Posted on July 18, 2009 – 8:14 PM | by beckler
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burgerI could go on at length-and I have- about all the things that Sacramento lacks, but you know one thing Sacramento has more than enough of?  Besides bros with tats on cruisers?  Places to get a burger.  Some of these garner quite a bit of local attention.  Texmex-sushi impresario Guy Fieri has clothed Squeeze Inn in a cheese skirt of fame.  Burgers and Brew is the darling of the glossies from the people who brought you Crepeville.  Jim Denny’s is top-rated on Yelp.  But what about the low-profile neighborhood spots toiling away in obscurity?  Cookies Drive-In and Village-Drive In are two of the best.The menu at Cookies is larger than your average burger spot.  A faded poster in the order window touts the health benefits of ostrich.  They also offer tacos, teriyaki, and turkey sandwiches.  I started with a 1/3 pound “homemade” burger with cheese.  The cheese was thoroughly melted American. The toppings were chopped iceberg, pickles, and tomato.  I was won over by the tall, soft bun and the thin, salty patty, but not by the copious amounts of mayonnaise on both sides. 

The turkey burger patty was moist and the juices were soaked up by the cloudlike bun.  The fries were medium-cut and well salted-hot and perfect. 

I was intrigued by the inclusion of a chicken thigh sandwich on the menu because of many Americans’ fear of dark meat.  This sandwich was also succulent, and was served with the standard burger toppings, including a too-free hand with the mayo.  A spicy version comes with sriracha sauce.  Cookie’s also offers a black bean burger that was not too shabby- but they don’t make it on the premises.  The “homemade” potato salad was made with Russets and pickle relish, just like grandma used to make.  On my two recent visits there was a steady stream of customers pulling up to the outside windows, and one gentleman even changed his order to an ostrich burger after reading the poster.  Maybe I’ll get around to ordering it one of these days, but the homemade with cheese is such a Sacramento classic that it’s hard to order anything else.

Tallac Village is a tiny little square of a neighborhood south of Tahoe Park.  There’s not a lot to it-there’s a market, a bar called the Tallac Lounge, and best of all, the Village Drive-In.  I have three words for you that sum up the singularity of this establishment, three words that should echo across the land: ROOT BEER SHAKE.  Why is this not de rigeur at every self-respecting burger joint?  I know what some of you are thinking- what about a root beer float?  The problem with root beer floats is that you have to try to eat them before the ice cream melts and becomes soupy, because nobody likes melted ice cream except the clinically insane.  But, if you introduce the radical innovation of the root beer shake: problem solved.  The result is a creamy, thick vanilla shake with a strong root beer flavor. 

Another remarkable beverage that the Village Drive-In offers is a cherry lime ricky.  This 50s throwback is made at Village with lemon-lime soda and cherry syrup.  The 50s vibe is echoed in the décor, which has an airy feel from the abundance of windows and light wood tables and chairs. 

I had a vegetarian accompanying me on my visit (yes, I do occasionally consort with people of that persuasion), so we sampled the grilled cheese and the fried zucchini.  The grilled cheese was of the standard, buttery, melted velveeta variety.  The zucchini had an herbed cornmeal breading and the inside was soft and lightly cooked.  I would wager that these are made in-house with fresh zucchini.

The chicken on the chicken hoagie was a Japanese-style panko-breaded patty.  The bun was soft and flaky, and the accompaniments were lettuce, tomato, and mayo- the perfect amount.  It was tasty enough if you’re looking for a burger alternative, but I preferred the burger.  Ye Olde Village cheeseburger had a good char on the thin patty, tasty pickles, and the cheese was melted through.  The fish burger had not seen the ocean in a great while- there was an off, slightly bitter taste to the fried white fish patty- and was served with tartar sauce.  The fries were remarkably similar to Cookie’s, which means they were good.

These two places may not be touted by a raspy-voiced jalapeno popper pusher, and the burgers may not be clothed in garments made of cheese, but they are both run by friendly families who serve solid, cheap food.  Make sure to try the homemade with cheese at Cookie’s and the root beer shake at Village Drive In.

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