I have feelings about burgers. The good news is that Amadorians are in a good place, burger-wise, and my feelings are so strong I feel compelled to write about them. Right now, a burger worth mentioning can be found from one end of Amador County to the other, which means I have choices. Do I crave the char flavor or the double-American cheese blast? Is a tasty homemade bun what I need or a pile of pickles, shredded lettuce, and secret sauce dripping down my hand?
Before I rattle off my favorites and why, I’ll tell you which ones haven’t yet passed my lips and therefore, not part of my list: Buffalo Chips and Hotel Sutter, both in Sutter Creek, and Taste A Go-Go food truck in Plymouth. Full disclosure: I probably won’t ever try Taste-A-Go-Go’s burger because every single time I step up to order one, the words “Dirty Bird Sando” come out of my mouth. That crispy yardbird piled high with tangy slaw, sliced jalapenos and some crazy blast of sauce is my favorite local sandwich, hands down, which by the way I lick clean. I’ve heard those Sutter Creek burgers are worth trying, but when it comes to getting food to go, I stay in the city limits, unless I’m chowing down in my car.
The Big Three
Three things really matter for me to enjoy a burger to the last bite, which is exactly what has to happen for me to ever order one a second time. Those three things are the meat, the bun, and the setup (setup = all the good stuff that goes on the burger – or gets “held” if you’re picky). When I get the urge to seek and destroy some meat, I need the last bite to be as good as the first. Additionally, if a burger is ridiculously tall, I’m irritated. Food has got to function.
Here are my top burgers, working from the outside in, with respect to the big three: bun, setup and patty.
BUN: A bun needs to hold up to the last bite. If it melts like a cheap cookie in a glass of milk, I’m annoyed. My two current favorite buns in the county are outstanding for almost identical reasons: Villa Privata and Bistro49. Now, Villa Privata makes their buns in-house. It’s golden brown and toasty around the edges. It’s light and airy in the center. It has its own flavor. Bistro49’s bun has the very same characteristics; on the menu, it’s called a “brioche bun.” Is it homemade? I don’t know or care. It’s fantastic. Even if no morsel of meat is left in the last bite, that crispy, golden brown, buttery remnant of bun is not to be discarded.
SETUP: I like a setup that doesn’t get in the way of the more important stuff: burger, cheese, and bun. In fact, the very worst thing a burger can have is limpy lettuce or a slice of tomato with the little white core staring up at me from the center (lazy prep). As far as setups go, Brickhouse Brews on Main St. in Jackson has a setup that rivals a tiny fresh side-salad: fresh lettuce, a thick slice of ripe red tomato and red onion that says “hello!” long after you finish your meal. And I will always appreciate Mel & Faye’s because of the fact that they have a burger setup for every mood! Not in the mood for salad on your burger – order the Sourdough Burger or Miner Burger (chili!). I also don’t feel bad making switches at Mel’s — they are always happy to accommodate, likely because that place is built for volume. For example, I love shredded lettuce on my burgers, which is on some of their other sandwiches, but not burgers, and they happily sub it if I ask them to. Like, I might say, “Can I get a bacon burger with the sourdough setup?” The answer is always yes. “Can I get a sourdough burger, add shredded lettuce?” Yes!
BURGER PATTY: Finally, the meat. Who can resist a screaming char flavor? For me, it’s a requirement, and Bistro49 has that element nailed. And I like a burger nice.and.pink. on the inside, which they also deliver. Add a hand-formed patty’s uneven, raggedy edges that get a little crispier and I’m doing the food moan. That box is also checked at Bistro49. I might be mistaken, but I *think* many of the local burgers are hand-formed in the restaurant, including Mel’s, Brickhouse, Bistro49, and Giant 88. Maybe others?
Speaking of Giant 88, the double-American cheese blast I mentioned earlier? That’s where you find it. That burger gets eaten instantly, in the parking lot, with a stack of napkins. Do not try to transport anywhere. Just eat it.
Did I miss one of your favorite Amador County burgers? Let me know so I can get it on my burger calendar.