The 5 Dollar Burger

Now that I’m blessed to work half a block off the most beautiful plaza in the state, I have access to some of the finest restaurants to have lunch. Of course other than our Friday ‘Gentlemens Lunch’, I tend to be too busy to actually get away during lunch, finally realizing I’m starving at about 3 and having to hit the local Southland Corporation venue. Today was different as I had to run to the bank and figured I’d just get a ‘Grab and Go’ Broadway Market sandwich at Plaza Liquors. Sure, they’re 50 cents more than at Broadway Market but I don’t have to drive anywhere. I offer to pick up something for our nose to the grindstone radio staff and our lead Tech says ” Hey.. what about the Cheese factory for burgers?” Cheese factory?? They only do burgers on the weekends right? Wrong. Then he said the magic words..” The open condiment bar is the best.” I knew exactly what he meant. I was suddenly transported right back to Chico in the early ’80’s to Burger Hut on Nord Avenue.

Burger HutMy Friends, this is the place where burger dreams came true. At this point in my life I was playing in a metal band and if you’ve ever been to Chico you know whats involved. At Burger Hut, my college buddies showed me how to use the condiment stand properly. You get the burger, then you ask for a fork (yes.. they look at you funny). Then you take the lettuce from the condiment stand, tear it up on the plate and add all the respective veggies and then mix up the Ketchup, Mayonnaise and relish and turn it into 1000 Island and Voila.. Salad.. for free.

Meanwhile back in reality, we’re on our way to the Cheese Factory.


I have had the burgers at most of the places on the Plaza. I even ordered a burger at The Girl and The Fig as I was pretty sure there was no funky cheese on it (correct, if you ask for normal cheese) and I have to say that the Cheese Factory has the best 5 dollar burger anywhere in town. Not a fancy patty, in fact it could probably be from Costco, but grilled and sitting out front or on the Plaza lawn, It just doesn’t get much better… and play your cards right and you too could get a free salad.

Martini Madness??

OK, I can’t say that I’m exactly a martini connoisseur as the first martini I ever had was made with Grey Goose as anything made out of distilled junipers makes me itch just thinking about it. That being said, I can say with pretty much certainty that the ‘madness’ about this event is finding something that actually tastes like a martini.

The first Martini I tasted might have been OK as an orange infused vodka sounds pretty good, until I see Goat Cheese floating in it as the olive had been stuffed with it.

This is where  goat cheese comes from
This is where goat cheese comes from.

Now I don’t know when or who decided that it was OK to put freakin’ goat cheese onto and into everything but I must’ve missed my chance to stand up and say “Stop It.” You can’t even go to Chevy’s these days and not have the entire plate sprinkled with the crap, besides the fact that it doesn’t say it on the menu.. they just assume everyone likes goat cheese. Tell you what.. that plate’s going right back to the kitchen. I’ll take a chance on some chef’s saliva before Goat Cheese… and as far as the olives… I’m pretty sure they have machines that stuff garlic, pimentos and other normal items into olives but the image of some poor local Sherpa having to stuff the things with goat cheese is just saddening…but I digress

So I’m ranting about goat cheese in my first martini and my buddy DH grabs me one from a different table (we’re leaving out the restaurant names to protect the guilty), as at this point we’ve just shot in the back door and there’s hardly anyone there yet and guess what.. another goat cheese nightmare.. WTF!! So I dump that and head over to another table. This is a ‘Portini’. A concoction that I think was basically made to ruin the port and instead of an olive had a piece of bread and some cheese on the toothpick.

Right next to that one they’re making martinis with Guiness. Good lord. I later find out that this was the big winner and I didn’t even try it.

At this point I’m beginning to wonder if I should just leave now and head to The Swiss and end the nightmare but there’s people starting to filter in and some I actually wanted to talk to so I try another. This one had some sort of sorbet and champagne in it to dilute the vodka. The olive was stuffed with pineapple which normally would have been shocking but I was thanking god that it didn’t have goat cheese.

I head out to the main room where the ‘food’ was to find that ‘Madness Vultures’ had consumed about everything but some cheese rinds and a couple bowls of assorted olives. On another table there is what looks like cheese soup but I’m thinking that was some sort of nacho sauce as there are baskets with tortilla chip remnants. There is some big soft pretzels with a variety of mustard so I grab one, load it up with mustard and find a corner.

I wander back into the ‘madness’ and decide to give the martinis another shot. I figure one of the local bars on the plaza won’t be screwing one up too bad and I was right. An olive stuffed with garlic soaked in scotch for a week and a martini with gin and a hit of scotch. Tasty, like I said, I don’t like gin but this 209 stuff is pretty smooth. Closest thing to a martini so far.

So with my spirits rekindled, I venture over kitty corner and find an interesting one with a hot pepper infused vodka with some black salt on the rim. Pretty tasty too. I’m told at that point that next door was a tropical one I had to try but the line was long and when I tried to weasel to the front got dirty looks so I wandered on.

The band was taking a break and the place was packed and at that point it was either get drunk or leave and since I still had to kill a Wilderbeest  Dinner for the family dinner, it was time for me to leave. I’m sure there are plenty of ‘madness’ induced headaches today in The Valley of the Moon.