Every town has one, a small mom and pop burger place to call their own.
Special places where it might not be as fast or as cheap as a McDouble, make up for that in spades with size, taste and atmosphere.
The line is constantly out the door, even with an In-N-Out burger nearby.
The popularity of this new location inspired our staff to go around the valley and seek the best local burgers.
The Habit, despite the hype it had garnered from friends and associates, was just good, but not amazing like I had heard.
The establishment was nice and the employees were quick, but the food itself was just average.
For as much as I was paying for a burger, I was hoping for something a little bit meatier, even a double was still no bigger than a Big Mac. On top of that, the fries were tasteless.
I don’t live in Stockton. I live in Escalon, located about 25 miles away, where we have a different go-to hamburger, Hula’s.
Located off the Highway 120, the establishment sticks out immediately with palm trees contrasting everything else around it.
For such a small and singular place it has a lot going on with free wifi, a drive thru and and indoor/outdoor dining area.
Hula’s also pays host regularly to classic cars, with the parking lot overfilled with old codgers showing off 1950s to 1960s pristine examples of American automotive prowess.
The sweet potato fries are so tasty they could be their own food group, and the regular fries — while not spectacular — taste like actual fries and not empty ghosts of potatoes long gone.
Meals come with a little complimentary cup of half chocolate, half vanilla ice cream.
If you order to go, the employees give the ice cream first while you wait for your main course.
With the tag line “Best burgers in the Valley,” it’s pertinent that it does a good job at living up to that claim.
The burgers are perfectly cooked and just the right size, not puny like most fast food joints but not draconian in their girths that makes your heart just wants to call it a day.
I asked for the Bacon Cheeseburger and much to my surprise and satisfaction, there was almost as much bacon as there was hamburger. Slap on some awesome honey mustard and it’s time to work out your coronaries.
In Manteca there’s Chubby’s. The restaurant off Main Street is like something out of “Back to the Future.”
Upon entering the restaurant, you leave 2013 and go back to 1955.
Bandstand is playing on the radio, the tiles and tables are checkerboard. The walls are decorated with memorabilia from the era.
While the burgers are good, and so is the breakfast, I might add, the best part about Chubby’s is the bread. The hamburger buns are made freshly in store and really give the food a unique identity.
Voices from newsroom burger lovers
Foster’s Freeze, Lodi
Foster’s Freeze, an old-fashioned burger stand in Lodi, is like many others of its kind, frozen in time while wedged in a tiny space between bigger, newer business areas.
Think of the house from “Up.”
While Foster’s biggest draw is its nostalgia factor in town, most people are going for the ice cream and shakes, not so much the burgers.
The burgers fulfill a standard for what you expect out of a decent burger, and pass for a good lunchtime meal, but have little extra to offer flavorwise to make them stand above the crowd.
When you eat the fries they don’t quite work well with the burger and are very bland, especially when compared with the fries of fast food restaurants.
Foster’s has a certain charm that keeps people going back, and the owners are very friendly with most people in town.
You can enjoy a shake in the company of people you probably see everyday.
Even if it doesn’t offer a full gourmet culinary experience, Foster’s doesn’t need it in order to keep a slice of old-fashioned Americana alive.
— Christina Cornejo, Opinion Editor
Squeeze Inn, Tracy
The dining experience at any version of the notorious Squeeze Inn can be summed up in two words: cheese skirt.
It’s big. It’s gooey. And it defines what makes burgers at this known Sacramento-founded so delicious.
The Tracy version of the hamburger joint, located at 2742 Naglee Road near the West Valley Mall, opened in 2012. The only San Joaquin County Squeeze doesn’t disappoint when it comes to a hearty meal.
The top item is the Squeezeburger, a 1/3-pound all-beef patty served up on a warm sesame bun. Regular toppings for the burger include mayonnaise, mustard, dill pickle, tomato, onion and lettuce.
The burger is intimidating. It takes some gastrointestinal fortitude to conquer, particularly as the patron eats through the thick forest of toppings.
But the burger just doesn’t have the pizazz of the Squeezeburger with Cheese, which is also served with mushrooms or bacon depending on the order.
The cheesy version is like a gift from the hamburger heavens: hearty with a savory taste.
The skirt is the selling point. Shredded cheese is thrown on the patty as it cooks, creating an abundant layer on the hamburger.
The rest of the cheese creates a border around the burger and becomes a mix of melt and crisp.
It’s nearly impossible to eat without a logistical plan of action.
Some suggestions: Fold it in. Eat it piece by piece before consuming the burger. Take small bites one at a time to minimize the cheese halo.
Whatever the preferred method, one thing is sure: You will not leave the Squeeze Inn hungry.
It’s affordable too, with a meal costing about $12 with fries – regular and sweet potato are options – and a drink.
— Tara Cuslidge-Staiano, Newspaper Adviser