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Good Burger Is the Greatest Fake Fast Food Restaurant of All Time

 The slacker comedy still holds up 20 years later

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“Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger. Can I take your order?” For fans of classic Nickelodeon TV, hearing Kel Mitchell’s character Ed chant his catchphrase to kick off Good Burger really hits you in a nostalgic soft spot. This ’90s-era movie about a struggling burger joint and the motley crew of employees who save the restaurant from their nefarious competition, Mondo Burger, is a cult classic. It has developed such a devoted following that a 20-year-old Good Burger VHS today can cost you 60 bucks.

Part buddy movie, part food film, Good Burger, starring Mitchell and Kenan Thompson, both of the sketch show Kenan and Kel, belongs in the pantheon of great slacker flicks. It’s got the charm of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the shaggy feel of Dazed and Confused, and the fast-food fixation of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Crucially, Good Burger holds up — and if the burger restaurant it depicts were real, it would stand as one of the best fast-food joints in America.

While the Good Burger movie came out 20 years ago, the phenomenon actually began a couple of years earlier on Nickelodeon’s comedy show All That. Kel’s comically dense character Ed, a Good Burger cashier, was introduced to the world in a 1994 sketch about the burger joint. From the time he took his first order behind the counter, people couldn’t get enough of Ed, and Nickelodeon decided it was time for the big-screen treatment.

Kenan and Kel were already an established comedy duo with their eponymous hit Nickelodeon show Kenan and Kel, and Thompson would frequently make supporting appearances in the All That sketch, often portraying the straight man for Kel to play off. His Good Burger film character is in a similar vein: Dexter is funny, no doubt, but Ed is the star of the movie.

In the film, Ed’s antics frequently turn away customers, but the special sauce he concocts by chance becomes the elixir that revitalizes sales and gives Good Burger a leg up on their competition, Mondo Burger. If you want to try Ed’s secret special sauce for yourself, he actually drops a few hints about the ingredients in the movie: We know that the sauce contains pickles, salt, white onions, lemon juice, and ketchup. Someone online filled in the blanks in the recipe to replicate the sauce from the movie.

This fan-made recipe shows that people clearly wish that Good Burger were a real restaurant. But if there were a real-life Good Burger, how would it stack up against hamburger heavy hitters like In-N-Out and Five Guys? The question “What is the world’s best burger joint?” is a hotly debated subject, and everyone has their burger of choice. So let’s try to evaluate where Good Burger might stand in this discussion.

To rate Good Burger as a restaurant, you need to imagine how the establishment’s Yelp reviews might look. A Good Burger Yelp review would likely speak highly of the service speed, with fry cook Spatch flipping patties in the back like a pro. Customers in the know might also praise the staff’s dedication to the establishment. After (SPOILER ALERT) personally taking down their Mondo Burger competitors, no one would question the employees’ commitment to Good Burger. But there are definitely some negative points that Good Burger’s Yelp reviews would point out — diners would probably lose their appetites if they caught a glimpse of the cashier sticking grapes in his nose or digging a shoe out of the milkshake machine.

In reality, Good Burger wouldn’t withstand the scrutiny of a thorough restaurant health inspector. The sanitation standards are… subpar, to say the least. A health inspector probably wouldn’t take too kindly to cashier Ed diving into the milkshake machine while cleaning it. Worse still, whether or not rival burger joint Mondo Burger was at fault, the shark poison-tainted special sauce would probably cost Good Burger a few points on the inspection.

But in terms of value, Good Burger gives customers bargains for their dollar. According to the menu board, a burger, fries, and a drink cost $3.26. This was in 1997, so that would be about $4.99 in 2017 dollars. That’s slightly better than any combo deal you’d get at In-N-Out, Shake Shack, or Five Guys, especially considering the sizable portions at Good Burger.

Overall, a real-life Good Burger would have enough charm (not to mention Ed’s special sauce) to make it one of the finest places in the country to get a burger. It would make for the perfect summer hangout spot and would be an ideal late-night drunk food go-to. What Good Burger lacks in sanitation it makes up for in character: Where else would celebrities like Carmen Electra and Shaq stop by? And again, that mind-blowing sauce makes Good Burger a top-tier fast-food restaurant.

Following the success of Good Burger, Kenan Thompson kept building off of his Nickelodeon fame. He has continued to make us laugh for the last 14 years as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. In the 20 years since Good Burger, Kenan and Kel have gone down different paths in their lives. Kel, arguably the more popular of the duo during their early Nick years, hasn’t been as fortunate as Kenan in his post-Good Burger career. The pair actually almost worked on Saturday Night Live together: Kel auditioned for SNL at one point, but didn’t get a part on the show. But all is well with Kel. He welcomed a new baby last month, on the 20th anniversary of Good Burger. He’s currently back with his Nickelodeon family, starring in a Nick show called Game Shakers.

Much has been made about Kenan and Kel’s relationship since parting ways, with purported feuds and rifts between the two. But the stars contest that they remain close friends. In 2015, the actors delighted fans when they reunited on The Tonight Show for a long-awaited Good Burger reunion sketch. If Kenan and Kel’s Tonight Show sketch leaves you wanting more, or if you just need a fix of quality ’90s comedy, Good Burger is available now on Netflix. If only it were available in real life.


Jake Lauer is a writer based in New York City. Find more of his work here.
Editor: Greg Morabito

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