Gourmet v Grease, and the Garden Highway

I am eating a $14 hamburger to the sound of jackhammers. As more shops Downtown close in these hard times, at least the City is busy carving up asphalt to lay more pipe, fiber optics, or whatever. Choosing a patio table at Ella Dining Room & Bar during this time seems stupid, but the weather is mild and the interior is too sophisticated for me to feel comfortable in my Casual Friday attire. I wrote in an earlier post that I was going to spread out these scooterless burger posts throughout this blog, but I guess I lied. In addition, Ella Dining Room & Bar/My First Run is located on the same city block where I work, so it is very convenient even if the price tag for the meal is not.

Ella Dining Room & Bar is one of three restaurants owned and operated by the Selland family. (The other two being the much lauded The Kitchen, and Selland Market Café.) The burger in question is the Grilled Hamburger of Wagyu Beef. As I read the name of the burger on the elegant menu I held back a laugh, thinking about the old “lipstick on a pig” saying. I know other high-end restaurants offer burgers, like Grange and Chops, but the names, while unique, are more down to earth, and after all, it is just a hamburger.

The Grilled Hamburger of Wagyu Beef consists of a hand-made patty of Wagyu beef, two thick slices of peppered bacon, Gruyere cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, two long-slice sandwich pickles, mayonnaise on a French bun. What gives the burger its distinctive taste is the sweet and smooth Gruyere, the aioli/mayonnaise spread, and the slice of a real heirloom tomato in concert with the sweet red onion.

The Grilled Hamburger of Wagyu Beef comes with hand-cut fries that are, easily, the best I have had since starting The Burger Scoot. One of the reasons for this is the bold use kosher salt. Kosher salt may make the fries too salty for some, but perfect to my buds. The size of each fry, the freshness, and the crispiness makes them ideal.

The only problem I found with this burger is its pretentious name. Though I know this is a high-end restaurant this is still a hamburger. For starters, why couldn’t they name the thing the Wagyu Burger? When my mother told me that Ella Dining Room & Bar had a burger she called it the Wagyu Burger, but I see that was just too pedestrian for a place that names Duck Confit Salad “Salad of Duck Confit” and Creekstone Farms Beef Tartare “Tartare of Creekstone Farms Beef.” With that said, it is arguably the best burger in town. I know my pervious post was about the best burger in town. What can I say? Still, at $14, I do not know when I will be back. Breaking it down to a taste vs. price question, it is not quite worth it. I will wait until someone wants to treat me to lunch. Then I will enthusiastically suggest Ella Dinning Room & Bar and order this exquisite burger. By the way, it will have to be lunch since the burger is not available on the dinner menu.

I sometimes question why I include hamburgers from places like Ella on this site. The original idea for The Burger Scoot was to capture the essence of the hamburger in its most uniquely American form—the drive-in, or something like it. Grease was supposed to be the heart of this blog not aioli. There is the argument that the Great American Hamburger is best experienced in a place like Scott’s Burger Shack, where there is no inside seating and the taste of your burger comes with the smell of carbon monoxide and the sound of backfiring cars; not a white tablecloth venue that offers valet parking. Still, I am eating my burger in a din of jackhammers and roadmen trying to shout over the noise. So, in a way, it feels a little like a burger stand.

If I wanted to get fancy I could create two categories of burgers, Grease and Gourmet. In the end, it really doesn’t matter if the burger tastes good because of the fat and cheese content or the ingenious gourmet ensemble. Whether it is linen napkins or paper ones pulled from an over-stuffed table dispenser, it comes down to the burger, and Ella makes quite possible the best. Then again, maybe the best hamburger is like the best rock & roll band: it is the one you are enjoying at the moment—assuming we are not talking about REO Speedwagon.

My First Run
I did my first Run on Sunday, August 29. I had been thinking about going on one of the Royal Bastard’s runs or maybe even one sponsored by the Vespa Club of Sacramento, but a veteran scooterist told me that it would be wise to take my first one or two with the Scoot Shop since they would be sympathetic to greenhorns like me. So I decided to play it safe and rode with The Scoot Shop group. I don’t know if one would call this trip a “run.” The ride was very short—about forty miles, but my hands were killing me as if I were riding all day. I guess I was squeezing the grips too hard. Rookie!

The run was a loop—there was no destination like there usually are on a typical runs. We did not stop until we were back at The Scoot Shop. The ride was scenic enough for a First Timer; much of it was on the Garden Highway.

When the run was over we disbanded and I rode up Freeport Blvd. to get a haircut. In the barber’s chair, I thought how pleasant Garden Highway was and realized I could see similar sights even closer to home. After my haircut, I hopped back on my scoot and travelled down Freeport. I continued to ride south until Freeport became River Road. I rode River Road until I was just south of the town Hood. This was more fun than the group ride earlier; it was not quite as scenic, but I think I was more relaxed since I did not have to worry about being aware of my fellow scooterists. I also noticed many motorcycles. This is obviously a popular road for riders.

Looking at a map later that evening, I decided I would someday soon take River Road all the way to Walnut Grove Bridge, cross it, and then take South River Road north all the way back to West Sacramento then over the Tower Bridge and back home. Maybe I will stop in West Sacramento to sample Whitey’s Jolly Kone! Yeah, that’s it, Jocko, another burger joint!

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