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.by