Making believers

Legends of Nobby’s are true: Nobody does burgers better

“MMM … HAMBURGER”<br>Nobby’s regulars Shawn and Heather Martinez plot their devouring strategies.

Nobby’s regulars Shawn and Heather Martinez plot their devouring strategies.

Photo By Alexis Harmon

Nobby’s 1444 Park Ave. (530) 342-2285 Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m.

Legends circulate about the burgers at Nobby’s.

Friends told me outrageous tales of enormous patties and grill-melted cheese. These rumors piqued my interest, but I don’t usually make it all the way out to 15th and Park, so I hadn’t experienced this fabled southside grill. Now that I’m leaving Chico, though, I made a point to see what all this talk was about.

From the outside, Nobby’s didn’t look like much—the teeny tiny building used to shelter a Gashouse Pizza, and a gas station before that—but looks can be deceiving. Here, the tight space didn’t feel cramped; it created a comfortable sense of community with the staff and other diners—as if dinner at Nobby’s was really just a friendly neighborhood barbecue.

Still, once you step into the building, you are standing in line to order your burger. I hadn’t decided what to get, but the Nobby’s menu keeps everything short and sweet. I quickly settled on the 1/3-pound Nobby burger for a wallet-friendly $3.80. Given its reputation here, I had to get the cheese too, which—let me tell you—was worth every penny of the extra 65 cents. Nobby’s redefines the cheeseburger. Here the jack and cheddar cheese flow well over the edges of the patty onto the grill, where they melt and achieve new heights of golden, grilled cheese perfection. All for under five bucks!

The cheese was a given, but at Nobby’s you could easily get carried away adding other extras. And you know what? I say go all the way. The grilled Ortega pepper ($1) on my burger boosted the flavor, and my brother got an entire breakfast’s worth of bacon on his burger for an extra $1.25. Why resist avocado or grilled onions for another $1? The only thing holding you back is the size of your burger. I already had trouble getting the thing to fit in my mouth.

To really max out on the grease, my brother got the side of beer-battered onion rings ($1.95), and, for the sake of variety, I ordered fries (small $1.35, large $2.15). Nobby’s serves homemade fries: unskinned, cut fresh every day and fried in 100 percent peanut oil. The waitress kindly brought the sides out first so we could snack while they finished grilling the burgers. My not-so-small small basket of fries looked like the end of a batch, lots of crispy little bits, but those are my favorite anyway. Overall the fries were thick, golden and crunchy. However after one bite of an onion ring, I wished I had my own basket full. The beer batter combined sinfully well with the deep-fried onion and delivered a greasy crunch.

Even though a sign over the kitchen reminds customers that “good food takes time,” we didn’t have to wait long at all. When our burgers arrived, I had to take a second to mentally prepare. I was determined to eat all of my Nobby burger. I admired the toasted white bun glistening with grease and globs of melted jack cheese dangling over the edge.

I attempted a few bites. It wouldn’t fit my mouth. I realized I needed a plan—and no fewer than 15 napkins. My brother Bryce, a Nobby’s veteran, told me to eat my way strategically around the edge instead of going straight for the middle. He then suggested turning it around and eating from the other side. Still I struggled. I had grease dripping down my face, and at times I could barely hold the burger together. I loved it. So primal, so greasy, so good.

It took me awhile, but I ate the whole thing. Really, try it—it’s no small feat. And to think, I’ve even heard of someone who dared to order a double burger ($5.85) once upon a time. Impossible. You know, just one of those legends.

People come back to Nobby’s for the legendary hamburgers, but the joint has an array of non-hamburger options too: alterna-burgers (chicken breast, turkey, veggie—all $4.55), tacos ($2.95) and other sandwiches—teriyaki steak ($5.45), patty melt ($4.95), BLT ($4.75).

But as the sign proclaims: “Nobody does burgers better than Nobby’s.” I’m not going to argue with that.