You know you’re at an American restaurant when a cheeseburger is one of the healthiest items on the menu. Sure, the place also offers salads and a few other dishes for the nutrition-conscious person. But Skip’s Kitchen, which is located in Carmichael and describes itself as “gourmet casual dining,” features a lot of calorie-rich items—such as fried small plates (macaroni-and-cheese balls, ravioli, chicken strips, chicken wings, shrimp) and creamy Oreo milkshakes.
During a recent visit to the eatery—in which I shared a pastrami sandwich, a pound of hot wings, a cup of chicken tortilla soup and loads of sweet-potato fries with my dining partner—I witnessed teenagers with football-player physiques and hefty middle-aged diners munching on burgers. These behemoth patrons juxtaposed against two informercials playing on the restaurant’s flat-screen TVs—one for the for P90X home exercise program and one for Cindy Crawford’s Meaningful Beauty line of anti-aging products—made me feel oddly guilty about my order, even though I purposely stayed away from many of the higher-calorie dishes.
Skip’s pastrami sandwich, hot wings and chicken tortilla soup aren’t particularly imaginative. The sando tasted too plain (white-bread roll, lackluster Dijon mustard), and the only toppings offered are a few grilled onions. The accompanying sweet-potato fries are crispy and stringy, but otherwise unremarkable. Skip’s wings (we ordered buffalo style, although diners can also choose “BBQ” and “spicy Asian” options) seemed like just regular hot wings coated in copious red buffalo sauce. Unfortunately, the chicken tortilla soup had somehow become cold by the time it reached the table. A bite revealed that it was an inventive and slightly heavier-than-normal cream-based variation of the Mexican soup, but it was far too cold to really be enjoyed.
During the next few visits, I sampled all four salads. The Asian salad is a standout with chopped cabbage, diced bell peppers, broccoli, avocado and toasted-sesame dressing. It has great texture and pairs well with a perfectly cooked steak, yet it was balanced enough to do without meat at all. A grilled Caesar salad was creative, with two charred, quartered romaine lettuce hearts topped with crostini and parmesan cheese—all drizzled in Caesar dressing (patrons are tasked to do all the cutting and tossing of this salad). A salad called The Heap and a baby-spinach salad arrived with heavy blue cheese crumbles, which balanced nicely against sweet fruit toppings and dressing.
But the best dish on Skip’s menu is its burger. All five styles (original, mushroom and Swiss, bacon and cheddar, three-cheese, and Western) are served on a brioche bun and cooked “medium,” unless otherwise specified. The kitchen offers a house-made veggie burger as well. I sampled both the bacon-and-cheddar and the mushroom-and-Swiss burger. The beef patties were moist and tender, with a nice pinkness in the middle. Sweet egginess exuded from the brioche buns. If there’s such a thing as a “gourmet” burger that can rightfully sell for $10, this is probably it.
For dessert, an Oreo shake hit a nice balance of sweet and creamy. Unfortunately, this reviewer was too full at this point to sample Skip’s house-made ice-cream sandwich featuring FatCat cookies.
A few thoughtful extra touches make Skip’s a pleasant dining experience: Beer and wine menus help diners wash down burgers in style. Its patio is clean, dog-friendly and covered in Astroturf. Both the owner and chef constantly roam around the restaurant, chatting with guests and making sure everything is OK. The menu is simple, with prices remaining the same for lunch and dinner. And before paying, the hostess presents a deck of cards: If you draw a joker, your meal is on the house. Sure, there’s only a one-in-27 chance of that happening—assuming it’s a standard deck—but it’s a fun gimmick that ups Skip’s charm factor and keeps diners coming back to gamble for dinner. Besides, the burgers are easily worth the full price already.