Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pearl's Phat Burgers, Mill Valley, CA

Pearl's is a tiny spot that sits right in the middle of Mill Valley, hometown of Mash's B.J. Honeycutt. B.J. may be fiction, but Pearl's is not. The burgers are swell. This location is tiny with just four laminate tables and a counter. Everything is done in fifties style down to the light blue Naugahyde chairs.

I took my family and my sister's family. Stepping up to the counter to order, there are lots of special burgers posted on the wall. The grill behind the order taker resembles a Mash triage unit, buzzing with activity. The place smells greasy and great. A straight-ahead Phat Burger is just $4.90, but I went for the special Prized Pearl with bacon, sautéed onions, blue cheese and mayo for $6.95. Each burger has one half pound of fresh ground beef, unless you wimp out and order the quarter pound mini. I also ordered onion rings ($2.95), fries ($2) and a chocolate milk shake ($3.35).

The prized Pearl was excellent - juicy, fresh and a great mixture of flavors. The bacon was salty and crispy, the blue cheese tangy and creamy. I rated it a 4.5 spatulas out of 5. My brother-in-law, Jason had the Bula Burger. It is an Hawaiian influenced concoction with bacon, pineapple, cheese and teriyaki sauce. He loved it and dubbed it "spicy, juicy and drippy". Everyone else had cheeseburgers they liked.

The prize of the outing just might be the onion rings. Peppery, thin-cut and crispy, these crunchy beauties were the best I have had to date. (5 spatulas). At first I thought the fries were not that special, but they grew on me. Phat-cut with just the right amount of salt, they were "crisp on the outside and soft inside" as described by my sister Amy. They ended up rated a 3.5.

The shake was cold and thick. Quite good, but the best thing was an extra phat straw that allowed you to suck in the thick shake without waiting for it to melt first. This got me a quicker brain freeze and got the shake a 4.

I was stuffed when we were done. I needed one of those ambulance helicopters with the side litters to lift me out. Choppers!

Burger 4.5 spatulas (out of 5)
Fries 3.5 spatulas
Onion Rings 5 spatulas
Shake 4 spatulas

Pearl's Phat Burgers
8 E. Blithedale Avenue
Mill Valley, CA 94941

Also a new location at 708 Post in San Francsisco. (Not yet reviewed.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

JZ Cool Eatery - Menlo Park, CA

I have eaten at JZ Cool many times. Usually the cobb salad. It is a granola munching nirvana with organic this and natural that. Low impact, locally grown seasonal produce is stressed. My wife and I stopped by for lunch and noticed a lot of changes. More of a fixed menu. More sandwiches. Screaming my name was the grass fed burger with braised onions and aioli ($9). My wife got the roast pork sandwich with arugula and tomato pear chutney. There are no milkshakes or fries. I considered an organic root beer. But any root beer that looks like Sprite won't work for me.

The burger came out cooked medium to perfection. It sat on panini. The aioli was perfect with the burger. The beef was tasty and juicy. I loved it. 4 spatulas out of 5.

Now if I can just get Ms. Cool to fry up some organic O-rings and Fries and a grass-fed milk shake, I might eat nowhere else.

JZ Cool Eatery
827 Santa Cruz Avenue
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Monday, July 16, 2007

Clarkes Charcoal Broiler- Mountain View

Steve and I decided to check out Clarkes in Mountain View. For 50 years or more, Clarkes has been the feeding trough for burger boys on the peninsula. The building is decrepit at best, which adds to its charm. There are blue vinyl booths with faux wood laminate tops for inside carnivores and outdoor seating as well.

Clarkes flame broils it's 1/3 pound fresh burgers. They come out very smokey tasting, which I generally do not prefer. I ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger ($7.20), O-rings ($3.95), fries ($1.50) and a chocolate milk shake ($4.85). Steve went for the straight cheeseburger. We took our number and took our seat. Very soon our order was ready.

At Clarkes you get just the burger, ordered toppings and bun. They have a big fixings bar nearby loaded with onions, condiments and other items to pile on. You used to have to ask for tomato, but no longer. It is at the bar. There is no "special sauce" which I missed.

As we munched, I found the bacon a bit chewy, not adding to the positive experience. The smokey burger itself was OK, but nothing exceptional. Steve pointed out that I shouldn't order bacon, then maybe I could better experience the burger. I rated mine 3 spatulas out of 5. Steve liked his better. Onion rings were thick cuts of onions with heavy breading. I thought they were the best thing in the meal and rated them with 4 spatulas. Fries were thicker, skins-on style. They were only warm, not hot. 2.5 spatulas. The milk shake was thick and cold and rated a 3.5.

I found Clarkes better for its retro ambiance than its food. I would go back for another taste or just to get a feel the past days on the peninsula.

Burger 3 spatulas (out of 5)
Fries 2.5 spatulas
Onion Rings 4 spatulas
Shake 3.5 spatulas

Clarkes Charcoal Broiler
615 W. El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040