American blandstand

Suzie Burger

2820 P St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 455-3500

Dinner at Suzie Burger raises several questions, but none more pressing than this: Why don’t I have a fry-blaster belt, and where can I get one? After all, Suzie—the curvaceous, Jetsons-esque mascot—has one, as depicted in the Suzie posters lining the dining area.

The restaurant occupies a retro-hip former gas-station/auto-shop kind of building, and if you have a kid, the good news is: It’s totally indestructible. The benches and tables are bolted down, there’s nothing breakable and there’s not even anything to trip over in the bare, spacious dining room. I went there with three 2-year-olds, and everyone (restaurant included) came away unscathed—that is, if you aren’t worried about heavy metals from those long-ago fuel tanks. I’m sure the Superfund folks did a bang-up job of cleaning up the place before it switched over to food service. (Note to potentially angry restaurateurs: That was a joke. I have no intention of impugning the cleanliness and safety of the restaurant.)

The food is basic American burger-joint fare with a few twists and extras. In case you’ve missed the restaurant’s back story, it’s owned by the Haines brothers (of 33rd Street Bistro fame), who, to judge from their relentless cloning of Bistro 33s, seem to be itching for a chain-restaurant empire. Suzie Burger, which evokes a long-ago Sacramento burger joint that apparently inspires fond memories in natives, seems like a better candidate than the bistros. Quality-wise, it’s a cut above fast food—think In-N-Out, plus fresh carrots and sautéed mushrooms—but still cheap, quick and glossy enough to please the masses.

On that three-toddler visit, we ordered up a mound of food, so perhaps it’s understandable that there were some glitches in the ordering—and that service was on the slow side. I tried a cheeseburger with grilled red onions, and I ordered bacon as well, but it was MIA.

One of the charms of Suzie Burger is the array of toppers you can put on your burger, hot dog or cheesesteak (the three main menu items; more on the cheesesteaks later). There’s bacon, pastrami, chili, raw and grilled onions, sauerkraut, mushrooms, pickled jalapeños and even a fried egg, if you want it. The burger, with or without bacon, was a happy choice. They’re not too big, but thicker than fast-food patties—and cooked pink in the middle rather than gray through, I’m happy to report. Little baggies on the side of baby-cut carrots and some pickle slices contribute the illusion rather than the actuality of healthfulness.

The all-beef hot dogs were enormous, split down the middle and griddled. If they had a flaw, it was that they were too salty, but as hot dogs go, they were winners. Next time, I think I need to try a chili dog.

For sides, you have your choice of fries—these are skin-on, golden, moderately thick-cut and coated so they are ultra-crisp. I liked them, but I liked the beer-battered onion rings better. They were crunchy, thickly battered and nicely fried, with the kind of batter that can go soft if handled wrong (but they were good here).

Drinks include your basic fountain sodas as well as “lemon squeezies” (lemonade), which were tart and refreshing, and milkshakes. The latter are thick and sweet, naturally, but I’m sorry to say that the chocolate one was pale and tasted almost like plain vanilla with barely a hint of cocoa flavor. Soft-serve ice cream is also available.

The final category of the menu comprises the cheesesteaks, which are forgettable at best. I tried a beef one, with various slightly sad vegetables tucked in amid the tough, tasteless beef. It was all blanketed in a coating of white American cheese, which contributed a plasticky texture and not much else, and on a soft roll. I thought forlornly of the beefy, juicy cheesesteaks I used to get when I was in college on the East Coast and didn’t finish it.

On another occasion, I brought home an oxymoronic “chicken cheesesteak” for my husband. I tried to get it with onions and peppers, but was foiled by the aforementioned ordering problems, so it came plain—and having tried a bite, I can vouch that it was very plain indeed, with that white cheese and bland if unobjectionable pieces of chicken. He asked, “What was that thing that was shaped like a hot dog but seemed like it had chicken in it?”

“A chicken cheesesteak,” I replied.

“What’s the point of that?” he asked.

That’s nearly as good a question as the quandary of where to find that fry-blaster belt. Frankly, they should drop the dull cheesesteaks, which are a far cry from the drippy, succulent Philly original, and just concentrate on the have-it-your-way burgers and hot dogs. A good hot dog can be hard to find, and decent burgers, crunchy onion rings and fresh lemonade are always welcome.