by Terrance Mc Arthur
Stuff four semi-intrepid adventurers into a Saturn wagon, send them into the Valley darkness in search of food, and what have you got? BurgerQuest 2013!
Off we went, in search of independent-burger-joint excellence. The plan was to get a burger and a non-burger sandwich at each establishment, compare them, and boldly go where no waistline has gone before!
1. Dari Snack/Dari-Snak/George’s Dairy Snack, 14575 E. Manning Avenue, Parlier, CA, 93648. (559) 646-1101.Across a major traffic artery from Parlier, the first question is “What do you call this place?” One sign says “Dari Snack.” Another says “Dari-Snak.” In directories, it’s called “George’s Dairy Snack.” Whatever you call it, the place is unique…and crowded. Parking is almost nonexistent. Out front, there’s a cart for salsa and fixings, because Dari Snack serves burger-stand fare and Mexican food. Flames from the grill give a Dante’s-Inferno quality to the kitchen, where the menu hangs. Spanish-language TV entertains in the five-booth eating area. Dari Snack shares the building with a tattoo parlor, so you could have a heart carved into your skin while you wait. We bought a Double Texas Bacon Cheeseburger and a Pastrami Sandwich.
2. Chuck Wagon Restaurant, 1203 Academy Avenue, Sanger, CA, 93657. (559) 875-3889.The Chuck Wagon is a long-standing institution in Sanger. Fast-food outlets come and go along Academy Avenue (KFC, Burger King, several pizza places), but Chuck Wagon is still there, despite the high school’s moving across town and avenue expansion disruptions that closed many businesses. It’s a bare-bones operation with five picnic tables under an awning, and a menu over the order window. Waiting for food on a rainy day is a wet experience. Don’t even think about going there on Wednesdays—they’re closed. We ordered a Clark Burger with Cheese and a Chili Cheese Dog.
3. Super Burger, 1005 Academy Avenue, Sanger, CA, 93657. (559) 399-3570.One of the Sanger restaurants that closed its doors was Taco Bell (although there is now a Taco Bell/Long John Silvers [we call it “Taco John”] up Academy). The old building is now Super Burger. Inside, a tiled floor says WELCOME to lots of tables in a clean, well-lighted place, and there’s drive-through service. A slick, take-with-you menu has everything printed on one side, and pictures of the combos on the other side. This place looks the most like a modern fast-food brand. We selected the Super Avocado Burger with Cheese and the Chicken Sandwich. There is also a Super Burger in Reedley.
4. Big Mama’s, 2431 Jensen Avenue, Sanger, CA, 93657. (559) 399-3047.Big Mama’s Burgers and Shakes used to be housed in a former Dairy Queen, but that has been torn down to make a small strip of shops and offices. Big Mama’s moved two doors down into a clapboard cottage. Getting from the parking lot down to the restaurant can be scary, even with the ramp. There are some table-booths under the eaves of the house, and
more tables in a spacious, metal-roofed pavilion. The side of the building has a large menu made of that honeycombed plastic they use for election signs, and it’s bolted to the wall. It’s like going to grandma’s for dinner, but you have to eat outside: great on a warm summer night, but a drizzly January isn’t the best time for a picnic. We chose the Texas Burger with Cheese and a Fish Sandwich.
That’s what you see at these burger joints. Now, let’s talk about food.
Dari Snack. The burger is two traditionally-thin patties with lots of drippings. It’s very tasty, and it “rolls across the tongue nicely.” The mayo/mustard blend on the Pastrami Sandwich had a delightfully pickly taste, the pastrami was meaty and juicy with loads of flavor…and lots of fries.
Chuck Wagon. The secret of The Chuck Wagon’s survival is…the chili. Deep, meaty flavor that embraces a humble hot dog and elevates it to a peak of cheese-bedecked glory! The Clark Burger is a nice, little burger, friendly and unassuming. However, if you got yourself a Chili Clark Burger with Cheese, you’d have something that would create stories you could tell your grandchildren!
Super Burger. Imagine—Slabs of avocado brought in by caravans from the South, a thin patty of near-Frisbee-sized meat, cheese, and healthy-red slices of tomato. The avocado is the star of that show, with the quarter-pound burger cast as the friend of the hero. Of course, I like avocado; your results may vary. The long chicken plank wasn’t dry, thankfully, and came with onion, tomato, lettuce and mayo: pretty decent.
Big Mama’s. The Texas Burger is juicy, messy, and fun, with onions, bacon, cheese, and unidentifiable stuff (I don’t want to know. I just want to eat). The Fish is tender and really worth having. It isn’t fresh-caught, but it makes you feel good. The fries have a flavor that permeates the potato, and the large helping is more than a person should be allowed to eat (Actually, a small order is enough to feed a normal human, but who’s normal?).
The Verdict, please:
* The nicest place to eat is Super Burger, but I love the down-home atmosphere of Big Mama’s, too.
* My favorite burger was Super Burger’s Super Avocado (I am pro-avocado, so I am prejudiced), but the Texas Burger at Big Mama’s is excellent.
* A lot of people don’t like fish, but the sandwich at Big Mama’s might change some minds.
* If you live in Sanger, once in a while you have to go to The Chuck Wagon for the chili. It’s the law.
* Oh, what wondrous pastrami they serve in Parlier, no matter what they call the place!
For the blue ribbon, where I would go when I’m hungry but nobody in the house wants to cook…….Big Mama’s. The atmosphere is a deciding factor…and their mammoth, low-
priced sodas are supreme. Great fries, and they try hard to make people happy. You might pass it by a hundred times (Please, guys! Put a big sign out there, soon!), but, once you try it, you’ll come back for more…and more.