Driving through the streets of Hayward, many small burger joints entice me with their siren’s call. You know the one: “Try me! I’ll deliver all the drippy, cheesy, beefy goodness you remember from that shack down the block growing up.” For me, these tempters recall the Charlie’s King Falafel in Old Orcutt, just outside Santa Maria, CA. Barely big enough for one person to order at the register at a time, young Becca always had the queen size and it always satisfied. I have no idea if their falafel was any good. I had no idea what falafel was until well after I moved away to college.
I paint that nostalgic picture to introduce a new series from the Gourmez. My resistance has failed, and I’m going to try each and every one of those burger joints in Hayward, so help me! Before you ask, yes, I’ve tried the iconic Val’s. It’s three blocks away from my apartment. But I haven’t been impressed. So if Val’s is the be-all end-all of burger heaven for you, well, our taste buds might not be best buds.
What makes a great burger joint? It’s more than just the patty for me, though the meat’s freshness and flavor is the most essential factor. What else matters? Quality of the bun: if it’s falling to pieces or mush before I’m done, that’s a problem. Grilled is appreciated as well. Cheese melt: That slice of cheese better be dripping all over the patty before you serve it.
Quality of the toppings: I like mayo, and I like it sloppy. I also want lettuce, tomato, onion, and maybe bacon, jalapeno, or avocado depending on my mood. Regardless, the ingredients must not make me wonder when the restaurant had its last produce delivery (this is my main problem with Val’s). Fries: Anything but steak-cut, boring, flavorless fries makes me happy (Val’s problem #2). Shake: I like to sip at my straw and actually get some shake through it, but I accept that the thicker the shake, the happier most people are, though I must maintain that such shakes should just be called ice cream (Final Val’s note: I haven’t had their shakes. I suspect that’s my biggest problem).
You have my criteria. And I have my first burger joint review for you.
1/4 Lb. Giant Burger
24134 Mission Blvd.
You have two options for ordering here. Either place an order to go at the window or walk inside to dine in at the cute counter with a row of red stools. Okay, three options. Place an order at the window then realize there’s a cute counter inside and ask for your food there. That’s what I did.
Either way, it wasn’t busy on a weekday afternoon. It took about 5-10 minutes to complete my order.
Shake: I ordered cookies and cream, though they have a good variety of shakes, including fruity ones like pineapple. There was no way that shake was going up a straw, and it tasted too strongly of vanilla; I think the flavors are just mixed in rather than being from difference ice cream bases. As it melted, it became more appealing.
Patty: Great taste from the griddle, but nothing particularly special to report. A little on the dry side.
Bun: Sesame seed and toasted on the griddle. The burger was too wide to pick up easily, but the bun held up until the last two bites. Not bad.
Cheese: It oozed invitingly.
Toppings: Falling out of the burger all over the place! They included two substantive hothouse tomato slices. I read advice to request the grilled onions, and I’m glad. They came thinly sliced and pretty tasty. The chopped iceberg lettuce was tossed in mayonnaise, which was unique and made for an appealing sloppiness. But those of you who aren’t into mayonnaise may be overwhelmed.
Fries: Thick-cut with the peels on. Very little seasoning. I’m salt-sensitive, so when I’m adding it, you know those fries are flavorless.
If the fries were more appealing, I’d knock this rating up a level. As it is, 1/4 Lb. Giant Burger earns a
Worth eating, but plenty of room for improvement. Especially for the fries.
Reviewed 2 June 14.