Five Guys Burgers & Fries

I figured after eating at Five Guys Burgers & Fries several times in one week, I would give them a review on this here web log. Finding a good burger joint is not incredibly difficult in the Sacramento area. Not to mention the fact that defining a good burger joint is like trying to describe the taste of a banana. That is, it’s subjective. For example, many of the folks on Yelp are lukewarm about this place.

The Good

  • The toppings: Mayo, Relish, Onions, Lettuce, Pickles, Tomatoes, Grilled Onions, Grilled Mushrooms, Ketchup, Mustard, Jalapeno Peppers, Green Peppers, A-1 Sauce, Bar-B-Q Sauce, and Hot Sauce are all included at no additional charge. Mmm, mushrooms.
  • The fries: Regular or Cajun Style, these fries are hearty and crispy, great for ketchup dipping
  • The peanuts: Help yourself peanuts while you wait for your food. Think that’s lame? Don’t have them, but stop judging me already!
  • The soda: It’s a Coke shop and they have Coke Zero. Done and done.

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Thursdays at Ruby Tuesday’s

When you take the time to write about food as incessantly as I do, you find yourself in the weighty role of dining adviser to friends and family.  Whether for a small bite with an old friend or a recommendation on where to take the clients from out of town, my opinion is sought.  I’m not trying to say that I’m the cool like Shatner, I’m just saying that with the “sac-eats” moniker comes responsibility.  Most of the time I’m happy to help those I know find the best dining experience within their parameters (i.e.  close to Music Circus and in and out within 30 minutes, or Thai food in W. Sac, or “I’m in the mood for Viking food and I’m stuck in traffic in Placerville.  What do you suggest?”).  However, every now and then someone takes my advice and has a thoroughly rotten time.  I wind up feeling like an asshole for recommending places that don’t live up to the hype and feel guilty about it for days. 

So, this was my mood the other day after recommending “Cervantes“ to my sister and her friends.  The food was bad, the service weak and the drinks lousy.  I felt extremely bad about the whole thing, so I offered to take said sister to the new Ruby Tuesday’s in Folsom.

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The Squeeze Inn

OK, I will simply and succinctly try to explain the Squeeze Inn burger experience here and leave you to make your own decisions. I would offer a ringing endorsement of the Squeeze Inn right now, but am slightly leery of getting sued when someone goes there on my recommendation and has a massive coronary.

You walk in the front door and scope out the seating arrangement; all twelve stools are taken. That’s right, twelve whole stools in the place, not exactly the acre wide new chain places that you’re used to. You give the evil eye to the two parents who have brought their small Amerasian children because the kids are taking up two stools and chowing down on McDonald’s chicken mcnuggets. Not only is this a slap in the face to the owners of the place, but it’s a direct challenge to anyone who walks in. It says, “Hey look at us, we’re so important that we get to take up precious real estate without even buying a product.” You quietly hope that this whole family gets squat-humped by lunatics wearing Grimace and Hamburglar costumes.

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The skinny on the fat reports that California is moving to ban the use of trans fats in restaurant menu items.

The bill is being challenged by restaurant owners across California who worry the trans fat ban will force them to use more expensive alternative oils that could change the flavor of their food for the worse.

Why is it that I can hear sac-eats’ stomach grumbling now as it ponders a world without artery clogging, heart attack creating, yet oh so creamy industrially created as a side effect of partial hydrogenation of plant oils – a process developed in the early 1900s and first commercialized as Crisco in 1911, trans fatty acids?

“It’s going to be a big fight,” said Terri Mead, manager of Sacramento’s Pancake Circus Restaurant. “We don’t want them telling us what we can and can’t use in the restaurant.”

You tell’em Terri (a nay sayer from the Pancake Circus? Get out…). We don’t want those health freaks telling us what to do. Next thing you know we’ll have the government telling us that we have to maintain a certain level of “cleanliness” and “freshness” in order to “pass” a random “inspection” or face being “shut down”.

As someone who just threw back 3 or 8 zero trans fats per serving Tagalongs, let me just say that I don’t miss the trans fats at all.  And if it is good enough for our Girl Scouts of the USA, it’s good enough for me.

Jim Denny’s: Counter Intelligence

It would be easy to gush about the food at Jim Denny’s, or to spend hundreds of words talking about the wonderfully nostalgic feel of the place, or even to wax poetic about simpler times and forgotten values that so few eateries still embody. But, for the sake of brevity, I’ll try to sum up the Jim Denny’s experience in two words: Nailed it!
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The Big A

If you find yourself in Grass Valley and with dangerously clean arteries, there is only one place to go: Big A Root Beer Drive-In. A perennial favorite, Big A is one of those places with a menu that you need to take home and study, or get on tape and play on headphones while you sleep, if you don’t want to take an hour and a half to order. Dozens of burger choices, fried fare, great big salads and other specialties, all prepared magically from a pretty small kitchen. I went simple on my last visit and ordered a Deluxe Steak-lover’s Burger–1/2 lb. Angus on French roll with classic “works” toppings. Our party was undecided on the fries–I think they are pretty good, but they are definitely nothing unique. I’ve never had a salad there (go figure) but I hear great things about all the selections on that quadrant of the menu.

And that’s not even the best part: They make their own root beer. It is nice and sweet, with (to me, anyway) a hint of maple syrup (I know, you’re out the door already!). CoolDMZ sez check it out.

Big-A Rootbeer Drive-in
810 E. Main St
Grass Valley

(Go up Hwy 49, take the Central Grass Valley exit, take a right on East Main and go up the hill until you see the sign.)

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…
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New Willie’s Burger a Zinger?

I know the restaurant is not new, but this Website is, so it’s my first chance to comment on the new Willie’s at Arden and Fair Oaks.

The pseudo-industrial design in the place is fine, it’s a great experience (despite the lack of a real ATM machine, argh, worse than Rick’s because you can wait for dessert), blah blah blah, but what I love is the new charbroiled menu. This submenu introduces a new burger called the Cheesy Bad Boy. It is a scrumptious burger no doubt, but what is more interesting about it is that Cheesy Bad Boy is a very appropriately titled menu item at an establishment frequented by Jesuit boys.

NOTE: I am a Jesuit boy myself (class of ’94), but if the Jesuits taught me nothing else it was to not take myself too seriously. Actually, that’s the exact opposite of almost every educational goal of the Jesuits.