Grange Hits a Homer

Back in in late March there was a pre-season baseball game here in Sacramento where our minor league club, the Sacramento River Cats, played their major league affiliate, the Oakland Athletics. The A’s routed the River Cats 9–0, which was no surprise. Why have the game in the first place? Well, that is for a different blog. I remember thinking that if it were, somehow, a regular season game it would be completely unfair.
Sometimes judging the best burgers in a metropolitan area can be equally unfair, but in this humble blog, I do it all the time: the Squeeze Inn’s burgers might be one of the best burgers for a small stand, but put it up against Ella’s Dining Room’s burger and it does not match up. For that reason I always feel a little awkward when I find a burger in a “white tablecloth” place that outdoes the more modest burger stands’ fare, especially considering this blog started out as a survey of the more humble hamburger venues.

This disparity came over me once again while eating a Lucky Dog Bacon Cheeseburger at the very nice downtown restaurant Grange at 926 J Street, in/adjacent to the swank Citizen Hotel. The name of the restaurant is most likely derived from the National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, which is a fraternal organization founded after the Civil War that encourages family farmers to band together for their common economic well-being, but maybe there’s a Mr. or Mrs. Grange paying the rent.

My GTL between a Honda Helix and a Harley.
Grange is the black structure in the background.

When I ride my Vespa to work I park only a couple of doors from the restaurant and try to surreptitiously look at what people are having for breakfast when I make my way past the windowed address. I have a friend who took a disabled friend to the restaurant for lunch one day and reported that the restrooms—which are not located in the restaurant but in the jointing hotel—required walking down a flight of stairs. This did not bode well for the disabled person or her friend. She said nothing of the food.

As I took my seat at the bar (the wait for a table was about forty-five minutes) I asked where the restrooms were just to see the bartender’s reaction. She called a waitress over to assist me in finding them. I called her off, but later a customer needed to use them and once again someone from the floor staff had to guide the guest there. Normally, I would not mention this kind of detail in posts about hamburgers, but I must admit this would be an inconvenience even for mobile folk, especially at such a nice place. At least the staff is quick to help.

When my lunch arrived, I quickly forgot about any possible restroom reconnoitering and got down to eating. The Lucky Dog Bacon Cheeseburger is a one-third-pound hand-formed patty that I ordered medium-well, thick bacon, fontina cheese, wild arugula as an excellent replacement for lettuce, tomato jam rather than a slice, irresistible crispy tobacco onions, and chipotle aioli. After all of that, I was disappointed in the pedestrian bun. The beef, smoky bacon, strong cheese, and crispy onion work together to create a magical bite. The balance of tomato jam and unique greens complement the strong side of the burger.

The bun was dry and started falling apart early. When I got down to last one-fifth of the burger, I was eating it in separate elements with a knife and fork—which is a shame considering how good all of this tasted together.

The fries that came with the burger were very crunchy—very good picnic- or shoestring-style fries. They were not steak fries, as listed on the ever-changing menu. (So, if you go to Grange looking for the Lucky Dog, you may end up ordering off the menu.) Since I was at a bar, and a nice one at that, I did not see the need to take out a second mortgage on my house for a glass of iced tea, so I opted for water. The meal came to $16, which was not bad for this kind of place, but we are back with this “what should a hamburger be?” question. Is it something that costs $16 with fries? Or should we call these white tablecloth products something else, maybe the French phonetic “Ambergaire,” or with cheese: “Ambergaire avec fromage.” “Gourmet burger” is another option.

I have mentioned this dilemma before: the expensive burger usually prepared by culinary-schooled chef verses the burger-stand burger: Which one is better? For some there is an obvious answer, but that answer is different depending on whom you ask. The real question is why order a burger when you are experiencing fine dining. Why not leave burger consumption to days at the beach or on the road or just picking up something quick after work when you don’t want to cook?

Comparing the two is like comparing a minor and a major league baseball team, and maybe the twain should not be compared. Perhaps, but I cannot help myself. As it turns out, I have been to Scott’s Burger Shack more than I have been to any of the other places listed on the left of this blog, but that is mostly because it is close to where I live. The same goes with the local minor league team. I guess it depends on taste. Yeah, taste is a good word.

The Scooterist
Of all the scooter sites in the blogosphere the Vietnamese blog The Scooterist is one of the best. The title is pretentious, to be certain, but Đá Nguyễn delivers the goods with terrific posts, images, and the great touring video Made in Vietnam. A must-visit site for all those interested in scooters, Vietnam, and scootering in Southeast Asia.

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