Author Archives: whatsystem

About whatsystem

Me likey cheeseburgers, me likey scooters, me likey books, me likey cinema (fancy word for movies), me political junkie, me card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

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!

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.

One Tasty (and Expensive) Cafeteria Burger

Since February 15, the upscale restaurant Mason’s is no longer on the corner of 15th and L Streets in Sacramento. Cafeteria 15L—a casual, but stylish, eatery serving comfort foods like meatloaf, fried chicken, salads, and sandwiches–is now on that corner. Owners Alan, Curtis, and Mason Wong, who also own the adjacent Ma Jong’s Asian Diner, must have felt they would fare better with a more casual restaurant in these tough economic times.

I have been waiting to check out Cafeteria 15L, but the location is far enough away from my office that the traveling time on foot seriously cuts into my lunch break. Scooting is prohibitive since Cafeteria 15L is closed for lunch on the weekends. Though the Wong Brothers have traded in their foie gras for meatloaf the décor of Cafeteria 15L is still smart but in a casual way, and this was reflected in the menu’s prices.

Like in most restaurants that charge $2.75 for a Coke, the person who took my order asked me how I wanted my burger. This always seemed strange to me. While I like my steaks medium to medium rare depending on the reputation of the restaurant, I never want to see pink in a burger, and gag whenever I think of it. (See, I told you!) Ideally, I prefer a slightly charred burger, though I never ask for this for fear I may end up with a hockey puck. The bill came to over $16 for a burger, fries, and an iced tea. Considering the digs, it is not such an outlandish price, but one that will reduce the frequency of subsequent visits. The dollar increase in price between the lunch and dinner hamburger with nothing to justify the one-buck hike may prohibit me from going to Cafeteria 15L for dinner unless my wife is paying.

Pricing aside, the food is exceptionally good. The handcrafted burger appeared to be about 1/2 lb with fresh lettuce two generous slices of fresh tomato, pickles, a raw red onion slice, and Thousand Island dressing served on a toasted French bun. I ordered cheddar cheese on my burger for 95 cents extra, but Cafeteria15L also offers Swiss, goat, and bleu cheese. I hope to return to try the Cafeteria Burger with bleu cheese and possibly the goat cheese, too. Other extras are bacon and mushrooms for $1.95 each. I try to imagine ordering cheese, bacon, and mushrooms on a Cafeteria Burger: that is nearly $4 more out of your wallet. I hope the mushrooms are sautéed.

The burger comes with excellent shoestring fries served with the burger in a deep aluminum pan. The ketchup is served in a side dish, but you will not need it for either the burger or fries. The burger is very moist and flavorful; and the red onion and thick, fresh tomato slices give the Cafeteria Burger its distinctive taste. The shoestring fries are crispy if perhaps a little too salty, though I like it that way.

One last thing about Cafeteria 15L: facing the L Street side of Cafeteria 15L and on the property is The Park. This is a sandwich shop with a walk-up counter and only a few tables and chairs in front, but plenty of seating in the comfortable and spacious patio behind The Park. The patio, that joins Cafeteria 15L patrons with The Park customers, sported a stage. When I was there, recording artist Ryan Star was performing. The Park is a fast-food operation. Besides sandwiches, it sells salads, soft drinks, coffee, tea, and espresso drinks. The Park also sells hot dogs, and the “BURGERdog.” That is why I am here the following day. The BURGERdog is a small grilled hamburger rolled into a bun-shaped figure and stuffed with pickle relish and diced onions. The BURGERdog is served on a hotdog bun. In the end, it tastes more like a dog than a burger. Compared to its specialty sandwiches or the Nathan hotdogs, the BURGERdog is a curious novelty at best.

IL Inferno Scorciante Due and a Hot Burger too!

The best way to experience scooter culture is to attend a rally, and no sooner after starting this blog did the Vespa Club of Sacramento announce its second annual rally IL Inferno Scorciante Due (or The Hottest Hell 2). So, on Friday night July 23, I scooted to The Bonn Lair, an Irish Pub on J Street near 36th for the first of five events to take place between July 23 and 25. It was my first rally and I was nervous.

As I rode up J Street, I could just see me, a scooter rookie, knocking over one newly detailed vintage scooter, which would then start a chain reaction knocking down a dozen scooters on J Street while trying to set the scooter’s center stand. I would fee from the scene of the crime only to be chased by a bunch of Mods. Instead, there was only an old orange Stella parked in front of Bonn Lair with plenty of room for my clumsy parking job.

It was not until about a half-hour later, while munching on some fish & chips at the bar, that I started hearing people talk about scooters. At one point, the bartender point out one of the leaders of the Vespa Club of Sacramento (or VCOS). Billy smiled and pushed his right hand through the crowd as I franticly wiped the grease off mine to meet his. When I met him again later at the back of the pub, the amiable Billy introduced me to about eight other scooterists. This was my first real experience in the culture of the scooter.

Like all the parties I attended in college and later with my wife I ended up a wallflower, intimidated by everyone’s commanding knowledge in everything that is scooter as well as my doomed inability to just walk up to strangers and engage them in conversation. I also realized that so much of the talk revolved around vintage scooters and the various makes and models—I did not do my homework, I was completely lost. Billy would occasionally see me standing alone in a corner, call me over, and ask me shallow questions like how I liked my GTL. “I love it!” I said feigning a cool manner, as if I have been talking all night, and not desperate for attention. I felt Billy was just being nice—these guys do not really talk about new scooters, their interest is in the older classic models. From this point on, I realized the only way to survive was to play the inquisitive rookie card. Therefore, I started asking questions. For the rest of the three-day rally, I would speak to scooterists with a beginner’s curiosity, which was the truth, even if I felt more of an outsider than someone trying to fit in as an equal would.

I had heard that the VCOS acted superior around other scooterists—ones who rode newer rides. I asked about the VCOS’s members and how does one become a club member. Billy told me the VCOS is really about vintage scooters, but anyone can attend meetings and runs. “We’re aware of the ‘snob factor’ some people label us, but I think we are misunderstood,” he said. He also said that one could find faults with other clubs, but it really comes down to individuals.

I almost won a free one-year Vespa Club of America membership in a dart game. I considered this a good omen for the rally since I have never played darts before. Riding home that night I was exited to meet new people, but also wondered why I stayed so long with the last half-hour spent sipping my mineral water alone in a corner. These coinsurers of vintage scooters could only find so much to talk about to a newbie with a 2005 scooter.

I missed the run to Woodland on Saturday morning. I did show up at what I thought would be the best part of the rally—“The Custom Show & Cocktails” part later that afternoon at The Shady Lady Saloon on R Street. No one told me what the show would be like so I was expecting Hot August Nights for scooters. There was no show, just another place to drink and talk. Since I do not drink and I do not know anyone I, once again, ended up the wallflower. On the other hand, I was introduced to Sic Bastard, Bodacious Bastard, Commie Bastard, and Absolute Bastard of the Royal Bastards Scooter Club.

I had been waiting to meet the Bastards ever since Rebecca of The Scoot Shop told me The Bastards have members with newer scooters. I met Sic Bastard and Absolute Bastard who were very friendly. I also met VCOS President Ben, who told me a little of the history of the club, which began in the 50s, disbanded some time later and was resurrected only recently.

Of all the people I met during IL Inferno Scorciante Due, I was most impressed with the legendary Rolf Soltau. Soltau was a scooter racer and founder of the Vespa Club of Los Gatos, but his claim to fame is that he is most likely the best mechanic Piaggio had this side of the Atlantic. I do not remember any of the technical and historical information he bestowed upon the crowd who surrounded him, but when he spoke, they listened. When he asked me what kind of scooter I had and I promptly answered. He said, “All you have to do is replace the oil every 3000 miles and it will cause you no problems.” A very different kind of comment compared to what he said about various vintage scooters. Still, Rolf and his fans talked about vintage scooters the most, rarely mentioning anything Piaggio has produced in the last twenty years. I wanted to ask him about the MP3s (Piaggio’s three-wheeled scooters), but felt outgunned by all the vintage talk.

There was something else about Rolf—he was old. This made sense since his wisdom reflected his years, but it made me realize something: with the exception of the Master Scooterist, I was one of the oldest people in the bunch. Most of the attendees were in their twenties and thirties. There were a few guys in their forties, but I do not remember anyone looking my age. I was both the oldest and least experienced in the rally. My age did not bother me as much as my inexperience, but I did have this urge to tell all these scooterists to go easy on the beer and to stop smoking before it is too late, as if I was their uncle. I would discover a week later at a Royal Bastards “meetup” that there are plenty of older riders, some of them as old as Rolf, they just did not attend this rally.

The conversations I had with Rolf, Billy, Ben, Sic, and Absolute, were few, and far between chunks of time I spent counting all the bottles behind the bar while nursing my ice tea. When I got tired of the liquor inventory I would walk from one side of the bar to the other trying to get into various conversations, but that was not working. Finally, I took a walk up R Street and to my surprise and relief, I was delivered by, of all things, a hamburger!

Burgers & Brew: a Burger Interlude
Next door to The Shady Lady is Burgers & Brew. Now I am at home! Burgers & Brew sports nine different hamburgers, and five burgers with alternatives to beef: turkey, tofu, Portobello mushroom, a Garden Burger, and a Buffalo Burger I am going to have to return to try! I felt so relaxed that I forgot to order The Burger Scoot’s usual cheeseburger test. The Special was a Chipotle Burger—that was not on the menu, but I ordered it anyway.

The Chipotle Burger comes with the usual fixings: lettuce, tomato, pickle, a slice of red onion, and mayonnaise. It also comes with peperjack cheese, chopped jalapenos, and chipotle sauce. The patty is ½ lb of Niman Ranch beef and is good if not outstanding, but it is the whole package that makes it a remarkable burger. The sesame bun gets the Burger Scoot award for Best Bun So Far. This is the reason why I order burgers over patty melts. You can make a decent patty melt with just about any kind of bread since it is buttered and grilled anyway, but a good bun sandwiching a hamburger makes a big difference. The balance of beef, bun, red onion, lettuce, pickle, and tomato (even if the tomato was not very fresh) tasted down right excellent during some bites.

The fries were very good, thin, and crispy, and while I usually do not comment on my ice tea (I write this blog as if a cola would be the usual drink) the tea was excellent. Too bad I had already guzzled a pitcher of the stuff out of boredom and the desire to fit in with the rest of the scooterists who were drinking beer and alcohol next door.

Come to think of it, why isn’t there a Burger Rally sponsored by a Burger Club of Sacramento (BCOS)? I would be the Billy of the club! Guy Fieri could be the Rolf Soltau. I could help wallflowers who feel excluded and who do not think they know or love burgers as much as the club members do or can eat burgers with the same passion as BCOS members, and I could befriend them and make them feel at home. Of course, the club would discourage corporate chain burger fans from joining.

After that huge meal I went home for a while, but made sure I was at the Naked Lounge at 15th and Q Streets by 7 pm for the “SacTown Ride”—a cruise around midtown, downtown, and old town. While we were waiting for all the riders to show I told Absolute, Sic, and a few others that I have never road in a group. I also told them about an incident I had when I was scooting back from DMV after receiving my Class M1 learner’s permit. I was traveling South on Land Park Drive when I saw a big bike, like a Harley in my mirror. When I came to a stop sign, the rider behind me swung to my left and stopped along side me, in the northbound lane. I looked over at the rider, dressed in motorcycle club attire a la Hells Angels, and he gave me an icy stare back. He then turned left heading east.

When I was at work the next day, I asked my friend who belongs to a motorcycle club what this meant and he told me I was not showing rider courtesy by sharing the lane. After recounting this story to the group at the Naked Lounge Absolute said, “Oh, you are definitely riding in the back!” I suppose I could have been hurt by this, but I was not. I know I did not have “street cred,” as they say in these circles.

When we rolled out, I was in the last third of the group, but found myself falling further back. I ended up one of the last few scooters when the ride was over and we parked our scooters in the alley between R & S Streets at 23rd. We were at Midtown Scooter Shop, a warehouse that also shares space with an auto shop. It was here in an alley, with music blaring, hot dogs grilling, and episodes of “The Prisoner” flickering across a half-lit garage onto a white wall, I could feel a special sense of community. A part of scooter culture was here in this alley in midtown Sacramento and I was a part of it.

I missed the final event, a barbeque at East Portal Park on Sunday morning. I was in church while the scooterists were playing bocce, croquet, and taking part in something called the Golden Sausage Ceremony. When I arrived, it was virtually over. Sunday would have been a wash for me but I met Marc who is a good friend of my father. We did not talk long and what we talked about had nothing to do with scooters, scooting, or scooterists, but the conversation was fruitful and worth the ride over to the park. I was introduced to Sic again, who is a good friend of Marc’s and I checked out Marc’s cool ride, an Aprilia Scarabeo 200. When it comes down to it, I guess I really do prefer the newer scooters, but I think the Royal Bastards and maybe even the Vespa Club of Sacramento would agree, when it comes down to it, it’s all about the ride.

Scootin’ for a Fatboy

Scootin’ up Franklin Boulevard you cannot miss Scott’s Burger Shack (4127 Franklin Blvd.). A small, spray-painted white building situated almost on the street on the East side of the busy thoroughfare. There is no inside seating at Scott’s and only three sticky-blue benches on one side of the appropriately named “shack.” The lack of seats is complemented by the four parking spots (if you do not include the handicap space). All the windows are covered in white spray-painted bars. Behind the bars the windows are completely covered giving the visitor no visibility into the kitchen. Even the order window is usually shut when you approach it. If any of Scott’s personnel hear you when you reach the counter the black plastic door opens with an unanticipated slap! A less-than-excited woman forces a semi-smile and sharply asks what you would like to order. On some occasions, you have to tap on the sliding door.

This siege mentality probably has to do with the environment—Franklin Boulevard looks like a rough neighborhood. There are quite a few rundown shops and old buildings that appear to be vacant and the pedestrians are on the rough side, too. When I pulled up on my Vespa a couple sitting on one of the blue benches wanted to know what kind of motorcycle I have. “It’s a scooter,” I politely corrected the one who asked.” When he asked how much it is worth I got a little nervous, but I figured he would not be able to lift my scooter and keep his precious shopping cart of rusted coaxial cables and old wire, so I considered myself safe. Besides these deterrents, the neighborhood is stable enough to support some new stores and El Novillero, one of the best Mexican restaurants in Sacramento.

Now comes the positive side of this post. Scott’s Burger Shack makes one of the best hamburgers in town—well worth the trip to the area. I ordered a Fatboy Combo that comes with fries that are too thick to be regular, crispy fries and too thin to be steak fries, but who cares! I trip on these details when the burger is pedestrian. The Fatboy with cheese is an excellent burger: a handmade, ½ lb of fresh hamburger (Scott’s purveyors deliver daily) with lettuce tomato, pickles, and a slice of (raw) onion.

There is nothing unique or genius about the Fatboy. It is just a big burger with fresh ingredients—a far cry from most hamburger offerings in town. I sat on one of the sticky benches listening to the din of loud rancheras music from the Mexican restaurant across the boulevard and a street woman singing my praises for buying her a bag of fries, “God bless you, sir. God bless you. You are so kind…” I heard all this, but I was not listening—with every bite I took of my Fatboy it seemed that my eyes would roll in the back of my head.

Besides great hamburgers, Scott’s Burger Shack makes dogs, chicken sandwiches, subs, tacos, and other items like deep fried zucchini, mushrooms, and chili-based side orders: more reasons for me to scoot back here soon. I had an iced tea when I was there, which was typically bland for most hamburger places that sell mostly soda; however, Scott’s is also known for their shakes—another reason for a return visit, which I hope will be soon.

If you go to Scott’s plan to get your food to go, as stated above, it is not a friendly or comfortable place to stay and eat. You can even order ahead since they take telephone orders: 916.451.4415. Let me know if you try something besides their Fatboy—I tend to stick with things I like so a comment on their chicken sandwiches, subs, or dogs might break my rather dogmatic tendency towards the familiar.

Hamburgers & Helmets

** UPDATE: J’s Cafe is now “Dad’s on J Street.” I would cover this new restaurant, but Dad’s has almost the exact same menu and the food quality has not changed. **

I have been going to J’s Café since the early 1990s and over the years the food has gone from excellent to poor to decent. I miss those days in the early Nineties when there was an innovative owner. On one occasion, while I was eating one of his latest creations, he stood over me asking how I liked his latest creation. I wanted to say I would like it better if he left me in peace, but he was a friendly person and you rarely meet a restaurant owner who seems so concerned about how his customers regard his food.
The owner (I never got his name) told me he made yearly trips to Southern California looking for inspiration. “SoCal is a great place to get ideas.” The original J’s Burger was a 1/3 lb handmade charbroiled sirloin patty topped with pastrami, jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions, pickles, and a dressing similar to but not exactly Thousand Island dressing on a toasted bun. The Monterey Burger had pretty much the same ingredients but with avocado instead of pastrami. Both were the latest innovations since his last SoCal trip. Ten years later variations of these two are still on the menu, though they do not taste the same.
A few years later, after the Sacramento Bee and local magazines took notice of the small restaurant, things started to change. The man who spoke so passionately about hamburgers, pattymelts, and specialty sandwiches was no longer running the place. The food lost its unique flavor, and I stopped visiting the place as much. About ten years ago a Pilipino man bought J’s Café and the quality of the food improved a little. The food rose to the level of most State Workers troughs: good, but nothing remarkable.

Today I ordered a Cheeseburger with fries. The burger is a 1/3 lb (originally frozen) patty with cheddar cheese, and the works (lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions, pickles, and Thousand Island dressing on a toasted bun. It is a good burger, but there is nothing outstanding about it. J’s keeps a steady clientele since State Workers rarely complain about this quality: it is clean, fast, and it tastes better than the alternatives at the same price. The fries are steak fries, which are good, if you like steak fries. As for me, I like anything that does not need ketchup. I can not eat steak fries without a bottle of Heinz on the ready.
J’s Café is usually clean; however, it can get messy if they are busy. The staff is sparse and the person taking your order is usually the person cleaning the tables. So often, when there is an order line, I have had to consolidate dirty trays, plates, and cups to make way for my eating area. Overall, I like J’s Cafe, but I am pretty easy to please especially when it comes to lunch during the work week–I am finally out of my office and anything is better than that. If I came here for dinner, assuming they were open, I would not be such a pushover.

Confession: I did not ride my scooter to J’s Café. There, I said it. For that matter, my future reviews of Jim-Denny’s and Cafeteria 15L, which I will spread out, will also be scooterless. In addition, if I ever review burgers from the up-scale restaurants of Chops, Ella’s, Grange, or Esquire Grill they will also be done sans Vespa. J’s Café like the other aforementioned are within walking distance from my office and all of them have irregular hours on the weekend. Remember, this is Downtown Sacramento.

I grew up around motorcycles, mostly dirt bikes. My father was a successful Enduro, Hare & Hound Scrambles racer, and also was successful at hill climbing. I never got the courage to go fast enough to consider racing. When I was old enough to drive I had a Yamaha DX 125 that I rode to work and high school. I also used this dual-sport bike to ride with an older guy who lived around the block from me.

Bruce Porter had a cool Bultaco trails bike and we would occasionally ride in an undeveloped area near the American River. I looked up to Bruce—he was older, a better rider (two things my father also was), and since he was not my Dad there was never the pressure of acceptance that always loomed whenever doing just about anything with my father. Bruce was just an amiable guy.

One day I rode over to his house where he was working on a new motorcycle—a motocross bike he was building using after-market products. I walked up his driveway, pulling my helmet off my head, allow the helmet drop while holding the chinstrap, and then with the helmet dangling about eighteen inches or so from the ground, let it fall on his driveway. The helmet bouncing a few times before it rocked quietly to a stop. As manager of the JV football team, I saw players drop their football helmets in the locker-room in the same manner and did not see any reason to treat my motorcycle helmet any different.

Bruce’s reaction was a mixture of shock and dismay. “Jack, what are you doing?” “What?” I replied, thinking his response was over-dramatic. “Every time you drop your helmet like that you are breaking down the fibers in that helmet and compromising the integrity of the entire design.” Since Bruce was always an accepting person I felt embarrassed and maybe a little betrayed.
Flash forward some thirty years later and I am online looking up the names of people I knew when I was a kid when I found Bruce, the guy who preached to me about helmets, is now working for a leading helmet company! Bruce has been the Director of Motorsports of North America for Arai Helmets Ltd. for the over twenty-five years now. I remembered this video when it came to deciding what helmet I would select. Arai is one of the best helmets available on the market. True, you can use any helmet that has the Department of Transportation’s seal of approval: “DOT,” but Arai, along with Shoei and a few other high-end helmets are also Snell Certified. What this means is the Snell Memorial Foundation has passed this helmet after testing it under far stricter standards than the Department of Transportation.
If you buy an Arai or any other DOT/Snell helmet you will be doing your brains a big favor, even at the expense of your wallet. I got a deal on my Arai, by purchasing a 2009 Arai Vector on sale rather than the 2010 Vector at nearly twice the price. Another thing to consider is the type of helmet you choose. The only way to go is the full-face style. Open-face helmets are easier to put on/take off and they are cooler; however, when choosing a helmet (as well as a jacket and gloves) the rider should be considering protection rather than convenience and comfort. Hybrids (with the flip-up chin piece) are a compromise between open- and full-face helmets—in terms of both accessibility and integrity of the helmet (upon impact).

Okay, enough of my preaching about helmets, let’s ride!

Ford’s Gets “Real"

Until recently, I have not been a fan of Ford’s Real Hamburgers and that was too bad since it is so close to my home. In my first visit in about five years, I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy a good, if not great, hamburger and remarkably good fries in an environment that was cleaner than I remember. This new, improved Ford’s is worth a return visit, perhaps to check out other items on there plentiful menu.

I discovered Ford’s when my family moved into the Land Park area in the mid-1990s. From the first time I tried one of their “real hamburgers” I was disappointed: the burger was dry and the fries were limp and greasy. Ford’s is an old fashioned independent hamburger stand which frees them from the constraints of a hamburger chain. I was hoping the burgers would taste like they were handmade and original, with a unique taste that you only get with independents. Instead, the food tasted as if they were not trying. I returned to Ford’s, ordering the same thing a couple more times hoping I just caught them on an off day, but the fare was the same.

Over the next ten years my family would check out Ford’s from time to time, hoping for a change especially when there appeared to be a change in owners. I once saw a man I only know as “T.J.” working the grill. This was promising since T.J. worked at J’s Café during days, which makes tasty burgers. Alas, it was pretty much the same as usual. T.J. later told me he hated working at Ford’s and quit both jobs soon after we spoke.

There is no question the new Ford’s is better than the ones I visited under previous owners. Off the bat, it is cleaner, the menu board is orderly—the menu is now printed rather than written in whiteboard marker. As for the food, it is better; however, it had nowhere else to go but up. The burger was not bursting with flavor, but what do you expect from what must have started as a frozen patty. The burger came fully loaded though I do not see any reason to stuff it with chopped lettuce. Too much lettuce tends to take away the burger’s taste. Even the sound of crunching through a mouthful of lettuce makes eating this hamburger feel more like eating a salad. The fries were perfect, much better than what they offered in the past.

During my stay two of the three customers ordering food commented on how much they love Ford’s. While I enjoyed my burger, it made me think I was missing out on something—was there another burger or sandwich that makes these customers want to complement the order taker. I would like to think Ford’s instructed these customers to complement the chef because the owner knew The Burger Scoot was in the house, but I know that is not the case.

One last note, under this new ownership Ford’s is taking phone orders again. Five years ago the then-new owners stopped this service and Ford’s lost my family as customers. As inept as they were at making burgers and fries we could always find other items that were agreeable, but the discontinuing phone order feature was the last straw. Now with the phone service back I would bet other customers will return to Ford’s. If I return I’ll definitely tell them to take it easy on the lettuce.

Are the Tires on Your Scooter Properly Inflated?
There are many different products out on the market to assist the scooter rider in ensuring their tires are properly inflated, but TireCheck Tire Pressure Valve Stem Caps are the easiest way to make sure your tires are always properly inflated. I purchased a pair from The Scoot Shop at 1619 E Street in Sacramento. All I did was inflate my tires to the recommended pressure for my Vespa GTL, and then replaced my black valve stem caps with clear TireCheck caps with a green indicator. If the pressure drops 2-3 PSI the indicator will display red—informing me that it is time to add a little air.

Conceptually speaking, TireCheck Tire Pressure Valve Stem Caps are the easiest way to make sure your tires are always properly inflated. I am not entirely sold on the product yet, but even if they turn out to be only slightly inaccurate gauges of tire pressure they will still work as a quick check. Of course, you should always check your tires for proper inflation on a regular basis. I’ll have more information on this product after I have used it for a while.

Stress Dreams—a Burgerless Post

My wife has stress dreams from time to time. While some people claim dreams can be interpreted, she thinks not, but believes stress dreams “are a release, a way your body copes with stress.” If that is the case then, in her line of work, it is good that she has these kinds of dreams from time to time. From a spectator’s point of view, however—lying next to her hoping it will end soon—it is not a pleasant experience.

What this has to do with scooters and burgers is that I recently took a motorcycle safety course. I originally took the course back in March of this year. I did fine in the classroom studies and on the first day on the simulation range. On the final day, however, I fell twice. I fractured a rib on the first fall but continued the training while in pain. When I fell the second time, it was during the final evaluation, which was an immediate failure.

After my rib healed, I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles and obtained a learner’s permit, but was too upset to complete the motorcycle safety course. I had failed the course in front of my son, who passed it without a hitch, and shortly after that my wife successfully completed the course. I was the only one in the family that failed. That hurt more than my sore chest.

During the two months riding with a permit and doing well not to think about the safety course that I would one day have to complete, I often would reflect on my falls while on the range. Sometimes they would sneak into my mind while I was riding the scooter. This was rattling, but it also helped me think of prevention. The best thing I got out of the course was S.E.E.: Search, Evaluate, and Execute. This is something I thought about often during rides—especially when I was traveling through intersections, where most accidents happen. I would see me getting “t-boned” by a speeding car. For the first time in my life, I hoped I would hit every red light when I was on the road. If I had to stop I would have more time to S.E.E. rather than going right through an intersection on a green light.

The road itself stressed me out—both while I was on and off the scooter. My wife and I drove the car to a restaurant in Midtown the other day. After parking, we were walking across the street when I saw a giant, deep pothole almost the length of the scooter’s tiny front wheel. As my wife and I sat in a restaurant and looked over the menu I got to thinking, I rode my scooter on this street yesterday. Did I see that pothole on my ride? I do not think so. What would happen if I hit that thing going 35 MPH? says that potholes can cause critical injury to scooter riders. “Potholes, bumps, cracks in the pavements, and construction sites can all pose a serious problem for a scooter owner.”

Another stressor having to do with the road is that the surface is often inconsistent. Besides manholes and speed bumps, old asphalt with new asphalt patches can be a problem. Along with this there are the rough “seams” that join the two. When I ride over these inconsistencies at a 90-degree or even a 45-degree angle, I do not notice them, but when I am doing 30-35 MPH and the small wheels slip in and out of the seam between old and new asphalt it rattles me.

My wife has rode on these kind of streets and thinks I am over reacting. Still, a tattooed Harley-Davidson biker validated my concerns over this issue (though he was referring to highway riding). He felt the road was pushing him sideways when riding on inconsistent asphalt and that is how I feel.

Admittedly, I have not experienced any stress dreams that I know of, having to do with asphalt inconsistencies, potholes, or getting “t-boned” but I think about them in the waking hours quite a bit. However, I did have a stress dream the night before I was to retake the last day of the motorcycle safety course.

In the dream, an instructor told me—just as one told me over the phone that afternoon—to wear a long-sleeve shirt, gloves, and boots that protected my ankles, and to come a half hour early to fill out some paperwork.

In the dream, I showed up and began filling out a stack of paperwork as thick as closing escrow papers along with a few other students. When I finished, I looked up to find the room was empty. I panicked and ran out to the simulation range, papers in hand. It was now midnight and raining hard. I saw the students on their motorcycles riding the range far off in the distance with their lights on—I am missing the class! When I looked down I was wearing flip-flops. I woke up at that moment. I cannot see how this helped me with my stress, though I will tell you I did pass the motorcycle safety course—finally. Who knows, maybe that stress dream helped.

Well, I guess this post has nothing to do with burgers. I did try to eat at Jerry’s Tumbleweed, a biker’s bar famous for their hamburgers, but the kitchen was closed. Next post will be about a burger joint. In addition, since the one in mind is the closest to my house I am sure I should not be too stressed out to provide a clear, calm assessment of the food without freaking out over the pothole out there just waiting to get aquainted with my front wheel.

Before I Get to Scootin’…

Two things about me: I love hamburgers and I love my new scooter. Since I have not posted anything on my Jockomo blog since January of 2009, I thought I would start fresh with a new one. Perhaps this will inspire me to awaken the sleeping Jockomo blog.

While I consider myself a burger connoisseur, I am quite the newbie when it comes to scooters. I rode mini dirt bikes when I was a kid and a street-legal Yamaha DT 125 in my high school years, but that was years ago. At 52, two-wheeled vehicles are as foreign to me as Congolese food. Add to that the peculiar characteristics of a scooter and the experience is entirely new to me. It will take some time getting used to this new toy.

I started out riding my new Vespa Granturismo 200L around my neighborhood just getting the feel of the thing. After riding around the neighborhood and to the grocery store only a half mile from home it started to get boring; I needed a place to ride besides the grocery store behind my house. Since I stopped driving about ten years ago due to health reasons, restaurants and bookstores have been the two places I miss visiting on a regular basis. Now that I have some wheels my two favorite loves—eating burgers and dawdling in bookstores—have been rekindled.

Though it is embarrassing to admit it, I love hamburgers more than I love steaks, shellfish tacos, and even ribs—my second favorite food in the world. I can not tell you how many times I had been to a white-tablecloth restaurant and end up appraising the house burger on the menu, its description, and what it comes with it. As for my love of scooters, that is a new thing. I know little about them.

My burger trek will start close to home and push out from there. In the meantime, I will get use to my scooter and along the journey share my newly found knowledge of scooters while sampling Sacramento’s best burgers. I hope you come along for the ride.

To sum it up: There is an old saying, “It’s not the destination, but how you get there that matters.” I guess if this blog is to have its own saying it would be more like “Lets scoot to a burger and get a little more acquainted with scooting along the way!”

Shameless Plug for a New Blog

Boy, it has been a long time since my last post. Recently, I have been inspired to post something, but the inspiration is for a series of posts. So, I will start fresh with a new blog. Perhaps this will inspire me to submit more posts to this sorry blog in the meantime. Check my new blog at or just click on the link under My List on your right. At post the blog is still in progress. I hope to have it up soon, though.