Hamburger Express Like Blue Hole?

Someone mentioned that the Hamburger Express drive-in at the corner of William and Pacific had barbecue sandwiches that tasted like the legendary Blue Hole Garden’s sandwiches that are the standard against which all barbecues are judged by us old locals.

I had driven past the red and white-striped building scores of times but couldn’t recall ever stopping in. It was time to give Hamburger Express a shot.

I’m not a food critic

Let’s get something clear right up front. This isn’t going to be a food review like my food editor friend Jan Norris would write. My knowledge of cooking is limited. If Wife Lila isn’t brewing up dinner, my contribution is to reach for the stack of carry-out menus next to the phone. They’re located IN the kitchen. That’s close enough to cooking for me.

Impression of the Hamburger Express BBQ

I ordered a brown (outside) pork sandwich served on toast, with fries and a Dr. Pepper.

  • It has twice the meat, at least, of a Wib’s sandwich.
  • The sauce is sweet-tasting, but not objectionably so. I like a little more heat in my sauce, but not much more.
  • I prefer less sauce on the sandwich. It shouldn’t drip.
  • It’s not a Blue Hole BBQ sandwich. Their sauce was lighter, slightly hotter and more vinegary.
  • I’d do it again. I vote Wib’s for taste, but Hamburger Express for value.

Jumbo burger a landmark

If you can’t place the location, you can see St. Mary’s Cathedral in the distance off to the east. Knaup Floral is across the street on Pacific. The greenhouses are gone, but the florist is still there.

Ribs and homemade sauce

After having a pork sandwich for lunch, I decided to try the St. Louis Cur Ribs for dinner. There was a lot of meat on the bone, it was tender and it was smokey tasting.

The ribs are served dry, with sauce on the side. I usually prefer it that way. I like to taste the meat, and too many places overdo the sauce. Overall, another good value for the buck. I wasn’t crazy about their Cole Slaw, but that’s a personal preference.

The only real drawback is that it’s take-out only (if you don’t count a picnic table outside in front). I like to eat my food while it’s hot and the bread isn’t soggy.

Manager Brad Jackson said the sauce is their own brew and that the place had been open about 22 years.

I won’t wait another 22 years to eat there. After all, Wibs is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

28 Replies to “Hamburger Express Like Blue Hole?”

  1. You need to check out Cooks in Jackson across from Pioneer Orchard for the best Bar-B-Ques in Jackson. Much more meat than Wibs

    They make a real good Pork Burger also for only $2.00.

  2. ….good choice, my Mom and dad discovered this place several years ago and I still eat there when I am in Cape.
    You are correct the sandwiches are a great value and pretty good, not in the same league as the Blue Hole, but still pretty good in their own way.
    Most of the time the plac eis run by college kids and service is spotty, but they are always freindly and get you what you need…I will have lunch there next week and let you know how it was this time!

    1. The gal who waited on me was friendly and showed me a package deal that saved more money than the coupon I was going to use.

      A couple of neighborhood kids were fooling around doing faux karate moves in front of the order window and the workers inside were amused, not irritated.

      I’ll give service a thumbs-up.

  3. There is also Estes Deli & BBQ on Main St in Jackson, where the old Pizza hut used to be. They are as close to a Blue Hole BBQ I have ever found and they have more meat then Wib’s and also great homemade pimento cheese. Their ribs are really good also.

  4. If you want to taste barbecue on toast, Hamburger Express is a good place to go. The barbecue isn’t as good as I remember getting at the Blue Hole, but it’s not bad. For people who live in Cape now, I have a question about Dexter’s, which was written up in the Chicago Tribune as a place offering ‘great’ barbecue. I’ve never been there, and I’m wondering if I should put it on my “to-do” list for my next trip to Cape.

  5. Yes, add Dexter’s to your “to do list”…good BBQ with a nice sauce. I like the chopped on a bun, but what do I know.

    I have never been to Jackson so maybe the next trip up I will TRY Wib’s. Kenny seems to think it is good.
    Shemwell’s in Cairo is pretty good.

    Shemwell’s Barbecue
    · (618) 734-0165
    1102 Washington Ave, Cairo, IL 62914 : Near the intersection of Washington Ave and 11th St it it right on the main drag thru town…

    But the best or maybe the near best is in
    · Sugar’s Ribs – BBQ Chattanooga, TN

    Sugar’s Ribs is for the purist BBQ fan, like an old fashion, roadside BBQ but in a comfortable setting with a great view of the surrounding mountains and downtown Chattanooga. Great View with fired orka, cornbread, corn on the cob all the time. Cigar smoking on the back deck with great view of Lookout Mtn. in the sunset…Wow!
    I will be there on Friday…passing thru…anyone want to meet me for dinner?

    That is it on BBQ…Floridian’s do not have clue on BBQ’s, strange (and sad) but true…

    1. Cairo used to have two good places.

      I ate at Shemwell’s when I went shooting down there in the spring. I’m not sure it’s as good as it once was, but, then, neither am I.

      Mack’s was at the north end of town. I liked it better than Shemwell’s, but it’s been closed for at least five years.

    2. Agree on Florida being a black hole for BBQ. I usually go to Park Avenue BBQ in the Palm Beach County area. If you can’t get Cape barbecue, it’ll do.

      Kid Matt is the one who is on a constant search for good barbecue.

      When I lived in NC, I couldn’t quite adapt to chopped barbecue and their sauces. Not bad, just different.

      1. If you’re in Orlando, Keller’s Real Smoked Bar-B-Q is a solid choice. They started in (way) South Florida, sold their recipe to O’Boys (see below) and then retired. Once their O’Boys non-compete was over (several years), they decided to get back in the BBQ business. I’m glad they did.

        Once my favorite — now an also-ran — is O’Boys BBQ, also with locations all over Central Florida. For three or four years, I ate lunch at O’Boys at least twice a week. Alas, the hostess who always moved me to the front of the line with a wink — bypassing the 20-minute wait — was hit by a car and died. I miss Amy, but I miss my priority seating more.

        Whenever in Orlando, I like to hit Keller’s and PR’s Taco Palace. When Dad posts about all the great, historic Cape Mexican restaurants, I’ll expand on PR’s. In the meantime, if you’re in Orlando, be sure to order the chicken fundido with some diablo sauce tossed in for an extra kick.



    Sauce that is…. Billie (Brenneke) Haupt still makes the recipe in her father’s original VAT. She used to stock it in ESICARS SMOKED MEATS but the new owners can’t/won’t carry it because in is home made and not FDA approved.
    You can call Billie at 573-334-1944 and place an order for a quart or more (about $3.00)and pick it up at her home in Egypt Mills or she will bring it to town on her next trip in.
    We are never without a couple quarts and the brothers usually stock up anytime they are in town.

    1. After reading the Brune article Re; Blue Hole Sauce ,I’m on a new Quest to see if I have found the Holy Grail of BBQ sauce. I left Cape in 1960 and have lived in OH,DE,PA,and now retired in NC so you know what I have had to quence my BBQ thirst.Cross your fingers for me.

  8. We’ve gone to the Hamburger Express for years when visiting Cape — but other than serving the meat on bread, I don’t think it can be compared to the Blue Hole. It’s good, though.

  9. Sorry to hear you’re cooking-impaired. Although my food isn’t always as good as the restaurants’ (they do it for a LIVING and get lots more practice), it’s fun to play around in the kitchen and I usually like the results. I haven’t bought barbecue sauce in a bottle in decades and am looking forward to smoking a ham and turkey or two over the holidays.

  10. I live in a BBQ desert. Cleveland is great for Eastern European food, but BBQ here means burning meat on a grill and drowning it in “BBQ” sauce.

    I was in a sears recently looking at the grills (all gas) and spotted smoker. A guy there asked me what it was for!!! I told him it was the gateway to paradise.

    I could use a care package from Cape–Dexter’s preferred.

  11. And then, for real gourmands, there is the Temple of BBQ, the legendary Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City. I made a pilgrimage a few weeks ago (for that and other reasons) and Bryant’s remains only mildly unchanged (Health Department wet blankets) from 1928 or 1934 or whenever it opened. On a beautiful Saturday morning the line of probably 50 people or more snaked out the door. One can still get some great burnt ends, a big dill pickle and the coldest beer a frosted mug can hold. Corner of 18th and Brooklyn, not far from 12th Street and Vine.

  12. You make this fish and chicken only eater’s mouth water with that first picture. I guess we have to do a gourmets bicycle tour of Missouri someday, right before I die of a massive stroke. I’m not ready yet.

  13. The name of the place on Morgan Oak was the Dairy Bell. Hank Vogelsang operated it. His sister was Mildred Vogelsang the librarian at Central. We lived across the street from them on Meriwether. It was only open in the summer but had the best mince BBQ. You could take some home and had enough meat to make another sandwich out of each one. They also had great ice cream; the color was more of a yellow and had a real good taste to it. Jimmy and Janie, class of 62 worked there for their parents during the summer. I think it was a car lot the last time I was by there but it has been a while. I do miss them and their BBQ. I do miss them and their BBQ.

  14. Hamburger Express will get my vote for the simple reason they put one of my campaign yard signs in front of their business way back in the summer and I think it was the only one in town that was never stolen. Also I don’t even know the owners. One of my hard workers asked if they could put the sign there and they responded in the affirmative. My family will be extra good customers from now on. I think their BBQs are pretty good most days. Lots more meat than Wibs!!

  15. You all know, we have left out one of Capes finest B-BQ spots, “The Barn” on old south Kingshighway. Barbque, and a cold choc. milk in a glass bottle was some of the very best! They also sold fireworks in a little stand back in a swamp (that was out of city limits.) Really a neat ole place!

  16. Let the memory linger as well of the fine sliced BBQ on toast that was served at the original Town Pump, first on Broadway near Water Street, then at its current location, but long before it went ‘upscale’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *