The “Coal Stop” California Burger

Nope, it is an oasis around a virtual desert of sorts. The name of the resort comes from a famous cattle ranch nearby know by locals for the foul smells of cattle excrement and the even worse smells coming from the slaughterhouse, but lucky for us, the resort is far enough away we can’t smell that stuff.

I have heard that Santa Nella is “The Oasis of I-5,” but not too far away from Stockton, it isn’t much of an “Oasis.” After Santa Nella’s Pea Soup Andersen Restaurant and Ramada Inn, there is nothing until you hit Coalinga (meaning Coal Stop or Coal Station), and Coalinga wouldn’t be anything to visit if it weren’t for the massive Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant.

Steaks, steaks, and brisket, and more steaks!

Harris Ranch is a cattle ranch, so there is plenty of beef. Something I try to avoid except for the occasional hamburger. Considering the heat in this land plagued by fires, droughts, and man-made climate change, you have to be prepared to buy steaks way out here unless you come with your own icebox. (And you thought I was for once not going to get serious for once!) For someone who rarely eats steaks, they sure look good!

They also have a bakery, and the stuff looks good, but we were waiting to be seated for lunch, so we passed on sampling something.

These caps looked like they might have been worn by the ranch softball team for a game or two, then returned to the shelf.

“Red, white & Moo” Cute.

The steaks and the baked goods are inside a gift shop that offers self-promotional merch, gift baskets, some including bottles of their own IPA (yep, that’s right, they brew their beer!), greeting cards, and knick-knacks. All that scream, “That’s right, I stopped in the middle of nowhere. and bought this shit!”

The California Burger comes with fries or a ramekin of beans. As you can see, the beans are not very thick. It tasted fine, but I should have tried the fries.

Now for the mini-burger review you have been waiting for: I ordered the California Burger. I am sorry to report it wouldn’t win any prizes for uniqueness. It’s about a quarter-pound of good, if not remarkable beef (I had mine prepared medium-well as I always do when asked). It also has Jack cheese, two slices of crispy bacon, and fresh guacamole—which is the only “California” element of the burger. It also sports raw red onions, iceberg lettuce (I told you it isn’t fancy), tomatoes, and dill pickle slices. The bun is as pedestrian as the rest of the burger, but it held up during the whole time I was biting and masticating the thing, which is more than I can say for a lot of burgers I have had that I end up having to eat with a knife and fork because the bun dissolved under the juices and fumbling around. The only truly distinctive element is the tasty Harris Ranch’s Special Dressing: a basil vinaigrette dressing containing oregano, red onions, parsley, and Harris Ranch olive oil. A nice touch.

I would give the burger good if not excellent marks. I would be pissed if I came all the way out here to rate this burger. Still, the burger gets a passing grade as a rest stop lunch/dinner item. If I were into red meat, I would be intrigued by some of the menu’s steak items, including Whiskey Smoked Salt & Brown Sugar Rubbed Ribeye, Horseradish-Crusted Prime New York Steak! (the exclamation point is mine), and a steak sandwich with my name on it–literally: Jack’s Favorite Steak Sandwich. But, like I have said on this blog in the last few years, I’m cutting way back on red meat so I’ll have to relegate those items to my drooling dreams. Also, I just started a new diet. Ha! We’ll see how long that lasts!