Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tales from Abroad, Pasadena Edition - Part 6: Burgers burgers burgers

California is the self-professed home of the hamburger, and it's only fair that I take a second or two to comment on this.

First, the famous In-N-Out Burger, a made-in-America combination of drive-thurs (the "through" way of spelling through seems to have been lost, along with night and light...) and burgers. I mean, many places have drive-thrus, but how many places are primarily a drive-thru?

Being not from 'roud these parts, I walked around the small box where a half-dozen or so part-times furiously fried, stacked, and served these legendary burgers. Not noticing a place to walk in have a seat, I figured I'd get in line - in the drive through. Luckily the woman who was taking orders informed me that I'd have better luck at the walk-up counter around the side, so I didn't have to put my life in jeoparty over a couple patties with cheese and fries.

The service, I dare say, was excellent. You could see your burger being made "fresh" as you watched, and despite my paying and forgetting my change when I went to the bathroom, when I came back, my 7 cents were handed to me with a smile. Now that's service!

The burger itself, consumed back at my hotel room, was pretty decent. I orderd a "Doubtle Doubtle", not to be confused with a way to serve coffee - two patties, two pieces of cheese, and two days off your life. The fries were made the "old fashioned way", which I would actually described as the "less flavourful" way. Burger: 4/5. Fries: 1/5.

Tops, on the other hand, served up a huge burger with half a head of lettuce stuffed in it. As far as I can tell, there's only one Tops - it's not a chain - and it lives up to its name. It's burger was huge, dripping with all kinds of sauce, and stuffed full of the usual fixins. I don't recall the beef patty being very thick, but it was good, and as their magical sauce dribbled down my hand I was, for a moment, in heaven, though too many of these burgers'll undoubtedly send you there for good. The Greek-style potato salad I ordered was alright, but nothing special. Burger: 4/5. Potato salad: 3/5.

Now that leaves Carl's Jr. This joint, with its smiling star didn't attract me at first. To be honest, the name put me off - Carl's Jr.? I thought it was Carl Jr's, and I couldn't understand what belonged to Carl that was Jr about the place. Still, I was draw inside by a sign: proclaiming the seemingly impossible: A "Big Burger" for 99 cents.

99 cents? Seriously? You can't get a pack of gum for that back home. I ventured inside, my curiosity peaked.

The service at Carl Jr's was pretty slow - people seemed to take forever before they acknowledged my existence at the counter, but in the end, slow and steady gets the burger.

"Can I get the 99 cents burger?" I inquired.

"Which kind?"

Which kind? For a dollar I get a choice? Yes indeed. You can get the "Big Hamburger", which has a thin patty but is kind of wide, the "Spicy Chicken" burger, or some other kind, ranch something, I forget.

Over a series of days I tried all thre. Then came back for two of them (the Big Burger and the Spicy Chicken). I mean, serioulsy - for $1.08 per burger what do you want?

I found out later that this same meal was $1.29 per sandwich other places in California, like downtown LA and the OC. Burgers: 3/5 average. Value: 5/5.

And now I go on a diet...

Incidentally, tomorrow (Sunday, May 24th) is Free Burger Day at Harvey's. Sometimes it does pay to live in Canada...

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