Have you ever tried a slugburger? No, it's not the latest example of the bug-eating trend. A slugburger is a type of hamburger found mostly in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. While some Depression-era foods used up every part of an animal, the Southern slugburger instead made the ground beef go farther by adding other ingredients.
Sure, the best burgers are 100 percent ground meat, but during the Great Depression meat was a luxury, so people stretched it as far as they could. Slugburgers started off as a mixture of beef and potato flakes or potato flour, though today, it tends to be soy grits or soy flour that make up the rest of the burger.
The burger patty is thin so that when it's fried in vegetable oil, the outside gets crispy while the inside stays soft. It's generally served on a hamburger bun with French's mustard, raw onions and sometimes dill pickles.
How the Slugburger got its name
According to the Southern Foodways Alliance, the story goes that John Weeks got the recipe from a German immigrant; he then brought the burger to Corinth, Mississippi. Starting in 1917, he and his four brothers opened mobile hamburger stands across the lower Tennessee Valley and sold this sandwich as a "Weeksburger."
Their main customers were farmers and factory workers, people who didn't have a lot of money or time to sit down for lunch at a full-service restaurant. The Weeksburgers sold for a five cents--which is where the name slugburger likely comes from. Slug is a slang term for a nickel, thus the burger that cost a nickel became a slugburger.
There are a couple of other stories about how the burger got its name, including one that states that overeating these burgers will make you feel like you've been slugged in the stomach. Some wags also called them wishburgers, as in "I wish these burgers had more meat in them."
Where to Find Slugburgers
You might think that the end of the Depression would have seen the end of slugburgers, but inexpensive food never really goes out of style. In fact, there's an annual Slugburger Festival in Corinth. You can still find Weeksburgers or slugburgers on the menu at White Trolley Café and Borroum's Drug Store in Corinth and at Weeks Diner (owned by Willie Weeks, a nephew of John Weeks) in Boonesville, Mississippi.
If you have the chance to try a slugburger, one piece of advice: Eat it while it's hot. The other legend behind the name says that when the burgers get cold, they start to resemble the slimy creature.
This article was originally published on Aug 8, 2019.