There are a handful of places in the Sacramento area to get a great burger: the insanely great and expensive burger at Ella Dining Room, the burgers found at Dad’s Kitchen, Jaime’s, Pizza Rock, Squeeze Inn, Scott’s Burger Shack, and many places I have not covered yet. Out of all the heavy hitters, Jerry’s Tumbleweed Inn (10083 Folsom Blvd. Rancho Cordova) is the biggest, if not quite the best. I have tried twice before to visit “the Weed,” as those who frequent the bar call it, but have arrived too late—the very small kitchen of this bikers’ bar is open for breakfast and lunch but closes around 4 p.m. Last week I finally had a chance to order what their menu calls the “Famous” Tumbleweed Burger. Whoever added the quotes to “Famous” obviously does not understand irony (see The Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks) or lacks a command of English grammar.
Since the Tumbleweed is a bikers’ bar and I ride a scooter, I felt a little awkward parking my mint green ride next to a of couple of black Harleys. I did not know what to expect when I walked into the bar. Was I going to get dirty looks or was I going to be treated more like Rob Petrie when he ran into some bikers at a hamburger stand in an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show.
My first impression was quietness as I walked in; it was dark, like many bars, a few people stop what they were saying to look at me, a rough looking woman who looks like she is in her 50s, wearing a Levi jacket brushes by me as I approach the bar. From behind me she selects a Rolling Stones song from the jukebox and, when the song starts, she shouts “F___ yeah!” I shouldn’t have been so surprised at the overt display of profanity—walking in from the parking lot I noticed one of the Harley’s had a license plate frame that proudly read “F___ daht!!” Much calmer conversations all around me are peppered with profanity as I approach the bartender to place an order.
“What the f___ did you do that for, Bill?” “F___ if I know.” (Laughter.)
“How the f___ are you doing these days, Sue? “Okay, but f___, my old man can’t stop whining about his f___ed-up leg.”
The bartender looks me up and down and tells me to have a seat and someone will take my order. I am expecting a big mean guy to come up to my table (selected strategically near the door) and ask, “Well faggot, what the f___ do you want?” Instead, a guy in his 30s (most of the folks here appear to be in their 50s and 60s) asks me in a soft, friendly voice what do I want. He is wearing a black Jack Daniels baseball cap with the bill bent unevenly upwards. I think it looks goofy, but the same guy who told me to check this place out wears a Pittsburgh Pirates cap with the bill bent in the same fashion. It is the mark of a rider. (The bill gets that way when riders sit on their caps.)
So I order the “Famous” Tumbleweed Burger. When it arrives, I cannot believe it. The burger is a one-pound, hand-formed patty that is grilled down to about 3/4 of a pound. The cook confirmed this when he came out and greeted me on his way out as I was about halfway through swallowing this mastodon. The one-pound raw wad of hamburger he hand forms has “plenty of fat in it,” he says, and you can taste it. (BTW, fat is a good thing for all of you sirloin burger fools!) The cook must have taken an interest in me—being the only guy who was wearing a purple Land’s End Oxford instead of the ubiquitous t-shirt and black leather vest. I guess it was either strike up a conversation with this odd ball or beat the crap out of him.
The burger comes with a thick slice of raw white onion, three dill pickle chips, and what looks like a quarter of a head of iceberg lettuce. (Overstatement.) I ordered my burger with pepper jack cheese. The slice of cheese was a quarter of an inch thick! (No overstatement.) All of this was on a very sturdy bun. I rarely cut my burgers in half, but I had to make an exception in this case. Still, some of the tomato and lettuce spilled on to my plate with the first couple of bites.
See, I wasn’t exaggerating about the chunk of cheese!
The burger, like all the other items on the red-meat heavy lunch menu, comes a la carte, except for a redundant pickle spear. I ordered a side of very chunky red potato salad that was very good. I could not find the salt and pepper shakers until I noticed the single-serving size plastic Sutter Home wine bottles on the table had been fashioned into shakers–clever, but not very efficient. Altogether, with a horrible-tasting iced tea, the bill came to a reasonable $10 or so.
It is easy to get excited about this burger if you are a more- is- better kind of burger enthusiast. I am, but I still prefer innovation over tradition and the only thing novel about this burger is its sheer size. Still, the quality of elements that go into this burger—most notably the beef—is excellent.
I noticed when writing this post that the size element was similar to the Distillery’s burger, but the quality level of the “Famous” Tumbleweed Burger is much higher. When I reported to my wife about the size of the burger, she rolled her eyes. Five hours after eating the burger, the idea of eating dinner made me groan—I ended up eating very late. I will definitely return to Jerry’s Tumbleweed Inn for the “Famous” Tumbleweed Burger, with scooter, trimmed beard, Oxford shirt, and all. I just have to make sure we have no plans for dinner.