Gun Smoke: The 10-Year-Old Burger
Maybe a decade ago, I used to be a regular at Gun Smoke. And if you’re in your mid-twenties, you were probably there too. I revisited my childhood sweetheart recently to see if old flames die hard. They do.
You see, winters bring the bloodthirsty carnivore out of me. When I get my red meat cravings, you’ll usually find me chiefing a double stack burger in a not-so-discreet corner of a new restaurant every week. I tend to get creative too, though Gun Smoke was one of the last places that crossed my mind.
Images of the original branch located on M. M. Alam Road, circa 2008.
Throwing it Way Back
I remember swishing around salt-rimmed, king-sized beer mugs overflowing with Ultimate Margaritas. There were peanut shells, growing like weeds in neglected corners. The waiters used to slam steaks and burgers onto wooden planks that served as tables, getting into fights with the unacquainted. We used to cajole Jimmy Khan into playing Radiohead and Engelbert Humperdinck, back when he wasn’t Jimmy Khan. It was a lovely little escape for people with nothing and everything to lose.
Gun Smoke in Gulberg Galleria.
All Grown Up
There was none of that there this time around. No Ultimate Margaritas, no peanut shells, no rude waiters, and certainly no Jimmy Khan. It was like Gun Smoke had grown up with me. I felt betrayed when I saw that Gun Smoke had not only cleaned up its act but was trying to sell me a whole new dining philosophy. But contrary to my expectations, it’s still some of the most scrumptious food in town. Ten. Years. Later.
Macho Nacho Fries, a starter I’ve always secretly loved. They’re not tortilla chips, hence the secrecy. But there’s something oddly delicious about fries slathered with queso and jacked up with copious amounts of veggies, minced meat, and beans. Did I say oddly? I meant boldly. Gone in a jiff.
For burgers – and it was always burgers – my go-to was the Whisky River. But like Gun Smoke, I have evolved too. This time around: Sheriff’s Cut Burger with Sharp Cheddar Cheese, hold the tomatoes. I was sold the moment I saw the grill marks on the plumpy patty, the cheese cascading to envelop the beef. It’s a strange phenomenon, describing their burgers. The buns are bright in the dimly lit interior, and the fries seasoned generously with cajun spices now come in wiry metal cages. Purnea can’t get enough of them.
Smokey, buttery and essentially straight off the grill, the burgers at Gun Smoke assure me that my choices a decade ago were warranted. Charcoal-grilled patties, there’s really no substitute. That’s something Homegrown and Gun Smoke both get right. In fact, it’s bang on point. Regular burgers can’t hold a candle to something essentially injected with liquid smoke.
The steaks at Gun Smoke make the most out of Pakistan’s extremely stubborn beef tenderloins. They are expertly trimmed to the point where they resemble filet mignons at high-end steakhouses and are juicy, tender, and cooked medium if you want. Trust me, when something carves off so easy, it’s hard to resist.
With food this good, why haven’t you been in so long? I’ll tell you.
Where’d You Go?
The thing is, you haven’t been living under a rock, Gun Smoke has. Gun Smoke dropped off the map of Lahore. Ported from the banging M. M. Alam to the ghost town that is Gulberg Galleria meant a MAJOR blow to visibility. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry conjuring up new burger joints from metaphorical magicians’ hats, too, was a sure way to dissipate customer loyalty. Couple all that with almost no marketing and you’ve got a good chance of disappearing.
Doomed, you must be thinking. Far from it.
If all this revamping wasn’t enough, Gun Smoke now offers a revamped menu too. 15 years into operations, it has expanded its offerings, foraying into new meats like mutton ribs and t-bone steaks. Their already ample sauces and flavor pairings have been supplemented by spicier, tangier options like mango habanero. Gun Smoke is what I need before I even know I need it.
Gun Smoke is a pioneer, a local legend. It’s cheap enough where you’re not going to be raising any eyebrows any time soon, and original enough to impose a personality. A long sip of nostalgia comes free of cost – the icing on the cake.
For all the heartbreak, I forgive you.