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Bar burgers cater to a different crowd. I am dubious of exuberant praise for bar burgers—save for Hinano Café and a couple others—because spirits might besot the people evaluating the food. Earlier in my burger-hunting career, I learned this lesson the hard way, seeking out one too many bars, only to be routinely disappointed by eating an over-priced and often overcooked sloppy burger in a sober state. Now, I take bar food for what it is—relief from the throes of inebriation or to stave off drunkenness. There are exceptions. I was surprised then, by my brother’s insistence on taking me to Heroes Bar and Grill in Fullerton, California since he knew my stance. I chose to accept his invitation because Heroes is a restaurant first that has a bar and because he was strictly vouching for the food, as he was not an avid drinker. I thought I might get off my temperance high-horse (as it related to burger reviews) and join him at the bar for lunch.

Sawdust covered the floors; with dim lighting and nostalgic relics adorning the walls, we took our seats in the main dining room at a mock picnic table. A pack of salty peanuts was doled out, along with the menus and two large pitchers of water to get us started. Next to the Nixon Lodge placard, the TV’s were piping baseball and monster truck racing, bringing to mind my time in Tennessee. Unpresuming, and yet, comforting, we kept our orders as simple as the décor, ordering two Hero burgers with cheddar cheese.

We didn’t wait long before the enormous sandwiches arrived. Stacked high on an onion roll with thick patty of beef, lettuce, raw red onion, tomato and bread and butter pickles. It was impressive, even the copious amounts of fries were dwarfed by the Hero burger. The combo was ample for its ten-dollar price tag.

I took my first bite finding it cumbersome to corral the burger. The patty was nicely seasoned which made up for the fact that they served it medium well. Sweet and sharp flavors immerged with each ensuing bite; the raw onion, pickles and cheddar cheese were a perfectly honed trifecta bringing the burger to life. The burger was poised to be a highlight until its soggy mountain breakdown. The roll completely gave way (it broke apart and wilted) and I was resigned to eat the rest with fork and knife. My lunch quickly shifted to a messy gear and was suddenly unappetizing. My brother was laughing at me until the roll on his burger broke apart in similar fashion.

Up until the roll fell apart both burgers were showing quite well. There was a lot to like for my palate—the ringlets of raw onion against the sweet pickles had a nice yin yang effect and the cheddar was melted perfectly. That is not to say there are not things that I would like to see changed like the roll and the cooking times of the patty. But, all in all it was surprising, even with the disintegration of the bun, that Heroes Bar and Grill was re-instilling my confidence in bar food once again.

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