The OC Burger Challenge

26 May

How best to spend a free afternoon in Orange County? A visit to the beach? Nope. A day at Disneyland? Not at all. Instead, we spent four hours completing the OC-version of the Ultimate Burger Challenge.

Before I moved, I embarked with my cousin on a quest to find the best burger in my little square of Oakland. We spread it out over a few months, visiting favorite independent restaurants where most burgers cost about $10. Places like Mua, Luka’s, Lake Chalet, Sidebar, and Trueburger. I am no stranger to over-eating and over-analyzing hamburgers.

There are no independent burger restaurants in my little square of Costa Mesa. All you have are low-brow fast food chains and high-brow fast food chains. I have no desire to taste test McDonald’s and Burger King, so we opted for the high-brow. There is a two-block area down the street from our apartment wherein lies a Five Guys, In-N-Out, Sonic, and The Habit. Those of you in the Bay would have to drive to Hayward or Walnut Creek to visit most of these places. Love the suburbs. But, alas, the only place I’m going to find a Trueburger is in Downtown Oakland.

Unsurprisingly, In-N-Out was our favorite. Not only is the food high quality and costs the least, but they get extra points for paying their workers decent wages and providing paid sick days, for having a fun secret menu, and for being a place with decades of personal memories. Five Guys gets extra points for giving you so many fries you have to share, Sonic has the best drinks because of their limeades, and The Habit has the most healthy options and a bike rack.

burger chart

Other things we learned: I’m more critical of everything than my partner…except when it comes to tater tots. I love tater tots. My partner hates riding bikes in the streets around here because he (rightly) thinks that drivers here are not mindful of bike riders, but if you entice him with the possibility of eating four burgers in four hours (we shared, I swear), he willingly gets on the bike. The food and facilities at The Habit were the most attractive but they ended up being meh because they lacked personality (ahem, much like OC).

Was it worth an entire afternoon, $36, and our arteries to find out that we would be thrilled with an In-N-Out cheeseburger, Cajun fries and strawberry limeade for him and tots and pomegranate lemonade for me, sitting in the upscale-ish courtyard of The Habit? Absolutely! I actually already have the Ultimate Ultimate Burger Challenge forming in my mind where I only use chains that have been founded in Southern California. In-N-Out and The Habit are natives, but the others aren’t. But I could add Umami Burger, The Counter, and TK Burgers. It would be EPIC! (file under “still overeating” and “bored in OC”)


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