If there is any food that reflects the American lifestyle more perfect, it is the cheeseburger. Whether you’re a fan of a brioche bun laden, brie and truffle elk burgers, or you fancy a McDouble from time to time, we all enjoy the classic combination of meat, cheese, and diabetes. For years, there remains an undisputed king of burgers, due to it’s incredible value and remarkable taste: The In-N-Out Double-Double.
I have assembled a team of burger lovers from across Mills to join me on a journey to find out if any burger in our immediate area can defeat the double patty majesty. Loosen your belt-buckles, it’s about to get greasy.
Competitor One: The Habit Double Charburger
The first competitor to the In-n-out staple is it’s California burger chain cousin, The Habit’s Double Charburger. This burger is a beauty, two charbroiled patties atop a bed of lettuce and tomato, capped with grilled onions, and wrapped between a toasted sesame seed bun. The Habit’s burger is the epitome of balance: every element works together, but no one ingredient stands out. Burger sensei Henry Gerharz remarked that “the cheese is at the perfect level of meltiness, and the pickles are present, but not overpowering.” Perhaps this magical balance is broken by a carnivore-friendly meat to bun ratio, but if anything that’s a grease-laden gift given the great price. If there is any fault with the burger, it is that there is no one element that elevates it above other offerings. It is a theoretically perfect burger, but there is nothing overtly outstanding about it. Therefore we give this burger a combined 4 out of 5 Burgers.
Competitor Two: Big Mouth Burger
Price: $9.25 (includes fries)
The local fighter to the golden burger standard is our very own Big Mouth Burger. Big Mouth Burger opened a few years ago, and at first it was a tragic story of dry meat and pricey burger options. However as a recent visit with the Try-Vikes suggested, burgers―like humans―change. Arriving on a metal tray with a plaid picnic covering, our burger was given the deconstructed approach, a bed of toppings next to a side of fries and a cheese covered patty. One bite and we all agreed it was a solid burger. Burgermeister Joseph Bonavia, with a mouth full of burger and fries, remarked, “it gets done what it needs to get done”. Aside from a tasty meat and cheese duo, the toppings lacked quality, and the buns easily sogged out due to lack of toasting. Big Mouth Burger showed us that while quality meat is important, you need to pay attention to the total package, and for that reason we are giving it a 3.5 burgers out of 5.
Competitor Three: Jeffrey’s Burgers
Nestled on a street corner in San Mateo, the most retro offering on our list is Jeffrey’s Burgers. Immediate upon on entry, the dynamic-burger-loving-duo of Michelle Chan and Adrianne Offril both agreed that the aesthetic of this restaurant trumped the others. A different story can be told about the burgers. The only thing included in the price is a somewhat small cheese-draped, well-charred burger on top of a standard bun. In order to get any form of toppings or condiments, one has to walk to the back of the restaurant where you are met by mushy tomatoes and browning lettuce. We all decided to ditch the lettuce and tomato and just add our spread of choice. We tasted the burger, and the next ten minutes were spent trying to justify the bland and rather disappointing sandwich in our hands. “The meat is…. meatier….” said Michelle in a somewhat confused voice. Adrianne sat there, searched for some critique, took another bite, and said in a wandering tone, “The bun…. the bun is not as sweet as other places.” It wasn’t long before we ditched the vague pleasantries and unanimously decided that what we had was a boring, saltless, meat-and-cheese sandwich that is not worthy of representing the hollowed American pastime. All agreed, except for Joseph, who said with thumbs up and smiling, “I like it.” If there is one silver lining, it was that the onion rings here were the best out of the three previous competitors. 2.5/5 Burgers.
So what did we learn? Well for one, getting a good tasting burger is not a challenge. Secondly, a research article is a great excuse to eat burgers. Yet, through our “scientific” taste tests, the Try-Vikes and I have concluded that while The Habit offers top notch quality with the price, Big Mouth is not a big loser, and that Jeffrey’s is cafeteria food with a fancy paint job, none of these places has what it takes to beat In-N-Out at its game. However, if you don’t want to wait in line, you’re in good hands.