Tag Archives: burgers

San Leandro Bites: Rocky’s Charcoal Grill

Burger at this popular joint fall flat for me.

Located near Casa Peralta, Rocky’s Charcoal Grill has long been a favorite among burger aficionados in San Leandro. I reviewed it many years ago and I’d visited a handful of times over the years, mostly when I was in the neighborhood. I’ve never been a huge fan of it, but thought I’d give it another try in my quest for finding the best burger in San Leandro. So far, I’m sad to say, this isn’t it.

Rocky’s is a cute, tiny place. It has a handful of tables inside and outdoors and a small kitchen. They serve a large variety of burgers, some grilled sandwiches as well as a steak and ribs. They also have well regarded shakes. Burgers come without condiments, which you add yourself. They are all 1/3 lb.

I had the Guacaburger ($8.75), which came with guacamole. It was OK. The patty was thin, so on the dry side. I prefer juicy burgers, and this was not that. It did have a nice, not too strong, charcoal flavor but I felt the meat was under-seasoned. In all, this felt like a home made burger, which is not what I’m looking when I order one.

Mike had the Oaklandburger ($10.25) which includes Cheddar and Jack cheeses and bacon and comes in a sourdough bun. Mike liked his burger more than I did, though not as much as Nation’s.

I ordered a peanut butter milkshake ($6.25) to take home and wow, was it good. I’d definitely go back for those.

The people who work at Rocky’s are very friendly and the food was prompt.

Rocky’s Charcoal Grill
300 W. Estudillo Ave
San Leandro, California 94577
(510) 351-6228

Chain Restaurant Reviews: Habit Burger


Habit Burger, like sister companies Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut are on the boycott list, as their parent company, Yum brands, invests in Israel. Please help stop apartheid and genocide by Israel by not doing business with companies that financial benefit from the killing, torture, maiming and oppression of Palestinians and who de facto support crimes against humanity.

More information as to why you should boycott Yum brands.

Louisiana Eats: Prejean’s

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Damn that Crawfish Etouffee!

Prejean’s has done for us (or really, for Mike) what few restaurants can ever do: set a standard for a dish. Their crawfish etouffee was so good that even I, who doesn’t like seafood, loved it. But I’m getting ahead of myself. My reviews are stories, so let’s start there.

We had left Natchitoches after trying their meat pies and took the slow way to Lafayette. We stopped at a roadside store advertising pecans (but it was closed), saw a couple of plantations from the road, stopped at the Kent Plantation House (from where we got kicked out, you can only tour the grounds with a tour, and there were none happening when we arrived) and the super quaint Louisiana History Museum, where we got a volunteer tour of every single item displayed in their collection. By the time we were approaching Lafayette, we were hungry – and also, sort of in a hurry because we had scheduled a swamp tour for 4 PM. Prejean’s showed up on Google maps as having well rated Cajun food and being close to the road. Just what we wanted!

As I was to find out later, as I raved about the abovementioned crawfish etouffee to whoever I met, Prejean’s has a very good local reputation. It’s a rather large restaurant, with a prominent bar, an unusual and yet very interesting decore (look at those trees!), a casual vibe and great service. If I were in town again, that’s where I’d head. And really, we should have just eaten there and nowhere else. We went to the Carencro location, north of Lafayette, but they have another in Broussard, right south of the city.

Prejean’s menu is full of Cajun and Southern specialties, as well as all-around American food. They offer several types of gumbos, burgers and po’boys in addition to entrees.

We started with the Gator Bites ($13.6). We’ve seen these in many menus, and we knew we had to try them, but we had been somewhat reluctant. We’d had alligator before – albeit quite a few years ago -, and we’d found it to be unwelcomely chewy. This presentation, on very small bites (almost popcorn alligator) mostly solved that problem, but I still prefer the little resistance that chicken gives you. The bites, served with ranch and “Thai pepper jelly” (aka as Thai sweet chili sauce), were very tasty, though I felt the abundant breading made them a little dry.

As repeatedly foreshadowed, Mike ordered a cup of the Crawfish Etouffee ($12.5). This came from the soups part of the menu, and perhaps for this reason it was served as a soupy dish with the rice by the side – similar to how my jambalaya dish had been served in New Orleans. He was to order crawfish etouffee twice again later, and both times it had been cooked (or perhaps just mixed) with the rice. Having it by itself, was much better. But it was the flavor that really made this dish special. As Mike would describe it, it was as close to perfection as a dish could come. The flavors were intense – but not too intense – and balanced. The broth itself was not too fishy, with notes of crawfish rather than having it be the lead element. But there were abundant pieces of crawfish to do that. In all, order it. Just to to Prejean to order it. Even if like me (or is it I?), you don’t like crawfish.

I decided on the “Da Cou-yon” Burger ($15.6), an 8 oz burger with pepperjack cheese, boudin, grilled onions & peppers, and Avery Island dressing on a buttered burger bun. Needless to say it was a huge burger. It was also difficult to eat as one, as it was too large to fit into my mouth. So basically, it was a fork and knife burger, but a delicious one at that. Boudin – a sausage made with pork, rice, onions and seasonings – has a weird consistency, too soft to be a sausage (think like liver, but less chalky), but the flavor was great. The burger was juicy enough and the combination of flavors worked well. Obviously, Mike had to help me finish it, even leaving aside the top bun and the fries.

I had ordered the White Chocolate Bread Pudding ($8.4), served with whiskey butter sauce, at the start of the meal, but we were too full – and in too much of a hurry to get to our swamp tour – to have it at the restaurant, so we had it to go. Fortunately, our hotel had a fridge and microwave, so I was able to heat up and had it as a snack later. It was just OK. The flavor was god enough, but the pudding as a whole was too dry and hard. I prefer my bread pudding when the bread almost melts in your mouth. The sauce was not very complex, and while it added the sweetness that the bread pudding lacked by itself, I did find it too sweet.

As I mentioned, service was great and our whole experience there was top notch. It’s the place to go if you are ever around Lafayette, Louisiana – and make sure you get some crawfish ettouffee.

3480 NE Evangeline Thruway
Lafayette, LA 70507
(337) 896-3247
Mon-Thu: 10:30am-9:00pm
Fri & Sat: 10:30am-10:00pm
Sun: 10:30am-4:00pm

Chain Restaurant Reviews:: Whataburger

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Some of the best fast food burgers we’ve had.

Before our trip to Louisiana, I’d never heard of Whataburger. That just shows my ignorance. Founded in Texas in 1950, Whataburger is a regional chain with over 1,000-restaurants, mostly located in Texas but slowly expanding into surrounding states. It doesn’t have any restaurants in California, however. They have twenty five locations in Louisiana, including two in Natchitoches.

We had arrived rather late at Natchitoches, after driving back from Dallas after the eclipse and encountering some foul weather in the way, and our choices of places to dine were limited. That was a blessing in disguise, as it gave us the opportunity to try this burger chain, which we probably wouldn’t have otherwise. And I’m glad we did. As far as fast food burgers go, these are as good as they come.

The fast food set up is similar to most fast food restaurants, and the ambiance – which I didn’t photograph – looked like a fast food joint. It was very clean and, at least at that late hour, seemed well staffed – they brought our food to the table.

They ask you if you want spicy ketchup with your meal – it’s not that much spicier and not that remarkable. I was happy to see that you can substitute fries with onions rings.

Their menu actually had a lot of yummy-sounding choices, but I went with the Avocado Bacon Burger meal ($13.4). It consists of a beef patty served in Texas toast with American cheese, bacon, avocado, diced onions and creamy pepper. It was very good for a fast food burger and the sandwich was huge. It came with onion rings and a large drink. The avocado was actual avocado, and not guacamole. It’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for. I’d definitely have it again. The onion rings were fine, pretty generic.

Mike had the Sweet & Spicy Bacon Burger meal ($12.7), which consisted of a patty in a burger bun with American and Monterey Jack cheese, bacon, grilled onions, sweet & spicy sauce and mustard. He also liked his burger. The fries were fine, but frankly, the burgers were so large that we couldn’t really bother with the fries.

I did get an apple pie ($1.75) for dessert just to try them. It was very similar to the old McDonalds’ apple pies when they were fried. I’d say that the pastry was thicker than McDonald’s, and overall it was less yummy, but it’s definitely better than their current baked apple pies.

5123 University Pkwy
Natchitoches, LA
(318) 581-4591
Open 24 hours

Airport Bites: The Counter @ SAN

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

A decent blue cheese burger & an unmemorable salad at San Diego International Airport

No one goes to an airport to eat, but flight schedules sometimes make you have to rely on whatever food you can find at the airport for substance – particularly if you’re flying a no-frills airline which doesn’t even offer meals for purchase. While in recent decades airplane food has gotten better, it’s usually disappointing and overpriced. Our recent experience having lunch at the San Diego International Airport might have been that, if we hadn’t come with lowered expectations. As it happened, the burger I had The Counter was decent enough.

The Counter is a small gourmet burger chain that has a smattering of locations across the US – including at three different airports. I used to visit the Fremont location back in the day, before gourmet burgers were even a thing, and I was a fan of their fare. So I was happy to see they had a branch near the Southwest gates in Terminal 1 at the San Diego airport, where we stopped on our way to New Orleans. For better or worse, our plane was late, which gave us time to eat before we embarked.

blue cheese burger

I had the blue cheese burger. On its website, The Corner describes the Beef & Blue burger as having “danish blue cheese, organic mixed greens, tomatoes, bacon onion jam, garlic aioli, brioche bun” and it might, indeed, have had all that, though I don’t remember the tomatoes. The burger was fairly good. The beef patty itself was dry and overcooked, but the blue cheese sauce was fantastic, it almost made up for any deficiencies on the meat. The burger was expensive, I think upwards of $16, but it was quite large, I had trouble finishing it. For an airport burger it was as good as it gets.

Mike ordered a salad. He doesn’t remember what salad it was, but you can see it in the photo. He thought it was OK. He didn’t rave about it at the time, but I don’t remember him complaining either. It was just an unmemorable salad.

Still, for an airport dining experience, this was fine.

The Counter
San Diego International Airport
13225 N Harbor Dr
Terminal 1
San Diego, CA

Chain Restaurant Reviews: Nation’s Giant Hamburgers

One of the best fast foods burgers out there

The other night I had a craving for a burger, which had me thinking: where can I get the best burger in San Leandro? We are not a city known for burgers. There are lots and lots of places to have burgers here, to be clear, but none that are particularly noteworthy. Still, I haven’t visited many of those places for years and I thought trying the different burgers available in San Leandro might be a fun project for the upcoming year (or two). I had planned to start with Rocky’s Charcoal Grill – a place beloved by many in San Leandro. I have not liked their burgers in the past, but it’s been fourteen years since my last visit, so they may have changed. My old review is definitely ready for an update. Alas, Rocky’s wasn’t open (it was a Sunday) and Nation’s is very close by, so Mike went there instead.

I like Nation’s burgers. As far as fast food burgers go, they have always been my “default” for over three decades – though they now share this “honor” with Habit Burger. At 1/3 lbs, the burgers are fairly large, they ooze with American cheese and they are very generous with veggies and toppings – though I always get mine with just tomatoes, while Mike prefers his with lettuce and onions. The burgers are smothered in mayo, probably enough to cause a heart attack to someone with cardiac issues. For this reason, I feel that they mostly taste of mayo and American cheese, though enough to not really be able to forgo it. But I like them. If I had to grade them – and I do, because this is a project about finding the best burger, I’d give them 8/10 as far as “fast food burgers” go, and a 5/10 as far as all burgers go. Indeed, I will make Nation’s my standard for an average burger, and grade others accordingly.

In addition to burgers, Nation is known for its pies. These are of a similar quality to their burgers: enjoyable. On this occasion we got the blueberry pie which was on season, and we liked it.

Nation also has breakfast items, which also are totally fine as far as a fast food place goes.

Update on Dinnerly Meal Kits

I go through periods of not cooking and I’ve noticed that doing meal kits is a good way to get myself started again. But of course, I only do meal kits when I have a discount code and this time, I got one for Dinnerly ($15 off per week for 2 weeks), which brought the price of each meal kit to $8 – probably close to the actual cost of the ingredients. BTW, I have 3 FREE Dinnerly boxes to give away, so if you want one, e-mail me.

All in all, I have been pleasantly surprised by the dinners we’ve gotten. They’ve been simple to prepare, with few ingredients, totally basic fare, but very tasty. They beat getting cheap takeout, both in matter of taste, quality of ingredients and value.

I still have one meal left to cook, but this is what I’ve made so far:

Greek Meatballs with Tomatoes & Orzo

This was such a simple dish, and yet so tasty! The meatballs were delicious and didn’t include any filling. And they went great with orzo. I might have to make this again on my own. I would use just diced tomato instead of cutting whole ones with scissors, though. And a little Parmesan cheese would be nice, but not needed.

Stuffed Cheeseburger with Tomatoes & Garlic Potato Wedges

To be honest, I didn’t actually make this. My daughter was in a hurry, so I took the ground beef and added a little garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce for extra flavor, and then made the stuffed patties with the Fontina cheese from the box. My daughter ate it with lots of ketchup and was very happy with the burger. She had another one later on.

Chinese Take-Out Pepper Steak with Steamed Jasmine Rice

This was another perfectly tasty dish. Nothing extra about it (here I am, speaking like one of my teens), but perfectly fine for a weekday dinner.

Vegetarian Pad Thai with Carrots & Snow Peas

A vegan dinner from Dinnerly! How cool is that? Well, it had eggs, but I just left them out. This wasn’t really pad thai, however. It came with teriyaki sauce, to which was added 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice, 2 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 Tbsp vinegar. My daughter who usually dislikes teriyaki sauce was quite happy with the end product. I’ll try this hack again for stir fries.

Onion & Feta Burger with Oven Fries & Garlic Ketchup

You might wonder why I even order burger from Dinnerly if I then cannibalize them into something else, and the truth is I don’t know – maybe because it’s convenient to simply have the buns and ground beef at the same time. In this case, I didn’t make the onions or garlic ketchup, and I skipped the feta and instead added a slice of whatever cheese I had at home. I also seasoned the potatoes with some oregano to give it some extra flavor.

Costco Has the Worst Burger EVER

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My husband went to Costco the other day and I asked him to get me a BBQ brisket sandwich for lunch. Unfortunately, our local Costco in San Leandro (at least) no longer carries them. Instead, they have added a burger to their menu and my husband figured he’d get me that instead. Bad, bad move.

He said he had an inkling that the burger wouldn’t be good when he saw the patties coming out of the steamer. And he was right. This has to be the worst burger I have ever eaten, bar none. And I’ve eaten many bad burgers in my time.

The meat (and I’m assuming it’s meat) was so incredibly dry, that I have to believe it’s mostly filling. It also tasted just like the burgers they used to serve in middle school when I was a kid – not a good memory. Except these were drier.

The patties are enormous, which in this case it’s just not a good thing. It only means you have more unappetizing food to get through.

I didn’t want to waste food, so I ate through almost half of it until I decided that I just couldn’t do this to myself. The dog ate the rest. She, at least, did not complain.

But you are warned: stay away from these burgers.

Review: Dinnerly’s Burger with Dijonnaise and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Rating 7/10

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Some time ago, I got a great burger in a HelloFresh kit so I’ve been more prone to order burger kits than I might otherwise had. Or I was, until I discovered that what makes a burger great is really the percentage of fat in the meat. Trying to be healthy, I had in the past used low-fat ground beef to make burgers. After the HelloFresh experience, I got some 27% fat ground beef from Harris Ranch, and the difference is amazing. So if I want to make a great burger now, I can just buy the beef rather than rely on a meal kit.

This week, just like last, I actually used the ground beef that came in this kit to make conventional burgers early in the week, when I didn’t feel like making the sweet potatoes. Then, on Sunday, I prepared this kit for lunch, using my own beef, and grilling the burgers outside. All in all, I couldn’t distinguish between the flavor/juiciness of the two different ground beefs, though grilling the burgers did give them an additional “grilled” flavor (probably due to my not cleaning the grill as well as I should have).

I was pleasantly surprised at how good these burgers were. The “dijonaise” which is just a mixture of mayo, Dijon mustard, chopped garlic and chopped cornichon pickles, was very tasty. I didn’t even miss the cheese. That said, 4 oz of ground beef for a burger is not very much – most meal kits give you 5 oz of meat per person, even when you add half a sweet potato.

Even though I enjoyed this kit, I don’t see much point in getting it versus buying the ingredients myself. Still, as I paid only $6.30 for the kit, with a welcome promo, I’m not really complaining.

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Review: Hello Fresh’ Tex-Mex Cheese-Stuffed Burgers with Tomato Salsa and Potato Wedges

Rating: 8/10

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I decided to get this kit after really enjoying the last Hello Fresh burgers I got. They were definitely better than the ones I made myself. It occurred to me after I order this kit, however, that my burgers may not be as good because I usually use low fat ground beef. I tried making them with 27% fat ground beef and it was a completely different story – they were delicious!

And t

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his is a good thing because I ended up using my own ground beef to make this recipe – I had used the one from the kit earlier in the week to make plain burgers, and yes, the meat was great. Really, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two.

These burgers were also very tasty – though the tex-mex spice sort of overwhelmed the meat. I particularly liked the tomato-cilantro salsa. It gave the right counter of freshness to the spiciness of the “crema,” but it was hard to keep on the burger, it just kept sliding off!

I also ended up using my potatoes – having made the ones from the kit previously – and the addition of the tex-mex spice worked very well on these.

All in all, it was a very satisfying lunch, but really, one you don’t need a kit to make it. Still, I paid a tad over $11 for this kit with a “welcome back promo”, so I’m not complaining. I would if I’d paid the $20 standard price.