Sunday, March 30, 2014

Squeeze Inn - Tracy, CA

The Cheese Skirt on my Squeezeburger has a piece of bacon for good measure. 
The Squeeze Inn in Tracy, CA claims to have pioneered the cheese skirt, which I first experienced in at Nobby’s in Chico. The owner, Dean Davis, told me that the Nobby’s founder had learned the technique when he worked at Squeeze Inn before starting Nobby’s. Having gone to the source, I could not wait to try it

I ordered the Famous Squeezeburger w/ cheese and bacon ($8.59). It has Mayo, mustard, dill pickle, tomato, onion, lettuce. I ordered my onions grilled. The burger has 1/3 lb patty on sesame bun. I also ordered the combo fries and onion rings. $3.99. 

The Squeeze in is a very friendly place walking in. When I had arrived the server proudly told me they were famous from a stint with Guy Fieri on The Food Network. The owner Dean, came over and said hello. Another nice touch is a photo of Kramer from Seinfeld on the wall. 
The onion rings and fries are hot and ready to munch.
The Burger is awesome. It has a fluffy but solid sesame bun. Everything was hot off the grill with a great mix of mayo, mustard and onions. Dill chips were cold and crisp, the green lettuce fresh. The cheese skirt is like cheese chip on the side and spread several inches in all directions beyond the bun. I love breaking a piece off and tasting the sharpness of the cheese. The bacon was salty and firm, almost crisp and a nice compliment to the taste of the cheese. 

Fries are medium cut. Hot and good. Onion rings were hot, beer-battered and crisp. Sweet inside. 

If you are in Tracy, skip In-N-Out, Five Guys, Nations, Sonic, Jack-in the Box and go to Squeeze Inn for a real burger of unique character.

Burger 5 spatulas out of 5
Fires 3 spatulas.
Onion Rings 3 spatulas

Squeeze Inn
2742 Naglee Rd.
Tracy, CA 95304

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pink Pony - Scottsdale, AZ

The Pink Pony in Scottsdale, Arizona was a must for burgering when we made our first sojourn to Arizona to watch the Giants at Spring Training.  The Pink Pony is a long-time tradition in Scottsdale for all those who attend the Giants games a few blocks away at Scottsdale Stadium.  My friend Gil Zeimer, who recently wrote a guest blog here, said we had to get the Pony Burger.

After the Saturday game, we headed over to the Pony.  The newly remodeled Pony has little in common with the old dive it once was, according to those we spoke with. It is modern and sleek and would not feel out of place in Los Angeles. We were told it was a two–hour wait for a table so we decided to wait for a spot to open up at the bar. We put in our name for a table, just in case.

At the bar, Giants fans traded stories and we joined right in. Four men who share season tickets at AT&T were on their 14th consecutive outing to spring break.  We chatted with them as we waited for a bar spot to open up. After a mere 45 minutes my pager went off and we got our table.

I ordered the Pony Burger ($12) with Wisconsin Cheddar, crispy Pork belly, avocado, garlic aioli, slow roasted tomato, bibb lettuce and butter bun + fired egg. But our server, Vincente, said that the Giants fans had made a run on the place and the huge trove of buns they had at the beginning of the day were gone! No burgers. I was crest-fallen. He promised to see what he could do. Sure enough, Vince came back and said the chef did not want me to go away disappointed. He would make a special bunless version of the burger just for me!

It was fabulous. The meat was salty and juicy. Very flavorful. The roasted tomato added a nice counter-note to the garlic aioli.  The avocado was more like guacamole in consistency and could have been left off. The sunnyside-up egg was a great topper. The bibb lettuce cradled the whole thing next to some excellent fresh-cut fries.

I will definitely head back to try the bun version in the future, but this one was fabulous and the service was stellar.

Burger 4.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 4 spatulas

Pink Pony
3831 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Monday, March 3, 2014

Bel Campo Meat Company, Larkspur, CA

By Gil Zeimer, Guest Blogger,

The Belcampo Burger is 5.6 oz of dry-aged beef with NY cheddar, caramelized onions, butter lettuce and house sauce for $11. 
HBB Note: My friend Gil Zeimer and I enjoyed this burger recently at Belcampo. Gil, a writer by trade, had been bugging me to post. Thankfully for us burger lovers, he finally got tired of waiting and wrote it himself. The burger is great. I agree with the rating he assigned it. Enjoy the review and the burger!

There’s meat. And there’s sustainably grown, stress-free, organic-certified meat 100% from a butcher shop restaurant’s own land near Mt. Shasta.

That’s the unique selling proposition at Belcampo Meat Company in Larkspur, CA, a short walk from the Golden Gate Ferry terminal and a recent addition to the Marin Country Mart.

Belcampo states that their “animals are raised on our farm at the base of Mt. Shasta, where we grow our pastures, and cultivate our fields the old fashioned way with rotational grazing and an integrated and holistic approach to pasture management that is structured to support 12 unique species. Our farm is certified organic by CCOF and certified humane by the Animal Welfare Association. At the farm, our success is measured by our ecology’s health: our soils become richer, our pastures and farm fields denser, our water cleaner, and our energy sources more sustainable.”
The French Dip features medium rare roast beef with creamy horseradish on ciabatta. And, of course, hot jus. 

So does all of this TLC get handed down to the pasture-raised meats in the Belcampo Burgers? Pretty much. The Belcampo Burger ($11) that Scott (HoosierBurgerBoy) ordered was sandwiched between a tender brioche bun –– succulent, medium rare, and perfectly grilled.

While I’ve enjoyed the burgers here on several other visits, I actually prefer the French Dip Sandwich ($12) because the rare roast beef and its au jus were the most fragrant and delicious I’ve ever had.

We also ordered the French Beef Tallow Fries ($7), which were thinly cut and a bit salty, but quite tasty.

Not in the mood for beef? This restaurant also offers lamb, pulled pork, chili cheese fries, and quite a few salads.

The adjacent Butcher Shop offers steer, bacons and sausages of the world, ground beef, double cut steaks, goose and duck.

If you’re traveling throughout California, there are other Belcampo Meat Companies in Palo Alto, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Downtown Los Angeles.

Burger 4 spatulas out of 4
Fries 4 spatulas
French Dip Sandwich 5 spatulas

Belcampo Meat Company
2405 Larkspur Landing Circle, Building 4, Larkspur, CA 94939
(415) 448-5810

Friday, November 29, 2013

Roam Artisan Burgers - San Francisco, CA

The Sunny-Side Burger from Roam Artisan Burgers features an egg on top.
Roam Artisan Burgers on Fillmore is the second location for this San Francisco burger chain. It is a warm and friendly place to meet friends for burgers, which is exactly what we did one Wednesday night.  We all ordered our food at the counter and staked out 10 places at the communal table in the middle. Roam has a very nice wine and beer selection which is definitely a win. But go here for the burgers, which are some of the best I have had in San Francisco. 

I got the Sunny-Side ($8.25) with the beef patty, organic free range egg, aged white cheddar, caramalized onions, greens, tomato, sweet chili sauce. The patty is 4.5 ounces but seems bigger. The meat is moist and nicely spiced, cooked just the right medium. Sesame bun toasted and spongy. Sauce is just the right amount of sweet and spicy.  Onions sweet and perfect. Fresh tomato slices were fresh and tasty.   My only quibble would be the egg yolk should have been runny, not cooked hard.
Russet Fries from Roam Artisan Burgers

The Russet Fries ($2.99) are medium cut and sprinkled with parsley. These were not as hot as they could be. 

Zucchini onion haystack strings ($3.49) are ok. They were tough to eat and indeed stringy. 

The place offers a nice choice of meats including beef, turkey, bison and veggie. I didn't consider anything but beef, but a lot in our party did. They seemed equally pleased. 

I will be back. Sorry for the photo quality. The place was very dark. I lit the food with my iPhone. 

Burger 5 spatulas to of 5
Fries 4 spatulas
Onion Strings 2.5 spatulas

Roam Artisan Burgers
1923 Fillmore Street, 
San Francisco CA 94115

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Shake Shack - New York City, NY

Double Shack Burger at Shake Shack in Manhatten's Madison Square Park.

Shake Shack in Madison Square Park is the original location for this New York City icon. When in New York I felt compelled to give it a try. On a lovely fall Sunday in the shadow of the Flatiron Building, the line at noon was only about 5 minutes.  I ordered a double Shack Burger ($7.20) fries ($2.70) and a chocolate shake ($5). Pat ordered a plain cheeseburger. We grabbed an outdoor table and waited with our pager. It only took about 5 more minutes to get our food. 

The burger is special. The two patties were fresh and lightly compacted. There was lots of room for the juice to flow. The meat was salty to the best degree and cooked a perfect medium. Melted American cheese oozed nicely blending with the mayo-based sauce. A couple of firm tomato slices and some fresh green leaf lettuce topped it off. The hinged bun was toasted and spongey, holding everything together in the two minutes it took me to eat it. 

The fries were crinkle fries cooked brown and salted. Medium thick, they were good, but not unusual. 
The original location for the Shake Shack in the shadow of New York's Flatiron Building. 

The shake was fabulous. Creamy thick and cold, but still drinkable through the fat straw. The Chocolate quotient was perfectly balanced. I sensed a slight hint of coconut.  

If you get to New York, don't hesitate to give it a try. Try to get to the original location for a great experience. 

Burger 5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 3.5 spatulas
Chocolate Shake 4 spatulas

Shake Shack
Southeast Corner of Madison Square Park
Madison Ave. and E 23rd St.
New York, NY

The Flatiron Building looms next door to Madison Square Park.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Trick Dog - San Francisco, CA

The namesake burger at Trick Dog in San Francisco, CA.

Trick Dog is first and foremost a bar. But it is a bar named for its hamburger. An imaginative concoction on a sesame encrusted, toasted, hot-dog shaped bun. Despite this gimmick, the burger is tangy and satisfying.

We sat upstairs with a great view of the drinking and schmoozing taking place below. Mixed drinks consumed in mass quantities were the norm. Trick dog subscribes to the new artisanal cocktail craze in San Francisco, and I suspect elsewhere. We had met the bartender, Morgan, one night at Bar Agricole and sipped cocktails there at the bar of the master.
The bustling bar at Trick Dog in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA.
I ordered up The Trick Dog ($8) composed of “house ground blend of chuck, brisket & sirloin”. It also comes with shredded lettuce, onion, pickles, cheddar cheese and a delightfully tangy sauce that is some bastard child of thousand island and cayenne pepper. The burger patty itself is juicy and perfectly cooked with a luscious pink center.
Thrice-Cooked, Manimal-Style Fries. 
The Manimal-Style, Thrice-Cooked Fries are a must. ($7). These awesome, salty fries were thick and crispy topped with all manner of stuff. I am not sure what was in the topping exactly but I was in mind of deviled eggs in thousand island dressing with cayenne pepper. Cheese and mushrooms also resided atop the comely mess.

As we ate and I sipped my Manhatten, we enjoyed the ambience of a lively bar, but from a safe, comfortable distance upstairs. Our server had just the right amount of warmth and irony and let us consume at our chosen pace. I felt so at home I chased the whole thing with an ice-cold Miller High Life.  Next time I will try the scotch eggs.

Burger 4.5 spatulas out of 5
Fries 4.5 Spatulas.

Trick Dog
3010 20th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
An Antique Trick Dog Toy sits above the bar. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Paradise Cafe - Santa Barbara, CA

Paradise Cafe is a nice place in the middle of down town Santa Barbara.  Outdoor dining is available.  Inside the vibe is very Santa Barbara with ferns printed on the seat backs and bamboo tabletops. Our blonde, ponytailed server flitted about smiling the whole time. 

Food came quickly after ordering.  It is a huge looking burger served open faced with all the hot stuff in one side and the veggies on the top half of the bun. Assembling resulted in a 4-inch tall stack. 

The 1/2 pound Paradise Burger sells for $11.95 plus $1.50 for bacon. I selected Swiss cheese instead of standard Cheddar. The patty was smokey and tasty. Juicy meat was nicely salty. Red onions were piled on top and sweetly grilled. Bacon was smokey but a little flaccid. There was a nice thousand island style sauce on the side. Iceberg lettuce. Tomato slice. Pickle chips. The Onion bun was a little smashed but properly toasted. 

The burger comes with thin cut fries; cold, soggy, not impressive.

Paradise Cafe is a pleasant place to have a solid burger that will fill you up. Soak up a little bit of Santa Barbara charm while you are there.  

Burger 3 spatulas out of 5
Fries 1 spatula

Paradise Cafe
702 Anacapa St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101