Monday, August 17, 2009

My Burger With a Skirt

Guy’s Big Bite is the title of Guy Fieri’s other show on the Food Network. Our recent visit to the Squeeze Inn in Sacramento, CA is equal parts Diners, Drive-In’s, and Drives, on which the Squeeze Inn was featured, and a really Big Bite.

On a recent outing, Chuck and I convinced his cousin Barb Pauly that a side trip to Sacramento was a must. Yes, we take all of our friends and family to the fanciest of places!

The restaurant itself was formerly the lobby of a Sacramento pancake house and was moved to the current location. Opened in 1977 and purchased by Travis Hausauer (shown here manning the flattop) about eight years ago, this is truly a one-of-a-kind place. There is seating inside for eleven at stools along the counter and for an additional fifty or so on a tin-roofed patio (next to a driveway and near a dumpster), and trust me there is seldom an empty seat to be had. Fortunately, through a combination of dumb luck and sharp elbows, we snagged three stools at the counter.

And the “to go” business probably exceeds the ”eat in” business.

Why do people flock to this place? It is certainly not the ambiance. No, the reason goes by the name of the Big Squeeze Cheese, also known as the burger with a “skirt.” The process of creating a skirted burger seems to go like this (based on my observing the flattop master at work): take a one-third pound hamburger patty and place it on the griddle; cook the burger for a while; before the burger is cooked through, take a one-third pound handful of shredded cheddar cheese and pile it on top of the burger; position the bun top on the cheese and meat; toss a handful of ice on the griddle next to the patty to create a steam geyser to quicken the cooking process; and cover with a lid.

What results is a very juicy and tasty hamburger with a two-inch skirt of melted cheese around the entire circumference on a moist and soft bun. What possessed the original owner to develop this technique shall remain a mystery. But this is magic on a bun. The Squeeze with Cheese is removed from the griddle at the point where the cheese has melted and crisped on the bottom with all of cheddar’s salty sharpness. Left on the griddle any longer would result in nasty, burned cheese, but this was perfect.

Now how do you eat your Squeeze with Cheese? Served with lettuce, tomato, onion, dill pickles, and mayo, this would be messy to begin with. Add two inches of cheese skirt and it is a challenge. Some diners begin by peeling off the skirt and eating this first. I started by just trying eat it. This didn’t work for me, so I tried removing the bun top to fold the excess cheese on the top. Forget it. The bun top was stuck on the cheese. So, using Yankee ingenuity, I turned the burger upside down and removed the bun bottom and folded the skirt under the burger patty. Perfect!! This gave me the great cheddar cheese flavor both on top and bottom of the patty.

With our burgers, we shared two small (?) orders of fries. While frozen from a bag, they were very good fries – crisp outside, moist inside, and non-greasy but the burgers were so filling that the three of us couldn’t finish even two orders of the fries.

I know that there are non-burger items on the menu, but who was paying attention. We came for the Squeeze with Cheese and would accept no substitutes. And this is the top contender for the 2009 – 2010 “Burger of the Year.” All of you burger joints to be visited during the next ten months have a lot of heavy lifting to do.

For creativity, for maintaining tradition, for a truly great cheeseburger, the Squeeze Inn earns our highest score of 5.0 Addies.

All Burgers are Not Created Equal

When we learned that the first and original A & W Root Beer was still operating in Lodi, CA, we felt obligated to walk down memory lane to visit this shrine to fine root beer. The eatery had changed from the one that opened in 1919 by Roy Allen and Frank Wright, but the root beer was still very good.

Our lunch consisted of a Texas Barbeque Burger on Texas Toast (for me) and a Double Cheeseburger for Chuck.
The idea of a burger on Texas Toast sounded good in theory but, due to soggy bread, left a lot to be desired in practice. Chuck’s was pretty standard for a fast food hamburger and was probably better than many.

Of course, Chuck had root beer. But a look of shock and dismay crossed his face when I ordered the limeade. Limeade at an A & W? Yes. And it was delicious. Carbonated with intense lime flavor and very little sweetener, this may have been one of the best limeades I have had.

No rating here. How do you compare a fast food burger to the Squeeze with Cheese?

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