My Belated Return to the Squeeze Inn

No survey of Sacramento area hamburgers would be complete without a pilgrimage to Mecca—the Squeeze Inn. While there have always been contenders for the best hamburger in the Sacramento Area—Jamie’s on Broadway, Jerry’s Tumbleweed Inn on Folsom Blvd., and Cookie’s on H Street, to name three popular contenders—the Squeeze Inn is the only one to achieve national notoriety. The Squeeze Inn was one of the best-kept secrets in Sacramento until Food Network celebrity and Sacramentan Guy Fieri featured the restaurant on his Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives show.

After that, nothing was quite the same. The long lines that were common to anyone driving by the Fruitridge Blvd. address grew longer. Now people where coming from out of State to check out the what was so special about the little orange shack’s food. The next time the Squeeze Inn made the news someone was suing the owner Travis Hausauer for non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A disgruntled handicapped woman filed a lawsuit against the establishment. She was also suing at least four other businesses for various reasons related to ADA non-compliance. What was fascinating was the outcry against someone physically challenged! Googling the case brought up angry comments from the burger-loving blogosphere and other websites rallying behind the little orange shack and against the crippled woman. Any out-of-towner or non-burger lover reading these sometimes caustic comments might imagine someone kicking the cane out from underneath the poor woman’s straining arm or pushing over her three-wheeled scooter. The plaintiff eventually dropped the case, but Hausauer moved his restaurant anyway. He also opened a Squeeze Inn in Galt and will be opening another restaurant in Roseville soon.

The new Squeeze Inn is in a bland, nondescript storefront on Power Inn Road, right around the corner from the orange shack. Besides a few tables outside, the new place has a counter, about five tables and a booth enclosed in what appears to be the entrance of the old Squeeze Inn. Hausauer has lionized his blossoming chain with orange shack imagery throughout the store.

When it was my turn to order I noticed the signs on the counters as well as on the front door directing patrons not to have a seat but to wait to be seated. Though Hausauer has moved into a larger venue the Squeeze Inn’s rep has tagged along with it. Just like in the orange shack, there are no seats for the patrons tired of standing in line or waiting for their to-go orders. For that matter, there is no immediate seating for people like me planning to eat in the restaurant.

When a server finally called my name, she showed me to a two-seat wheelchair-accessible addition to the counter next to the swinging doors that separate the dining from the food prep areas. The servers were so busy that the doors were never idle and my Mini-Me counter gently rumbled the whole time I was there as the servers moved in and out through the swinging doors. With all this action, I was impressed that the person who took my order at the register also topped off my tea even though the iced tea and fountain drinks appeared to be available for customers to help themselves.

When it came to the food, of course, I ordered the Squeeze with Cheese, which is a 1/3 lb of beef, about a 1/4 lb of cheddar cheese (no joke), lettuce, tomato, long-slice pickles, red onion, mustard, and mayonnaise on a large sesame seed bun. One could point to the beef, or the red onion or even the large, crisp sandwich pickles as the ingredient that makes this burger so delicious. These components, though, are secondary to the Squeeze with Cheese’s piece de resistance: the cheese. The 1/4 to 1/3 lb of cheese is what makes it the iconic burger of the Sacramento area. There is so much delicious cheddar that you know you are sawing off weeks, maybe months of healthy cardiovascular viability with every bite. The Squeeze with Cheese looked and tasted like I remember, the ridiculous cheese “skirt” that doubles the footprint of the burger and needs to be hand trimmed before you can get to the rest of the burger, the explosion of mouth-watering beef and cheese, along with the pickles, red onion, and an superb bun combine for an extraordinary taste. Oh yeah, did I mention the eating of the cheese skirt independent of the burger? You just cannot leave that behind. Someone told me Hausauer did not bring over his now-famous seasoned grill from the orange shack. I would like to say I could taste the difference, but I didn’t visit the Squeeze Inn just before and right after the move so I don’t know if the different grills made that much of a difference.

Remarkably, the fries were a disappointment! As stated before, it has been a while since I had been to the Squeeze Inn, but I remember the fries were thinner, crispier, and flavorful, freshly cut from skin-on potatoes. The server slapped down a ketchup bottle as a default gesture when delivering these sorry spuds, and I do not blame her. I would like to think her gesture said, “Hey, you are going to need this. It ain’t like the good ole days.” I can’t help but wonder, with the Squeeze Inn expanding to other stores if there is going to be a bland uniformity. I would expect fries like this from Burger King, but not from the Squeeze Inn.

Of course, the burger alone is well worth the long lines and the location, which has all the charm of a vacuum cleaner repair shop. I wish I could tell you to order the onion rings—a sure bet when the fries suck, but fries are the only side order on the menu. The burger alone is large enough for you.

As I scoot down Power Inn Road, the Squeeze with Cheese is heavy on my ever-expanding gut. I see Folsom Blvd. coming up. “Hmm,” I think to myself, “I could hang a right and go East up Folsom about six miles. Maybe the kitchen is still open at Jerry’s Tumbleweed Inn.” My bulging stomach groans in protest; maybe next week.

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