's because I've ordered the exact same thing every time I've eaten there in the last forty plus years. Judy and I dined there last night before attending a production of DIAL M FOR MURDER on the UT campus and I had what I always have: an OT Special (double cheeseburger with bacon, mayo, lettuce and tomato), onion rings and a cherry Coke. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The first time I went to Dirty's was when I was in junior high school. My brother and I, along with a couple of his buddies, had gone to see a movie one night. I cannot recall what movie or where we saw it but I do know that after the show, we stopped in at Dirty's for a late night burger. We sat at the counter and watched Wesley (the grill cook that seemed to work there forever) cook our burgers. You can't get any fresher than that. And it was love at first bite for me when I ate my first Dirty's burger. I've been eating there on a semi-regular basis ever since.

When I was in high school, those of us lucky enough to have a car could leave campus for a forty-five minute lunch break. One day, my friend Smiley (Robert Morgan) and I decided to go to lunch in his car. I said, "Let's go to Dirty's." He said, "What's Dirty's?" I said, "Just drive, I'll get us there."

 When we pulled up in the parking lot, Smiley exclaimed, "Oh, you mean the Koom Bock place!"

"The what?" I asked.

"The Koom Bock, just like it says on the sign," he said, pointing at the white and green banner that reads "Martin's Kumbak place."

"That's pronounced come back, " I said, "not Koom Bock. What in the hell did you think a Koom Bock was?"

"I don't know," he said. "I just know they have good hamburgers here"

And they do. Dirty's, a ramshackle,cramped building on a spit of land where two streets form a 'Y", has been serving hamburgers to UT students, alumnus and Austinites since 1926. They've cleaned the place up quite a bit since I first started going there. They've increased the seating capacity and added several flat screen televisions. I don't know that they've changed the grease though and that's a good thing because a Dirty's burger is a thing of beauty, a dripping, greasy masterpiece of the art of the hamburger.

After a UT home football game when I was in college, I was at Dirty's with my buddies Steve Cook and Terry Porter. We were waiting to meet up with our pal Ray Kohler, who was one of Bertha's Boys in the Longhorn Band. While we were waiting at a picnic table outside, we were "befriended" by a drunken derelict who shared such gems of wisdom with us as the fact that Lubbock policemen (UT had just beaten Texas Tech) don't like Toyotas and that instead of hanging out at Dirty's, all three of us should be at Scholz Garten "getting some pussy." We declined his advice and departed as soon as Ray got there.

When Judy and I got married in 2005, we hired a great photographer named Mark Gaynor to shoot all of our wedding photos. In our initial meeting with him he told us that he liked to shoot wedding pictures that are different and original if possible. I looked him in the eye and asked, "Could you shoot my groomsmen pictures at Dirty's?"

"Sure," he said without missing a beat.

And so, on the afternoon of my wedding day, my groomsmen and I all gathered in the parking lot of Dirty's for group pictures. It was only one great moment of a great day.

That's how much I love Dirty's.

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