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Adam Wilson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND-2.0
Adam Wilson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

25 Iconic Hamburger Spots You Have to Visit

Adam Wilson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND-2.0
Adam Wilson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

Hamburgers are ubiquitous on menus across the country, but not all restaurants treat burgers with the reverence they deserve. Whether you prefer simple beef patties, loaded bacon cheeseburgers, or plant-based veggie burgers, we've got something for you. From historic fast-food joints to fancy eateries, check out these 25 iconic hamburger spots you have to visit.

1. H&F BURGER // ATLANTA, GEORGIA

cheeseburger at H&F Burger

Wally Gobetz, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Originally, the H&F Burger was a special at Atlanta gastropub Holeman and Finch, served only after 10 p.m. Because the kitchen only made two dozen of the burgers each night, just a few customers got the chance to sink their teeth into the juicy, buttery burgers. Today, though, burger lovers can order the H&F Burger—two beef patties with American cheese, red onions, and house-made pickles and ketchup—any time of day at its own Ponce City Market location, without worrying about the kitchen running out of grub.

2. AMY'S DRIVE THRU // ROHNERT PARK, CALIFORNIA

Located north of San Francisco near the 101 Freeway, Amy's Drive Thru serves organic, vegetarian fast food from scratch. Opened in 2015 by the owners of natural foods company Amy’s Kitchen, the drive-through has quickly become one of the most popular spots for veggie burgers. Try The Amy, a double veggie patty with cheese and secret sauce, and wash it down with an organic chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry milkshake.

3. THE OLDEST MCDONALD'S // DOWNEY, CALIFORNIA

Even burger elitists can’t deny the impact that McDonald’s has had on the international fast food scene. Located in Southern California, the oldest surviving McDonald's opened in the summer of 1953, almost a decade before Ray Kroc bought the company from the McDonald brothers. Because this location remained an independent restaurant until 1990, when Kroc finally acquired it, its exterior looks slightly different than a regular McDonald's (for example, there's only a single golden arch rather than the instantly recognizable double Golden Arches). But in terms of food, customers can order typical McDonald’s burgers and fries, as well as a deep-fried (rather than baked) apple pie. The store also has an impressive collection of McDonald’s ads, toys, and other memorabilia.

4. SHAKE SHACK // NEW YORK CITY

Burgers at Shake Shack in New York City

Lucas Richards, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you’ve walked through New York City’s Madison Square Park, you’ve no doubt noticed the long line of people waiting for burgers and frozen custard. In the early aughts, restaurateur Danny Meyer served hot dogs from a cart in the park before morphing his business into Shake Shack in 2004. Today, there are over 100 Shake Shack locations around the world, and hungry customers enjoy chomping down on the ShackBurger, a 100 percent all-natural Angus beef burger (sans hormones and antibiotics) on a non-GMO potato roll. Vegetarians usually order the 'Shroom Burger, an impressive heaping of portobello mushroom with melted cheddar and Muenster.

5. JIM'S DRIVE IN // LEWISBURG, WEST VIRGINIA

At Jim’s Drive In, the no-frills décor and simple food facilitate time travel, as you step back to a simpler era when curb-side service and drive-in movies were common. Located on Route 60, the restaurant has satisfied West Virginians’ stomachs and taste buds since the early 1950s. Today, you can order a variety of burgers such as the bacon cheeseburger, pizza burger, or Famous Ranch Burger.

6. TOWN TOPIC // KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI

Back in 1937, Town Topic was a small diner in downtown Kansas City that sold burgers for just a nickel. Today, the restaurant honors its culinary history by making burgers the same way as when they started—beef patties, grilled onions, and steamed buns. And you can order a single hamburger for just shy of three dollars. Still a great deal.

7. THE CHERRY CRICKET // DENVER, COLORADO

burger at the cherry cricket, denver colorado
The Cherry Cricket

Opened in 1945, The Cherry Cricket has become so legendary that not even a major fire late last year could keep patrons away. After a temporary closure, the burger and beer spot reopened in April 2017, and happy customers could once again order the popular Cricket Burger. No insects are used, fortunately; rather, it’s a Black Angus chuck patty masterpiece, complete with bacon, an over-easy egg, American cheese, and sautéed onions. They also have build-your-own options, starting with a beef, turkey, bison, or black bean burger. Toppings include everything from cream cheese or peanut butter to candied bacon and jalapeño jelly.

8. SID'S DINER // EL RENO, OKLAHOMA

Located outside of Oklahoma City, Sid's Diner is famous for its Fried Onion Burger, a one-pound patty with caramelized onions cooked into the beef. The restaurant is known to make its own spatulas out of brick trowels (which are typically used to lay mortar between bricks). Sid's takes the wedged knife end of the trowel and fuses it to a spatula, allowing chefs to flatten the top of each beef patty and press a handful of thinly sliced Spanish onions down into the meat.

9. SCHUBERG'S BAR // BIG RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

In the late 19th century, Leonard (later renamed Big Rapids) was a town full of lumberjacks, thanks to the plentiful forests. Schuberg's Bar served drinks to the locals, and over a century later, it’s now an iconic spot for hamburgers. The original Schu-Burger is a 1/3-pound chargrilled patty, topped with cheese, onion, pickles, green olives, ketchup, and mustard. For a more tangy twist on the Schu-Burger, try the Cowboy Schu, which comes with barbecue sauce and onion rings.

10. THE APPLE PAN // LOS ANGELES

The Apple Pan in Los Angeles, California

Larry Gaynor, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

Los Angelinos craving authentic diner fare and a taste of old Hollywood head to The Apple Pan in West L.A. Since 1947, the restaurant has served simple hamburgers and classic pies to customers who sit in seats (there are only 26) around the small counter. A favorite of celebrities like Warren Beatty and the Jonas Brothers, The Apple Pan still serves its burgers wrapped in paper.

11. MALLIE'S SPORTS GRILL & BAR // SOUTHGATE, MICHIGAN

At Mallie’s Sports Grill & Bar, bigger is always better. Although the restaurant serves regular half-pound burgers, their claim to fame is the 10-Pound Monster Burger. Brave customers who succeed in the Monster Challenge—eating the whole burger in under two hours—get $100 and their photo put on the restaurant’s wall of fame. Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

12. HUDSON'S HAMBURGERS // COEUR D'ALENE, IDAHO

Founded in 1907, Hudson’s Hamburgers is a family-owned diner famous for its hamburgers and cheeseburgers. Hudson’s eschews culinary trends that call for adding avocado or other more esoteric ingredients to burgers. Why mess with perfection? Although the burgers are simple creations, they come with spicy sauces and, if you want, hand-sliced pickles. Pro tip? If you play your cards right, you could get a burger and a slice of French Silk Pie for under $5.

13. GO RAMEN GO LIFE // LONG ISLAND CITY, NEW YORK

The Original Ramen burger at go ramen go life
Yelp, Liz N.

Hybrid food lovers can enjoy the novel tastes and textures of sushi burritos, spaghetti doughnuts, and of course, ramen burgers. Japanese-American chef Keizo Shimamoto introduced the Original Ramen burger in 2013. Although there have been numerous copycats, you can find the original ramen burger—in all of its savory, salty, meaty glory—at Go Ramen Go Life. Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, the noodles are boiled and formed into buns, and a USDA Prime ground beef chuck patty, along with vegetables, scallions, and a shoyu glaze round out the perfect burger.

14. DB BISTRO MODERNE // MIAMI, FLORIDA

Gourmet burgers are a specialty at this bistro in the JW Marriott Marquis hotel (there are also locations in Manhattan and Singapore). The Original db Burger will set you back $35, but it’s worth every penny. First, the chef braises short ribs for six to eight hours in red wine, stuffs them inside a sirloin burger composed of seven different cuts of meat, and lines a layer of foie gras in the burger. Then, he adds half a plump tomato, grated horseradish, and chicory. Finally, he spreads Dijon mustard on the bottom bun, which is finished with cheddar and onion seeds. Absolutely decadent and delicious.

15. THE PANTRY // SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO

This family-owned restaurant has made Southwestern-inspired American diner food since 1948. The Pantry is legendary for its Tortilla Burger, which includes a chargrilled burger patty and pinto beans wrapped in a flour tortilla. Melted cheese and a pureed red chili sauce top it off, so grab plenty of napkins.

16. LOUIS' LUNCH // NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT

Louis' Lunch exterior in New Haven, Connecticut

Adam Jones, Flickr // CC BY SA-2.0

Louis Lassen opened Louis' Lunch in 1895, and his great-grandson continues to enchant customers with the famous hamburger sandwich. The patties, a mixture of five types of meat, are hand-rolled and cooked in cast-iron, 1890s grills. Cheese, onion, and tomato round out the burger—you can truly taste history in each bite.

17. MATT’S BAR // MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA

Why put cheese on top of a burger when you can put it inside? Minneapolis residents know all about the Juicy Lucy, a hamburger with gooey cheese conveniently stuffed inside the beef patty. Matt's Bar is one of the restaurants that claim to have invented the cheesy burgers—theirs is spelled Jucy Lucy. Order one and you’re in for a seriously liquidy, savory treat.

18. THE GRIDDLE // WINNEMUCCA, NEVADA

A big blue neon sign greets customers who drive up to The Griddle. Inside, wood paneling and comfy green booths create the ideal vibe to enjoy some seriously good burgers. Although tons of people flock there for breakfast, The Griddle's burger selection is seriously impressive. Options include the Jamaican Jerk Burger, a ground chuck patty with chipotle mayo, and the Quinoa Burger, a quinoa patty with Swiss cheese and maple caramelized onions.

19. IN-N-OUT BURGER // BALDWIN PARK, CALIFORNIA

In N Out Burger

Adam Wilson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

In 1948, when Harry Snyder opened the first In-N-Out location in the San Gabriel Valley, he unknowingly started a burger revolution. The drive-thru hamburger stand differentiated itself from the competition by serving fresh meat and produce, made to order and made by hand. Snyder also introduced the two-way speaker box, allowing customers to order food without exiting their cars. Although there are now hundreds of In-N-Out stores across the southwest and west coast, you can visit a replica of the first restaurant in Baldwin Park. After you look at photos and learn about the legendary fast food company’s history, head down the street to another In-N-Out, where you can chow down on a Double-Double and animal style fries.

20. DYER'S BURGERS // MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

Located across from Handy Park, Dyer's Burgers has been a legendary burger spot since it opened in 1912. Beef patties are fried in a top-secret cooking grease, which imparts a rich flavor and pleasant juiciness to the burger. Order Dyer’s Triple Triple, a burger composed of three patties, three slices of cheese, onions, pickle, and mustard.

21. MATT'S PLACE DRIVE-IN // BUTTE, MONTANA

Back in 1930, Matt Korn opened a drive-in that he named, straightforwardly, Matt’s Place. In 1943, Korn sold his drive-in to a former carhop employee and her husband. Today, their daughter and her husband run the restaurant and stay true to its roots, with a soda fountain and authentic '50s Coca-Cola machine on display. Their most famous burger, the Nutburger, is a beef patty topped with a spread of—wait for it—crushed peanuts and Miracle Whip. Once you try it, you’ll immediately understand its appeal.

22. THE PLANT // SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

There are multiple locations of The Plant around San Fran, and that’s a very good thing. The organic café serves delicious organic food, and the Plant Burger might just convert carnivores to consider opting for a more plant-based diet. The veggie burger looks purple thanks to a mixture of beets, lentils, mushrooms, cashews, and bulgur wheat. Seasonal local produce (lettuce, tomato, and onions) top the patty, and gluten-free bread is available upon request.

23. ALL-AMERICAN DRIVE-IN // MASSAPEQUA, NEW YORK

All American Drive In in Massapequa
Yelp, Tyler D.

Opened in 1963, this old-fashioned drive-in hamburger stand on Long Island serves classic, simple American fare. Hometown favorites Jerry Seinfeld and the Baldwin family visit the stand regularly for the savory double cheeseburgers and homemade French fries, but a simple hamburger will set you back just $1.40. Save room for dessert at the neighboring Marshall’s Ice Cream Bar, which has both soft serve and old-fashioned ice cream.

24. THE CHICAGO DINER // CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Vegetarians and carnivores alike love the veggie burgers at The Chicago Diner, a restaurant with locations in Logan Square and Halsted that’s been proudly "meat free since '83." As you sip a vegan milkshake, decide whether you want to order the Cajun Black Bean Burger or Buddha’s Karma Burger, a curried sweet potato-tofu patty. The burgers come with unusual toppings such as grilled pineapple, chimichurri, and fried jalapeño. For an extra buck, you can add avocado to any burger.

25. JG MELON // NEW YORK, NEW YORK

This casual, small bar in Manhattan’s Upper East Side is beloved for the rich, meaty burgers it serves. Fans of JG Melon’s cheeseburger include everyone from Bobby Flay to former mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the spot is often crowded as hungry customers vie for a seat amidst the watermelon artwork on the walls (expect plenty of crowding when they open their recently announced Upper West Side location too). If you visit during happy hour, from 5-7 p.m., order the Nacho Libre sliders, which are served with avocado, jalapeño, Monterey Jack, and pico de gallo.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?
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For carbohydrate consumers, nothing completes a Thanksgiving meal like stuffing—shovelfuls of bread, celery, mushrooms, and other ingredients that complement all of that turkey protein.

Some people don’t say “stuffing,” though. They say “dressing.” In these calamitous times, knowing how to properly refer to the giant glob of insulin-spiking bread seems necessary. So what's the difference?

Let’s dismiss one theory off the bat: Dressing and stuffing do not correlate with how the side dish is prepared. A turkey can be stuffed with dressing, and stuffing can be served in a casserole dish. Whether it’s ever seen the inside of a bird is irrelevant, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong and should be met with suspicion, if not outright derision.

The terms are actually separated due to regional dialects. “Dressing” seems to be the favored descriptor for southern states like Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, while “stuffing” is preferred by Maine, New York, and other northern areas. (Some parts of Pennsylvania call it "filling," which is a bit too on the nose, but to each their own.)

If “stuffing” stemmed from the common practice of filling a turkey with carbs, why the division? According to The Huffington Post, it may have been because Southerners considered the word “stuffing” impolite, so never embraced it.

While you should experience no material difference in asking for stuffing or dressing, when visiting relatives it might be helpful to keep to their regionally-preferred word to avoid confusion. Enjoy stuffing yourselves.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Food
The History Behind Why We Eat 10 Dishes at Thanksgiving
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Halloween is for candy comas, and on Independence Day we grill, but no holiday is as completely defined by its cuisine as Thanksgiving. No matter what part of the country you're in, it's a safe bet that at least a few of the below dishes will be making an appearance on your table this week. But what makes these specific entrees and side dishes so emblematic of Thanksgiving? Read on to discover the sometimes-surprising history behind your favorite fall comfort foods.

1. TURKEY

A roasted turkey on a platter.
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Turkey has become so synonymous with Thanksgiving that most of us probably imagine the pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans chowing down on a roast bird in 1621. Although we don't know the exact menu of that first Plymouth Colony feast, a first-person account of the year's harvest from governor William Bradford does reference "a great store of wild turkeys," and another first-person account, from colonist Edward Winslow, confirms that the settlers "killed as much fowl as…served the company almost a week." However, culinary historian Kathleen Wall believes that, although turkeys were available, it's likely that duck, goose, or even passenger pigeons were the more prominent poultry options at the first Thanksgiving. Given their proximity to the Atlantic, local seafood like oysters and lobsters were likely on the menu as well.

As the holiday grew in popularity, however, turkey became the main course for reasons more practical than symbolic. English settlers were accustomed to eating fowl on holidays, but for early Americans, chickens were more valued for their eggs than their meat, and rooster was tough and unappetizing. Meanwhile, turkeys were easy to keep, big enough to feed a whole family, and cheaper than ducks or geese. Even before Thanksgiving was recognized as a national holiday, Alexander Hamilton himself remarked that "No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day." The country followed his advice: according to the National Turkey Federation, 88 percent of Americans will eat turkey in some form on Thanksgiving Day—an estimated 44 million birds!

2. STUFFING

Pan of breaded stuffing.
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Stuffing would have been a familiar concept to those early settlers as well, although their version was likely quite different from what we're used to. We know that the first Plymouth colonists didn't have access to white flour or butter, so traditional bread stuffing wouldn't have been possible yet. Instead, according to Wall, they may have used chestnuts, herbs, and chunks of onion to flavor the birds, all of which were already part of the local fare. Centuries later, we're still stuffing turkeys as a way to keep the bird moist through the roasting process and add extra flavor.

3. CRANBERRIES

Dish of cranberry sauce.
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Like turkeys, cranberries were widely available in the area, but cranberry sauce almost certainly did not make an appearance at the first Thanksgiving. Why not? The sugar reserves the colonists would have had were almost completely depleted after their long sea journey, and thus they didn't have the means to sweeten the terrifically tart berries.

So how did cranberries become such an autumnal staple? For starters, they're a truly American food, as one of only a few fruits—along with Concord grapes, blueberries, and pawpaws—that originated in North America. They grow in such abundance in the northeast that colonists quickly began incorporating cranberries into various dishes, such as pemmican, which mixed mashed cranberries with lard and dried venison. By the Civil War, they were such a holiday staple that General Ulysses S. Grant famously demanded his soldiers be provided cranberries for their Thanksgiving Day meal.

4. MASHED POTATOES

Bowl of mashed potatoes.
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Potatoes weren't yet available in 17th-century Plymouth, so how did mashed potatoes become another Thanksgiving superstar? The answer lies in the history of the holiday itself. In America’s earliest years, it was common for the sitting President to declare a "national day of thanks," but these were sporadic and irregular. In 1817, New York became the first state to officially adopt the holiday, and others soon followed suit, but Thanksgiving wasn't a national day of celebration until Abraham Lincoln declared it so in 1863.

Why did Lincoln—hands full with an ongoing war—take up the cause? Largely due to a 36-year campaign from Sarah Josepha Hale, a prolific novelist, poet, and editor, who saw in Thanksgiving a moral benefit for families and communities. In addition to her frequent appeals to officials and presidents, Hale wrote compellingly about the holiday in her 1827 novel Northwood, as well as in the womens' magazine she edited, Godey's Lady's Book. Her writing included recipes and descriptions of idealized Thanksgiving meals, which often featured—you guessed it—mashed potatoes.

5. GRAVY

Plate of turkey and potatoes covered in gravy.
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Despite a dearth of potatoes, it's likely that some type of gravy accompanied the turkey or venison at the earliest Thanksgiving gatherings. The concept of cooking meat in sauce dates back hundreds of years, and the word "gravy" itself can be found in a cookbook from 1390. Because that first celebration extended over three days, historian Wall speculates: "I have no doubt whatsoever that birds that are roasted one day, the remains of them are all thrown in a pot and boiled up to make broth the next day." That broth would then be thickened with grains to created a gravy to liven day-old meat. And, if Wall's correct, that broth sounds suspiciously like the beginning of another great Thanksgiving tradition: leftovers!

6. CORN

Plate of corn.
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Corn is a natural symbol of harvest season—even if you're not serving it as a side dish, you might have a few colorful ears as a table centerpiece. We know that corn was a staple of the Native American diet and would have been nearly as plentiful in the 17th century as today. But according to the History Channel, their version would have been prepared quite differently: corn was either made into a cornmeal bread or mashed and boiled into a thick porridge-like consistency, and perhaps sweetened with molasses. Today, we eat corn in part to remember those Wampanoag hosts, who famously taught the newcomers how to cultivate crops in the unfamiliar American soil.

7. SWEET POTATOES

Bowl of mashed sweet potatoes.
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In the midst of so many New England traditions, the sweet potatoes on your table represent a dash of African-American culture. The tasty taters originally became popular in the south—while pumpkins grew well in the north, sweet potatoes (and the pies they could make) became a standard in southern homes and with enslaved plantation workers, who used them as a substitution for the yams they'd loved in their homeland. Sweet potato pie was also lovingly described in Hale's various Thanksgiving epistles, solidifying the regional favorite as a holiday go-to. More recently, some families further sweeten the dish by adding toasted marshmallows, a love-it-or-hate-it suggestion that dates to a 1917 recipe booklet published by the Cracker Jack company.

8. GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

Plate of green bean casserole.
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Beans have been cultivated since ancient times, but green bean casserole is a decidedly modern contribution to the classic Thanksgiving canon. The recipe you love was whipped up in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly, a home economist working in the Campbell's Soup Company test kitchens in Camden, New Jersey. Reilly's job was to create limited-ingredient recipes that housewives could quickly replicate (using Campbell's products, of course). Her original recipe (still available at Campbells.com), contains just six ingredients: Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, green beans, milk, soy sauce, pepper, and French's French Fried Onions. Her recipe was featured in a 1955 Associated Press feature about Thanksgiving, and the association has proven surprisingly durable—Campbell’s now estimates that 30 percent of their Cream of Mushroom soup is bought specifically for use in a green bean casserole.

9. PUMPKIN PIE

Slice of pumpkin pie.
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Like cranberries, pumpkin pie does have ties to the original Thanksgiving, albeit in a much different format. The colonists certainly knew how to make pie pastry, but couldn't have replicated it without wheat flour, and might have been a bit perplexed by pumpkins, which were bigger than the gourds they knew in Europe. According to Eating in America: A History, however, Native Americans were already using the orange treats as a dessert meal: "Both squash and pumpkin were baked, usually by being placed whole in the ashes or embers of a dying fire and they were moistened afterwards with some form of animal fat, or maple syrup, or honey." It's likely that Hale was inspired by those stories when pumpkin pie appeared in her culinary descriptions.

10. WINE

Two glasses of wine.
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Chances are good that a few glasses of wine will be clinked around your table this November, but did the pilgrims share a tipsy toast with their new friends? Kathleen Wall thinks that water was probably the beverage of choice, considering that the small amount of wine the settlers had brought with them was likely long gone. Beer was a possibility, but since barley hadn't been cultivated yet, the pilgrims had to make do with a concoction that included pumpkins and parsnips. Considering the availability of apples in what would become Massachusetts, however, other historians think it's possible that hard apple cider was on hand for the revelers to enjoy. Whether or not the original feast was a boozy affair, cider rapidly became the drink of choice for English settlers in the area, along with applejack, apple brandy, and other fruit-based spirits. New England cider thus indirectly led to a less-beloved Thanksgiving tradition: your drunk uncle's annual political rant. Bottoms up!

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