Fry 2K

“In the year 2000, we’ll be eating hamburgers on buns with sesame seeds. These burgers will be dressed with a tangy, peach-colored sauce, reminiscent of a once-popular dressing called something like ‘One Thousand Island.’ And they will rain down from the sky.”

Such might have been the predictions of the founders of OB 2000, a small office-divey restaurant which had its genesis more than a quarter of a century ago. People predicted a lot of weird things back then. Despite what the name suggests, OB 2000 is not a space-age restaurant with an automaton named Hal flipping patties in the back. Nor is it a front for burger-loving cultists whose spaceship is three years late. OB 2000 really is just what it appears to be: a straightforward hamburger joint serving conscientious food to office workers between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. That’s why it is called OB 2000. It’s an abbreviation for Office Building 2000.

Yes, good people of Earth. There is a restaurant whose first and middle names are Office and Building.

Why 2000? “They could never reach 2000,” joked owner Azam Khan, who pointed out that the other big office buildings on the block have names like OB 11 and OB 14. Someone behind the counter chimed in, “It was [Khan’s] goal to retire by then.” Khan supposedly did retire in the year 2000, achieving the goal he’d set for himself more than 25 years ago.

Despite the millennium having come and gone, OB 2000 remains the “Home of Famous Hamburgers and Fries.” The burdens of fame notwithstanding, the hamburgers are inarguably good. However, the fries would instigate a quarrel. I’ve had good fries. I know good fries. These may be famous, but that doesn’t make them good. Their texture is fine, but some depth of flavor is missing. In truth, they’re average, which for fries means disappointing.

In a competitive burger world, how does a 28-year veteran distinguish itself from the pack? First, there is the name. OB 2000 sounds weird enough to pique the appetites of the nerdy and techie crowds. Second, there is a simplicity achieved by offering few items, with some variation. OB 2000 doesn’t ask you how you want your burger cooked. That’s because there’s only one way to cook its flat, slightly bigger than a quarter-pound but not as hefty as one-third-pound burgers: medium, and medium only.

The burger-licious patty is placed on a sesame-seed-studded bun of proportionate circumference. It’s a good-sized bun with no unnecessary hardness or roughness. Thousand Island dressing, slices of raw and sweet-tasting white onion, iceberg lettuce, tomato and pickle come de facto unless renounced.

There is your base, your foundation, your stretched canvas on which further art may be commissioned. You may express yourself with such toppings as cheese (American), bacon (presumably American), Ortega chile (Mexican-American), mushrooms (Mother Earth) and the like.

So why is this burger good? It’s not an easy question to answer. In some burgers, the ingredients harmonize. They work together like a team. In others, one superstar ingredient overpowers the others, or some ingredients don’t pull their weight. Then you can taste the cacophony, the backstabbing and the lies.

This is not the case with the OB 2000 burger. There was no Niman Ranch beef, aged cheddar, heirloom tomatoes, garlic aioli or pampered bacon—not that these things wouldn’t make many of us drool. The OB 2000 burger had that element of harmony, which worked as much to its advantage as any gourmet ingredients would have. It entered the mouth, the stomach, the bloodstream and the subconscious within a matter of seconds.

As for the restaurant’s other items, OB 2000 did most things well. The grilled cheese with tomato was a hearty sandwich served on sourdough or wheat toast with perfectly buttered grill marks. The onion rings had a nice crunchy exterior. The chicken strips also attested to a prowess with the fryer—crispy coating outside, tender white meat inside. The chocolate shake was a little on the pricey side ($3) but not dissatisfying. Of all the items on the menu, we left only the fish and chips and the vegetarian burger untested.

OB 2000 has its share of admirers. One diner swore by the Ortega burger with cheese. “Get it with just the Thousand Island and the lettuce,” she said. “Then the flavor of the chile really comes through.” She added, “I don’t even have to order anymore. I walk in, and they just know what I want.” Enough said?