There is only a skeleton of a crowd at the newly refurbished, revamped, and reopened Honker Burger. Outside, a soft gossamer dusk is enveloping the town of Bluffington, but the Honker Burger feels anything but comfortable. There is a coiled tension that is decidedly uncharacteristic of a family-friendly diner. The milieu might charitably be described as a millennial's interpretation of an opium den—long shadows, cramped booths. Other than a quiet older man methodically picking the beets out of his salad, the only other patrons are rowdy multi-hued (pink, blue, two greens) high schoolers. Their food has long been devoured. Indeed, they seem to be hanging around solely for the sake of playing the same Papa Roach song on the jukebox over and over again. 

Cut my life into pieces/this is my last resort.

“They were here yesterday too,” Doug Funnie says to me, stepping up to the counter, making a big show of looking over the menu, as if this were the first time he’s seen it, which of course it is not. “I want this place to be the hangout spot. Like it used to be.”

Like it used to be is a precious notion to Doug Funnie, as it is to a host of child-stars who have outpaced their greatest moment by decades. At just 36, he appears older still, slightly stooped, wielding more than the mere suggestion of a beer gut. Crows feet crouch about wounded eyes and there are even fewer strands of wispy hair on his head than the 11-year-old superstar most of us remember. Doug Funnie is friendly, sometimes even charming, but never comfortable. 

He orders two moo-cows with no stinkers and no cukes (cheeseburgers sans onions or pickles) for himself, a wet one for me, and a tuber to share. The cashier seems flustered by the nostalgic affectation, but Doug is the boss, or rather, the owner. He explains to me that it has been his ambition for years to purchase Chez Honque and convert it back into the Honker Burger. For him, it is a symbol of the good old days. 

“Business could be better,” Doug tells me, tearing noisily into his first moo-cow. “I’ve never run a restaurant before so you know we’re going to have some ups and downs, but you know, I don’t think of this as a restaurant. It’s an investment. It’s the future. It’s my legacy.”

Maybe. Or maybe it’s just a place where teenagers eat overpriced burgers and listen to Papa Roach.

“I can’t finish this,” Doug says, rubbing his belly with exaggerated strokes. “You want a drink? Let’s get a drink.”