Paradise in cheese burgers

Henri finds burger heaven at Barney O’Rourke’s

SETTING THE BAR<br>Monty Van Bibber serves up a Barney’s Burger, prepared medium-rare, unless otherwise requested.

Monty Van Bibber serves up a Barney’s Burger, prepared medium-rare, unless otherwise requested.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Barney O’Rourke’s
6007 Clark Rd., Paradise

Food served Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Note: no one under 21 allowed.)

Barney O’Rourke’s

6007 Clark Rd.
Paradise, CA 95969

(530) 877-9973

For example, a person could work off the calories in a cheeseburger by running 10 miles, by sleeping for 15 hours or by watching TV for 12 hours.
—Aileen Ludington, MD

Finally! Sensible advice from a professional on ways to work off calories. In fact, Henri has done a little math: Add 15 and 12 and divide by 2. Solution: 13 1/2-hours of sleep and television: Henri’s Official New Year’s Cheeseburger Workout! And you don’t even need to break a sweat!

Many experts claim that working out three to four times a week is ideal, and Henri has taken their words to heart and embarked upon a rather rigorous regimen: cheeseburgers every other day, grilled at home with Cambazola melted over the top or pan fried with a smoky English cheddar. I’ve also been hitting up some of my favorite burger places in town. But good news, mes amis: Henri has discovered the best cheeseburgers in Butte County.

Actually, Colette should be given credit. She’d heard about Barney O’Rourke’s, a bar in Paradise that serves food, from a guy she dated several times back in December—who showed up late for a brunch date after hunting all morning and tried to appease her by having his big black dog, Buckshot, present her with a dead duck. Nice enough guy, she said, but she dumped him after that.

“Boomer said they’re the best burgers around but that it’s a Clampers bar and you might not like it.”

“A Clampers bar?”

“He said something about red shirts and badges and guys with shorts and cowboy boots.”

Clampers are members of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, a fraternal organization whose origins might or might not date from Gold Rush-era California. Mocking the more “serious” organizations of the day, such as Odd Fellows and Masons, Clampers also vowed to protect the “Widows and Orphans of the West.”

Barney O’Rourke’s is what some travel guides might describe as rustic—gravel parking lot, old wooden siding, rickety tables with Formica tops, barstooled, flannel-shirted locals playing cribbage and telling Ted Kennedy-Mary Jo Kopechne jokes, and old framed photos of miners and, apparently, Clampers. I didn’t see any red shirts or badges, but a plaque on the wall above our table identified the site as the original Parker’s Ranch, dedicated Feb. 2, 1978, to the Pair-o’-Dice Chapter 711 of E Clampus Vitus. I felt a bit overdressed in my new Claiborne blazer.

The single-page laminated menus feature candid photos of regulars on one side and the food items listed on the other: burgers ($3.75-$4.75), sandwiches (chicken, Polish sausage—$4.50-$5.75) chili and soup ($3-$4), tacos ($5.75) and quesadillas ($4.50) and fries ($1.50-$3).

“Boomer said to order the calf burger,” Colette said.

I didn’t see it on the menu so I asked the waitress.

Turns out, it’s a “KALF” burger ($5.25), named for the radio station, which hosted a best-burger contest that Barney’s won. You have to ask for it, which of course I did. Though I probably wouldn’t ask Boomer to recommend a Stilton or Bordeaux, I figured I could trust him on burgers.

Good thing I did. It was incredible. Huge and juicy with cheese, two thick slabs of bacon, sliced jalapeño peppers, grilled onions, shredded iceburg lettuce and sliced tomatoes.

Colette’s basic Barney’s Burger was very good, too, as were our fries. I also had a glass of burgundy, although the waitress seemed surprised by my order—probably more used to serving beer and whiskey with lunch.

I hardly noticed her, though, as I was dazed by the delicious burger. If there’s a better one around, Henri hasn’t found it.

I worked out as Colette drove back to Chico.