A Burger Journey
By Griffin Cipriani
There are many fantastic burger joints scattered across the city of Novato and I headed out with the goal to uncover their true caliber and flavors. I decided to focus on the service, atmosphere, and quality of their signature menu items. A 5-star scale was used for this review.
The first one I visited was JJ's Burger Joint. JJ’s is tucked into a small strip malI, a little off the beaten path. This, however, means that there is always parking and you can get in and out in no time. I was pleased to find out that there is outside seating because of the limited space inside. I ordered a classic cheeseburger on a plain bun, a side of fries, and a vanilla milkshake. Unfortunately, JJ’s could not provide a calorie menu. The total of the meal was $11.48.
The fries were perfect. They had a culminating crispness and strength for dipping but were still splendidly-cooked inside. They seemed to be seasoned with salt and a dash of pepper, which was nice even without ketchup. The shake was nearly perfect as well. There were no ice chunks and it was not too thick or too milky. Also, there was a balance of flavor so it was not too sweet but just enough to satisfy the taste buds. The only problem was that it wasn’t completely smooth. There were very small chunks that were about the size of a grain of rice with a soft but tasteless texture.
However, there was one real big disappointment of this meal. I had ordered a classic cheeseburger with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion atop a medium-rare patty. When I unwrapped it from its paper wrap, I discovered that they got the order wrong and gave me a burger with a bun and cheese. The bun was crisply toasted on the outside with nice fluffy bread on the inside. The cheese was fully melted onto a hearty patty, perfectly cooked medium rare. Luckily, it was moist and saturated with flavor.
The service was great as usual; they were quick and friendly through the entire experience. The atmosphere was very mom-and-pop with a relaxed feeling in the air. I’ll give JJ’s 3.5 out of 5 stars because mistakes happen but every other aspect of this meal was absolutely prodigious.
Next on the list was the popular In-n-Out Burger. I ordered a 480 calorie cheeseburger with everything on it on a plain bun, a side of 400 calorie fries, and a 580 calorie vanilla milkshake. This came out to $6.15. I was sadly disappointed, starting with the fries (prepared in sunflower oil). Visually, they appeared limp and soft and were spilling out of their small basket. It was as if I was eating mashed potatoes. They had a mediocre taste and were mostly soggy besides the occasional burnt fry.
The vanilla milkshake was delightful. It was smooth with no ice chunks and it truly tasted of vanilla, not just whole milk. The only complaint I have is that it had the consistency of soft serve, making it almost impossible to get through the straw. This may be good if you want your shake to last but I bought the shake to drink it, not battle with it.
Now onto the meat of the meal. This is a 100% beef patty with lettuce, their classic spread, tomato, one slice of American cheese and onion wrapped in some brown paper that soaked up most of the excess grease. The visual was nothing to get excited about. It was almost grey looking with a little color from the lettuce and tomato. The bun was weak and dense with no flavor. The cheese was thankfully scrumptious because the patty was thin, overdone, and very dry. Also, the lettuce and tomato were completely average. Although the spread they used saved the burger completely, it was messy yet savory and warming. I’ll give In n Out 3 out of 5 stars for the flavor and price.
Next I visited the Habit Burger. I ordered a 470 calorie cheeseburger with everything on it on a sesame seed bun, a side of 440 calorie fries, and a 710 calorie vanilla milkshake. This totaled to $9.25. The fries were perfectly cooked but did not taste like much. They had a nice, fried shell with a potato-filled inside, although that was the problem. It was as if I was eating a potato; there was no salt or seasoning of any kind.
The milkshake was a let down as well. Although it was smooth, it was very milky in consistency and tasted like a glass of milk with a hint of vanilla. The star of the meal however was absolutely sensational. Besides the weak bun, the lettuce and tomato were fresh and crisp, the grilled onions delectable, and the American cheese was perfectly melted onto a succulent patty, stuffed with zest. The service was above average with plenty of smiles and accommodating tones. The Habit Burger gets 4 out of 5 stars for their delicious burger and superb service.
The last on my list was Super Duper located at 5800 Nave Dr. C in the Hamilton Marketplace.
I ordered a 272 calorie mini cheeseburger, a vanilla shake with an unspecified amount of calories, and a 217 calorie fries. This small amount of food came out a whopping $13.25. The fries were among the best that I have tried. They had a great oil and seasoning flavor to them but were exquisitely cooked. They had a nice crisp texture on the outside with a flavorful and steamy potato occupying the inside. They also lasted the longest without getting soggy. The milkshake was very sweet and rewarding to my taste buds, but it was slightly milky and quite frankly small for its price.
I had never seen a burger look so put together yet colorful and explosive. It looked as if it were pulled straight out of a magazine. The tomato was the exact circumference of the patty, dark-green lettuce flowered out evenly in every direction, the spread was just as even, and the cheddar cheese was squared up and melted perfectly atop a luscious patty cooked to perfection.
Overall, it was a splendid experience that I will rate 4 out of 5 stars. The only reasons it didn’t get 5 stars is the service and high price.