Burger Bests & Worsts

After 30 years in Sacramento, I have finally eaten my first hamburger from Ford’s Hamburgers in Land Park and I’ll have to say that it may be, in fact, the best burger in Sacramento. I’ve been to myriad burger joints in Sac and think I have a pretty good read on where you, the wily consumer, can best spend your burger bucks. So here’s a rundown:

1. Ford’s-1948 Sutterville Rd, Sacramento. Fantastic burger on a wonderful bun, killer fries and shakes put Ford’s Real Hamburgers in the top spot. Burgers are about $5.
2. Squeeze Inn-7918 Fruitridge Rd, Sacramento. Sidle up to the bar and order the “Squeeze with Cheese” and get ready for a gut-bomb. The “cheese halo” that surrounds every Squeeze burger sets it apart from any other burger you’ll ever have. Fries are pretty good. Call before you go, limited hours and limited seating. Burgers about $5.
3. Bandera- 2232 Fair Oaks Blvd, Sacramento. I know it’s a yuppie haven and mid life crisis pick-up joint, but the $9 ground sirloin burger might just be the best restaurant burger you’ll ever have. Fresh sirloin, ground in-house with a slab of cheddar and crisp cole slaw top this exceptional burger.
4. Hot Rod’s- 2007 K, Sacramento. By far, the best gay burger joint in town. Great meat and hot buns make this burger a heavenly treat that you don’t have to call the next morning.
5. In ‘n Out Burger- Various Locations. OK, despite its proclivity for putting you on the john for a few hours after you eat one, an In ‘n Out burger is a damn good burger, and a great deal for your money. Burgers about $2.

And now, the worst…

Here’s a quick list of some of the worst or most overrated burgers in our fair city:

Hamburger Mary’s- Unless you’re going for drag Karaoke, don’t bother. Burgers like tarred roof shingles and a waitstaff that’s more concerned with their latest tat or piercing than your order make this joint basically unusable for burger consumption.

Willie’s- Both the downtown and the Carmichael location have really let me down lately. The burgers are, for lack of a better word, spongy. This is not a quality I look for in a burger.

Nationwide Freezer Meats- While not bad, NWFM burgers do lack something in the taste department, and that something is taste itself. I’ve never had a more tasteless burger. And the fries are excessively large; it’s like eating a deep fried baked potato over there.

Zinfandel Grille- Some places should just not even put the burger on the menu. Z Grille is one of them…and get that goddamned “E” off the end of your name you pretentious douchebags.

One last note: I miss Tiny’s. For those of you that remember, the small burger stand called Tiny’s on Fulton Ave was the best burger stand in town and a Sacramento landmark. The space it once took up is still an empty blight on my favorite street. There should be a law.

32 thoughts on “Burger Bests & Worsts”

  1. Squeeze Inn gets my top pick so far. I have not tried Ford’s yet so that may change. Don’t plan on doing anything after eating at the Squeeze Inn, except maybe taking a nap. Good stuff!!

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  2. I agree with everyone that Ford’s has a great burger and killer shakes but I would have to put Nationwide Meats frenchground steak burger ahead of all the rest. I still have yet to try a Squeeze burger so my opinion could change. As for as franchise place I still would go to a Carl Jr’s over anywhere else.

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  3. Sac Eats, what of the nationwide chains such as the delicious Fuddruckers Origionls or the newer more exotic Islands?

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  4. Of the national chains, Fudruckers does a nice job and Islands is pretty good, but Islands does have phenomenal fries with seasoned salt. A chain that actually does a great burger is Woody’s. I have not had a Sonic burger yet, and am waiting for the day that “Fatburger” (my favorite socal chain) decides to open a northern outlet.

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  5. If you want to indulge at Squeeze Inn but have stuff to do (besides napping) after eating, just split your squeeze w/ cheese and an order of fries with a friend. You’ll still need industrial-strength abrasive cleanser to rid your hands of the all-to-familiar Squeeze scent, but it’s oh so worth it. There’s a slightly covered area behind the restaurant that offers seating at folding tables and chairs if the inside is too full. For drink refills, just go to the screen door, and Shelly will top off your drink for you.

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  6. :Another good burger joint is Ikeda’s in Auburn. It’s a frequent stop for the Tahoe-bound on I-80. It’s a family owned & operated burger restaurant (they have many options besides burgers), fresh produce market, and pie shop. The Ikeda family is among the most friendly, professional, and ethical that you would ever meet. They have a smaller Davis location with just the produce and some of the baked goods. For a short time they were on Folsom Blvd. in East Sac (where Giovanni’s is now), but they had a hard time finding good enough help to their standards, and they were displeased with customers ripping off the tip jar.

    I suggest the BFR — burger on a French roll, or the tofu burger for you non-meat-eaters. Grab a fresh fruit pie from the bakery, and order up a fresh fruit milkshake made with the region’s best peaches.

    Take I-80 to Auburn, passing the Maple Street, Highway 49, Elm Avenue, and Russell Road exits. Take the Foresthill exit off I-80 in Auburn, right at the end of the offramp, and an immediate left onto Lincoln Way at the AM/PM. Pass the Raley’s shopping center on the right, and it’s about 1/2 mile up on the right at 13500 Lincoln Way. http://www.ikedas.com

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  7. Any opinions on the best veggie burger, or is it sacrelig (HA HA, Sac Relig, oh never mind) to even mention in this topic?

    I’d go with The Sun Flower Drive Inn in old fair oaks myself. Makes me miss Greta’s though.

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  8. If you’ve tried the Nationwide french ground steak burger & don’t like it, well, I don’t know. get your tongue checked out. But I have heard complaints about their other smaller, regular burgers. I’ve never tried those though.

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  9. Sac Eats: You know there is a Fat Burger just inside Harrahs Tahoe. I tried the egg one once. Didn’t care for it.

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  10. Wow, how behind the times at SNR. I’m glad they featured a few different joints. I’ve never been to Jim Denny’s or that place in W Sac, so I look forward to checking those out. And, I will have to agree with them that Willie’s shakes are incredible.

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  11. You must have been to Willie’s during a grease shortage or something. I think the CoolDMZs should treat you to a Hammer 4 and try to bump Willie’s standing in your burger pantheon.

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  12. KLJ, come to the dark side & abandon your veggie ways! You won’t regret it! The Nutburger at Sunflower is the best in cheap eats & they used to be in the Entertainment Book, plus you get a glimpse of the local wildlife with the roosters cruising around & the river folk making their way back up Bridge Street after polishing off a 12-pack of PBR.

    Don’t order a veggie burger at the Sacramento Zoo, however. I felt guilty ordering an animal product there once so I opted for the veggie burger & it was still frozen in the middle.

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  13. dude, fords is all bun and pink sauce and I aint willing to fork out the extra three bucks so I might be able to taste the meat…

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  14. Sure, if we all listened to people like you, what would happen to all the bun and pink sauce farmers out there? Does it ever occur to you that there are hard working Americans out there who need our support? You can go somewhere and eat a plain patty with a fork and knife, be my guest. And maybe you can move to France too, where the minimum wage is paid in cheese and people wear there underwear on the outside, but for the rest of us, we’re going to stand up proud and support the president and all the flag stands for. God bless pink sauce…and buns too.

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  15. Does anyone know if the Sunflower or Greta’s used to be in Orangevale some 15+ years ago? If anyone knows the place that used to be in Orangevale or close to there that made nutburgers and falafil? This place had a nut burger that was better than almost any meat hamburger and they moved years ago (as I did).

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  16. omg…why is Ettore’s not on that list. Their burger is insanely good, and they make their own cheese buns to boot! This article needs to be reassessed with Ettore’s burger test with the rest of the crowd.

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  17. I have tried Ettore’s burger and I find it lacking. The bun is not that good and the burger is overcooked. If you’re going for a burger on FO Blvd, Bandera is the winner, hands down.

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  18. I’m BIG every day.

    But seriously, this unabashed flirting has to stop. I’m in a committed relationship. Doesn’t your husband get jealous?

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  19. Interesing. I’ve never tried Ford’s, but will be sure to soon, even though it’s not exactly handy. I tried Squeeze Inn today, and the burger was fantastic. I’ve had a decent burger at Willie’s in the past, but I just had one the other day that was pretty bland. My main problem with Nationwide Freezer Meats is the price of their food. In-N-Out is always good for burgers, but I don’t like their fries.

    I’ve also had some good burgers from Classic Burgers on Fulton (just south of El Camino) and Jasper’s Giant Hamburgers on Fulton (just north of Hurley). I’ve got photos of burgers from all those places and many more:

    20070807 Hammer 5

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  20. I will have to agree with whoever said that Nation Wide Freezer Meats burgers are the best in Sacramento. If you haven’t tried a French Ground Steak Burger from there then you need to. NWFM grinds their own fresh beef every day and it’s never frozen. You can taste the quality Harris Ranch beef in every bite. The only reason someone could possibly think this burger doesn’t have flavor is because it doesn’t have a bunch of salt and various spices to cover the taste of cheap frozen beef. All you can taste from a NWFM burger is Fresh Ground Steak! And the fries are just as fresh, but far better than In and Out fresh fries.

    So far my second favorite burger place in Sacramento is The Squeeze Inn. Squeeze Inn makes a burger with so much cheese that it melts over the side and forms into a mini grilled cheese wafer like thing which is awesome! I don’t like the fries that much because they are all different sizes, so some are overcooked some undercooked and some just right.

    Third would be California Fats in old sac…it’s not a burger place per se, but they do have this burger that is made out of Kobe beef from Korea that is prime beef with all kinds of different flavors…more than you would expect from a burger. They then fry mushrooms and cheese all over the top and the burger is so juicy you wouldnt believe it from a “chinese” type restaurant.

    Whoever put Fords on the top of their burger list is crazy. I went to Fords and tried one of their burgers and it was bad…not just that, but either they put sooooo many spices in their meat that you can’t taste the actual beef, or they use some sort of sausage mixed in with their beef. I found Fords to be overpriced and gross.

    Jim Denny’s is a close third. They have good ols fashioned style burgers with good taste. Fries are every day run of the mill frozen fries with seasoned salt.

    Bowinkle’s has some great burgers too try the mushroom burger if you like mushrooms =-)

    Papa’s Pizzeria also has a grille and it is awesome! Try the Square Burger…it is made with two 1/4 lb patties side by side on a big piece of sourdough bread that are covered in garlic butter and grilled until crisp. On the burger itself they put american and swiss cheese a few pieces of canadian bacon, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and onions…it is well worth going to a pizza place for a burger!

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  21. Oh, don’t give me that “Majesty of Meat” crap. Even the finest chef seasons the finest meat. You don’t cook a filet mignon without a little salt and pepper before it goes into the broiler. I’ll try Nationwide again, but I’m not buying the hype.

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  22. Hey sac-eats, they opened a fatburger years ago inside Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln. Do you know where I can find a good kobe beef burger? I had the mini kobe burger appetizers at Bistro 33. They were good but they are just that “mini”.

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  23. I returned to the Squeeze Inn after a bit of a lapse and was reminded as to how good those burgers are. I have to reevaluate and give Squeeze Inn the top spot in the rankings.

    Sorry, but I’m not hip with the kobe burger and have no idea where to find one.

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  24. Yeah.. I miss Tiny’s Burger. I used to go pick up a couple Tiny’s burgers and then hit the biker bar behind them for a few beers and a couple games of pool to aid digestion. The bar was always empty around lunch, so it was nice.

    I read a review that said Ford’s made the best burgers because of the high quality meats…

    Squeeze inn gets its rep from the cheese, their meat is only so-so. They have decent buns as well. I plan to try fords.

    As far as Kobe Burgers, none of them are all that great. Kobe beef is delicate and really doesn’t pair well with pickles, onion, tomato, mayo, mustard, etc. The rest of the burger tends to overpower the delicate flavor of the Kobe Beef. In my opinion, Kobe burgers are all hype and no delivery.

    Now if the Squeeze Inn bumped the quality of their meat up (flavor quality), they would take the cake.

    I’ll go give Fords a try, according to the reviews, it’s worth a shot.

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  25. Ah I miss Tiny’s so much! Every time I drive down Fulton I am reminded what a waste it was that they’re gone. I was out of the county when the closed so I don’t know the back story!

    Skip Zin Grill [dropped the E for them!] & cross the street to try out the burger at Roxy! Its all natural, black angus, pasture fed beef from the owners’ ranch in Dixon. You can put smoke cheddar, goat cheese, avocados, portabella mushrooms and/or nueske bacon on it!

    River City Brewing Company believe it or not has a decent burger too. And who can forget Fanny Anns!!! Also Tower Café has some pretty yummy burgers too.

    Willie’s is horrible – back in the days when I worked at Tower Records on Broadway – my manager Brian had a standing order No employee was allowed to eat there b/c you always smelt like a grease pit and it would stink up the store!!! To this day I’ve never eaten there.

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  26. The HABIT ! Up and coming burger joint. Now I have lived in Sac for over 58 years and I have pretty much tried them all. The Squeeze, Red Robben, Hefty, Fords, Willies,Johnny Rockets,etc- and I must admit, they all have something to crow about. But give THE HABIT a try. The one that I have eaten at is on Bruceville in Elk Grove and they are opening one up on Howe Ave.The food is very very good and very very fresh and the service is outstanding and the place is always very clean and the price is right for what you order.

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  27. NWFM has an amazing burger. The French Ground Steak Burger was awesome. The last two times I tried to eat the Squeeze Inn, it was over an hour wait for a burger, is the burger really worth that wait? Ford’s will be my next stop for sure. I’ve had the Jim Denny Burger and it is was okay, it was an average burger with nothing that set it apart(except for price) from a $6 burger from Carl’s Jr, which is a pretty tasty burger.

    Who ever the guy that talked about seasoning meat needs to re-evaluate his cooking style. Seasoning your meat is what sets it apart from other’s. Every griller, chef or butcher has their own seasoning that they have created and discovered through the years of working with meat. Now like anything…some might over use their seasonings and some might use a dash of sea salt and fresh cracked peppercorn. Go read a book on basic meat preparation…for serious. Of course, I am getting riled up at a posting that happened nearly two years ago, maybe I should be looking for a job today instead of responding to a nearly 2 year old post on the best burgers in Sacramento.

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  28. Just wanted to throw a vote out for Tiny’s. Like the author said, every time I go down near Fulton I wish it was still there. I still can’t imagine why they closed it in the first place. It was the best burger place in the Sacramento area!

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