Back to burgers, after unsheathing the Canon to chronicle haughtier culinary pursuits, it was time to get back to my roots. Continuing with fast food chains, I was waved into the checkered flags of Rally’s in Culver City (Palms) to take on their signature burger.

Not abundant in Southern California, Rally’s may be just a name to many of you. Broader name recognition in Kentucky and Indiana, Rally’s is the largest chain of double drive-thrus in our country. More than an asterisk on a stat sheet, or random fact, it was a place I used to frequent (almost a decade ago) in Orange County after hockey games. From what I remembered the “Big Buford” had always served me well.

Last Monday a flood of memories came rushing in as I pulled into the parking lot of Rally’s off of Venice Boulevard. Far from Orange County, the look and smells were similar, bringing on the flashbacks.  In no rush, I skipped both drive-thru options, and ordered window-side.

Roughly five minutes elapsed and I was face-to-face with the Big Buford. Unwrapping its shiny cloak, the exposed 3D components of red onion, shredded lettuce and some barely melted American cheese were exploding forth… uncontrollably.

One look at that disheveled appearance and I knew this review was doomed from the start. I braved the first few bites, looking beyond its sloppy appearance but it quickly became too much for me. Though my newfound affinity for cheese is still in bloom, American cheese can be a test; half-cooked, more so. The red onion was definitely my favorite part of the burger, a defining attribute, as compared to other chains, but not even that could save the paltry flavors. The patty was poorly seasoned, the bun was too soft and I eventually shifted to the fries for sustenance.

I looked ahead to my hockey game, trying desperately to shake those flavors as I tossed a portion of the unfinished Buford in the trash, a real shame to have such a miserable experience. I’m going to give Rally’s the benefit of the doubt; I’ll  chalk this up to a poor showing. Maybe if I had arrived at lunchtime, or at a different location, or held off on the American cheese…, this review would’ve had a different outcome—not stellar but not abominable either. A tough reprise and tougher still for a franchise trying to its gain footing in California.