The cheeseburger. Is there anything so uniting and yet polarizing at the same time? Everybody loves cheeseburgers. What about the tree-hugging vegans, you ask? They love cheeseburgers too, but the burger is made of bulgur and whey and twigs, and the cheese is made of soy, whatever that is. The top-selling vegan product today is the veggie burger. That’s a fact. Look it up. And when you do, let me know what you find out, because I’m using the word "fact" very loosely here.
The point is, everyone loves burgers. There you go, we’re united. So if we can agree that everyone loves burgers, why are they so polarizing? Because your favorite burger probably isn’t my favorite burger. And that bothers you. That’s not true? Well, how about this: My favorite burger isn’t your favorite burger. That does bother me.
We Americans are passionate about our burgers. We don’t think that such and such is the best burger in town. We know that such and such is the best burger in town, and to disagree with us is a personal affront.
In the town where I grew up, Menlo Park (and this applies to Palo Alto as well. This dismissive wanking motion is for the $10 burger at the Peninsula Creamery), you are either a Dutch Goose person, or an Oasis person. A simple "Oasis or Goose?" status report on my Facebook page elicited 70 responses, several of which invoked the name of the Lord, others openly hostile to the nonbelievers. I was born and raised an Oasis kid (Thanks, Dad!), had a brief dalliance with the Goose during college (the fact that they were less than vigilant when it came to checking I.D.s probably had a lot to do with it), before settling back down with my first love. Some people consider this blasphemous, but I don’t agree. It isn’t the first time a young man was led astray by booze, and it certainly won’t be the last. I was young and experimenting; it never meant anything. That’s not really true, if I’m married to the "O", the Goose is my "gumar." I love them both.
Today marks five weeks since my arrival in Sacramento, and in that time, I have eaten many of the fine burgers that the city and surrounding area have to offer. Does this qualify me to pontificate on the best burger place in town? Most assuredly not, but I’m gonna do it anyway.
Let me preface this by saying that we have a thriving burger scene in and around our state’s capital. Every burger I’ve tried here has been in the good-to-very- good range. Nary a dud in the bunch. These rankings are based on a single visit to each venue, so if someone was having a bad day, that’s unfortunate. Also, I am taking other factors into account in my rankings. Ultimately, the winner is the best burger, but fry quality and cheap beer can serve as a tie breaker. Enough with the niceties, let’s get some people riled up.
Seventh place: The Squeeze Inn. Sorry, but that cheese skirt is superfluous. I don’t get it. If I wanted a disk of burnt cheese, well, I wouldn’t, ’cause I’m not 7 years old. Worse than that is the bun on which it’s served. Heavy and unyielding, it’s about twice as much bun as you need. And the long lines and short hours didn’t help. We got there at 6:30 p.m. and had to take our burgers to go because they were getting ready to close. It’s a shame, because if put on a good, soft bun with a reasonable amount of cheese, the burger may have been the winner.
Sixth place: Jim Dennys. I’m a sucker for the old school diner setting, and the burger was solid. Unfortunately, it was cooked to death. Well beyond well done. Pink was a distant memory. The chili cheese fries were really tasty, however.
Fifth place: Jamie’s. After finding out that Jamie’s had been featured on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," I was really fired up to try it. I love the venue itself, top- notch food in a dive bar setting is tough to beat. The burger was good, but it was really overshadowed by the phenomenal garlic steak sandwich. That thing is amazing. A bit pricey, but if you want a bourbon with your burger, this is your spot.
Fourth place: The Habit. This was probably the best burger bang for your buck. At just $2.95, you get a high-quality burger at fast-food prices. The fries and onion rings are both top notch, and they have three kinds of peppers at the condiment bar. I wasn’t sure whether I should even include this because it’s a fairly large chain, but a great burger is a great burger, and I’d never tried it before moving here.
Third place: Nation Wide Freezer Meats. I don’t think you could come up with a worse name for a burger joint. What, "Ivan’s E. coli Eatery" was taken? The name aside, the burger was one of the best I’ve had. You can’t go wrong with ground Harris Ranch steakburgers. The quality of the meat shines through, and that’s what will bring me back. The steak fries and chili were disappointing.
Second place: Murder Burger. I know, it’s called Redrum Burger now, but I’ll always call it by its real name. I had a lot of friends at UC Davis in the late ’90s, and they introduced me to the burger: "So good, it’s to die for." I went back on the way to the Bay Area, and was very happy I did. The burger was big enough to split and was a cheesy, oniony epiphany. Also, the fries are outstanding; thin cut, crispy, but moist on the inside. Murder Burger would have been the best if it weren’t for ….
First place: Suzie Burger. Or, as I call it, the Truth. This is the only place I went to twice. Their burger is close to perfect. Moist, juicy and cheesy on a soft, buttery bun. Free toppings include grilled mushrooms and onions, and jalapenos (I got all of them). The second time I added bacon, which was well crisped and hung out the sides. Oh my, it was good. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. To top it off, their fries are fantastic. Thin-cut slivers of potato with the skin still on ’em. I don’t know that I’ve ever had better. Throw in $5 pitchers of Pabst, a couple of flat screens, and an old school Chevy parked out front, and we have ourselves a winner.
If I missed your favorite, or you feel it wasn’t done justice, feel free to voice your displeasure at [email protected]