Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Palo Alto Creamery - Stanford, CA

The Creamery has been a favorite of mine for years. Both the Palo Alto and the Stanford restaurants feature the same menu. The Stanford store is usually packed at lunch with a line out the door. On Sunny days they have patio seating in the shadow of Bloomingdales. The crowd is an eclectic mix of ladies at lunch, tourists loaded with shopping bags, families with screaming infants, Stanford students and business people. Breakfast is served all day, but the claim to fame is the burgers and shakes. The Palo Alto location used to try to give off a 50s diner vibe with naugahyde booths, a juke box and old-fashioned candy at the counter, but the music is now current pop and the vibe more present day, particularly at the mall store.

I had never tried the Fountain Burger ($9.95 with fries). Strange, since it is the namesake burger of a burger joint. But in my guise of burger blogger, I felt it my sworn duty. So I dived in with relish. (Pun intended.) I also ordered Onion Rings ($6.95) and a chocolate shake ($5). The Creamery has table service and it is always quick and attentive. Clever slogans like "I am in the waiter protection program." grace the back of the servers' t-shirts.

The Fountain Burger was a delightful concoction. Thick and smoky Hobbes bacon and grilled onions topped a fresh beef patty cooked to a juicy medium. A mayonnaise sauce and melted Swiss also sat atop the grilled rye bread. The fries were thick and occasionally crispy with the skins left on. They were a little too darkly cooked for me. I was told that is because the recent batches have too much sugar in them. The large beer battered onion rings, Maui-style, faired better, especially when dipped in ranch dressing. The milk shake was killer - creamy, thick, cold and syrupy.

When you have worked up a massive hunger walking the among piles of luxury swag at Stanford Mall, give the credit card a cooling off for a few minutes and enjoy a burger at the Creamery.

Burger 4.5 spatulas (out of 5)
Fries 3 spatulas
Onion Rings 4 spatulas
Shake 5 spatulas

Stanford Palo Alto Creamery
Stanford Sopping Center
Stanford, CA 94304
Phone 650-327-3141

Slow Club - San Francisco, CA

Slow Club is a hip and happening restaurant just off the 101 freeway in a San Francisco, South of Market location. All the food is fresh and tasty. The servers are very aloof with an extremely high tattoo quotient and cutting-edge eye-glasses. Don't expect attentive service or even a friendly greeting when you show up. On a menu with grilled flatbread and grilled pork paillard, one would not necessarily expect to find a great burger. One would be wrong.

The menu has the current date on it, so it changes, but the three times I have eaten here, the burger ($10.50 with fries and swiss, jack or cheddar cheese - another $1.50 for Gorgonzola)) has been on the menu. I was told by the waitress that it was Neiman Ranch beef. The May 16 menu on the website says Prather Ranch. It doesn't matter. It is cooked to perfection just south of medium. The balsamic onions, mustard and aoili blend for a spicy mixture underneath the soft roll. This one gets a 4.5 spatulas. The thin cut fries are light and tasty and rate a 4.5 as well.

So, if you have a friend craving a muffaletta sandwich, but you just want a burger with a side of attitude, this place is for you.

Burger 4.5 spatulas (out of 5)
Fries 4.5 spatulas

Slow Club
2501 Mariposa St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

St. John's Bar & Grill - Santa Clara, CA

St. John's Bar & Grill is impressive in its scale alone. Very unassuming as one passes on Lawrence expressway, it morphs into a jammed parking lot and billowing smoke from an outside chicken grill at lunch on a typical day in Silicon Valley. This spot is so popular that the parking for the strip mall was jammed and I ended up sharing a space with a dumpster. As I walked in, 100 people sat outside in the beergarden and equal number were seated inside. Two women at the counter were ringing up orders as fast as they could. The line to order was at least 30 people deep, but I moved to the front in about ten minutes. I noticed in the restaurant that there were perhaps 5 women out of the 200 or so souls scarfing down their charred flesh. A golf theme permeated the decor and the television screens scattered throughout. A full bar was also available.

The very nice lady at the counter took my order. I got the one-third pound blue bacon burger ($7.25). The burger is made from fresh ground chuck. I also ordered beer-battered onion rings ($3.50) and small side of just cut fries ($1.95). I was issued a pager and scouted out a red-checkered, table-clothed table. The line to order never shortened as I sat. The burger was ready quickly, about 5 minutes.

I liked the combination of the perfectly cooked bacon - crisp and salty - with the bleu cheese. But the burger was overcooked and dry. (3 spatulas). The onion rings were beer-battered Maui style and were tasty but nothing special (3). The fries were of medium thickness with the skins on, the best part of the meal (4).

Overall, I am not sure that I would battle the crowds to return, but it wasn't bad.

Burger 3 spatulas (out of 5)
Fries 4 spatulas
Onion Rings 3 spatulas

St. John's Bar & Grill
510 Lawrence Expressway, Ste 110
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

Kirk's Steakburgers - Palo Alto, CA

Kirk's is located in the Town & Country shopping Center right across from Palo Alto High School. But there are no high school kids in the restaurant on a recent Thursday at lunch time, just lot's of photos of old Paly sports teams. I hear Kirk's is mean to the students and shoos them away. Either that or the students don't feel like spending $8 for a hamburger. But I have no such hesitation in pursuit of the best burger in the Bay Area.

I was joined by my friends Jeff and Dave for lunch. We stepped up to the counter and ordered. Given a number, we retired to a table to wait for our feast. Jeff ordered the 1/3 pound burger with chedder and pineapple - he says it is a local legend. I stuck with the featured items with stars by them on the menu. Those were Kirk's Big Griller ($8), combo of shoestring onion rings and steakfries ($4.19) and the vanilla milkshake ($3.85). Dave wimped out and ordered the caesar salad with chicken. He didn't want to get too filled up for his stretching class. The salad resulted in our burgers sitting under the heat lamp while it arrived, possibly from the grocery store nearby.

The Big Griller is a half-pound of fresh beef cooked to order and served on a roll. It has grilled onions and swiss cheese. I added only mayo at the generous toppings bar. The burger was quite juicy and tasty, if slightly overcooked. I rated it 4 spatulas. The onion strings were fabulous - lightly battered and crisp. (5 Spatulas) The steak fries were hot, but too big. (2.5). Finally the vanilla shake was thick and very cold, but not headache cold. (3.5). Jeff rated his Burger a 4 and the mocha malt shake a 5.

In closing, Kirk's serves a very nice burger and deserves to remain in a Palo Alto fixture. Perhaps some coupons to the high school could patch up the relationship with the students.

Burger 4 spatulas (out of 5)
Fries 2.5
Onion Strings 5
Milk Shake 3.5

Kirk's Steakburgers
75 Town & Country Village
Palo Alto, CA 94309