Friday, January 8, 2010

"Perfectly Uncivilized" . . .

is the town motto for Cave Creek, AZ.

The Saturday that we decided to eat lunch at Big Earl’s Greasy Eats (you didn’t think we could pass up anyplace with that name, did you?) was the day for the monthly Thieves Market, and the traffic in Cave Creek could only be described as perfectly uncivilized. After a number of false attempts, we finally found a parking place and walked back to this 1930’s art deco gas station now reborn as Big Earl’s, “Home of the Last Honest Hamburger.”

“Big Earl’s founder Eric Westerlund had the dream: 'Make it greasy, make it delicious, make it the way they want it... and don't apologize.' Hence the name 'Big Earl's Greasy Eats'. In business now for nearly 7 years, Big Earls sits proudly in the beating heart of Downtown Cave Creek in one of our town’s most-treasured Historic Buildings.” (From the Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce web site.)
“Great hamburgers (Best of the Valley, Phoenix Magazine). Old time malted milk shakes with real malt and real ice cream; yummy beer battered onion rings; sweet, salty, crunchy sweet potato fries; and awesome salads.”

Fortunately, the day was Arizona-beautiful with temperatures hovering around seventy and with a clear blue sky. Why “fortunately,” you might ask. Because Big Earl’s has indoor seating for eight with the rest on a large covered patio fronting Cave Creek Road. We found a table next to a gas pump, and quickly looked at the short menu.

As you might expect, the menu is heavy on burgers and chicken sandwiches with a B.L.T., grilled cheese, and hot dog thrown in to round out the choices. Surprisingly, Earl also offers five different salads including: the Classic Caesar (with romaine lettuce, shredded Parmesan, cheese, croutons, and the house Caesar dressing); Earl’s Pesto Caesar Salad (romaine lettuce, shredded Parmesan, croutons, and pesto Caesar dressing); or The Wedge with the Edge (a wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with Bleu cheese crumbles, Bleu cheese dressing, and tomato wedges on the side).

But I ask you. Do you eat healthy food at a place called Big Earl’s Greasy Eats? Of course not! It was a round of burgers for the table – the Big Earl Burger (above; your basic burger that Chuck ordered with raw onions only) and the Bleu Burger (below; 1/3-pound Angus beef with caramelized onions, Danish Bleu Cheese, pickles, onions, and mayo) for me.

To answer your first question – no, the burgers were juicy, but definitely not greasy.

I always have a burger dilemma. Just as I like my steak medium rare, so do I prefer a hamburger. But . . ., if the burger is cooked medium rare it doesn’t have enough time on the grill/griddle to develop that just-short-of-being-burned char that imparts so much flavor. So, I order the burger medium and hope for the best. These had spent enough time on the griddle to develop that slightly crunchy crust and edges that both of us so enjoy. And still they remained juicy. Big Earl did a great job here.

About the fries. Hand cut? Frozen? I don’t know. But they again were greaseless, but with a crisp exterior and a steamy moist interior.

Big Earl’s didn’t have the atmosphere of the Horny Toad--or it had a more laid back atmosphere--but I thought the burgers were far better and rate Big Earl’s a 4.0 Addie burger bar.

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