It’s the cheese

Squeeze Burger

5301 Power Inn Rd.
Sacramento, CA 95820

(916) 386-8599

I love a good grilled cheese sandwich. My favorite part is when a little of the cheese slips down the side and sizzles into a hard disc of crunchy, browned goodness. I knew I had to try the Squeeze Inn when I heard about its Squeezeburger with cheese, burgers they make “with a skirt.”

Translation: They slam a huge handful of grated cheddar on top of a grilling burger and let it melt down around the meat and fry, so that it forms an oily dairy penumbra around the main event. When there are several burgers on the grill—and I suspect that’s all the time—it’s a sea of molten, bubbling cheese, melting together. To serve up the burgers, the cook has to slice up the hardening cheese, which then overhangs the little paper boat the burgers come in. For that matter, so do the very generously sized burgers.

Before we even had a bite, though, the place had won my heart, as well as my husband’s. For him, there was NHL hockey on the TV overhead, the first he’d seen this season. For me, there was a trivia question posted on the chalkboard at the other end of the teeny interior. A correct answer won a free Squeeze with cheese, and I have an embarrassingly intense love for trivia quizzes. The question was about musicals, and a coupon for a future Squeeze with cheese is mine, all mine.

Hockey and trivia weren’t all the place had to boast. Inside the little coral-colored building was plenty of atmosphere, with a wide range of decorative objects from ’40s-era (and apparently earlier) signs to to-go menus in an old fishing creel, antlers overhead and a joke box of “Spotted Owl Helper.” It’s easy to see at a glance that the place is a longtime institution.

A scant few stools against the counter are the only seating, and when we arrived at 5:30 p.m., every one was taken. The place closes at 6 p.m. on weeknights, though, and only takes to-go orders after 5:30 p.m., so things quickly cleared out. (It closes at 4 p.m. on Saturdays.)

The menu is short enough that we had little trouble getting our order in under the wire. You’ve got your burgers, a couple of kinds of steak sandwiches, tacos, dogs of the corn and hot types, chili and a few other options, including, surprisingly, pigs in a blanket. Among sides, you have two choices: large fries and small fries. (Unless you’re a lumberjack, get the small.) There are some extras you can add to your sandwich, including bacon, mushrooms and a few others.

For me, there was no question: A Squeeze with cheese it would be. I generally like my burgers all but naked—no mayo, no mustard and that sort of thing—but I went for the full range of vegetables, figuring that if I was going to eat a Frisbee-sized round of cheese I should have a little something green to go with it. That meant pickles, tomatoes and lettuce; onions were promised, too, but I must have missed them.

The Squeezeburger converted me to the virtues of a well-dressed burger. Eating it was a logistical challenge. I’ve got to say that it’s a good thing the proprietors aren’t fans of the spotted owl, because the napkins required to eat one of their burgers are probably the cause for denuding whole forests.

The cheese, though, is worth quite a lot of trouble: crunchy yet pliable, dripping with grease and full of toasty, salty flavor. The burger underneath, a full one-third pound, was pretty darned good, too. I had debated asking for bacon (the thick slices, ready for frying to order, looked awfully tasty), but I think that might have been overkill on my first Squeezeburger. There’s always next time.

My husband’s teriyaki-steak sandwich had the texture of a Philly cheese steak—thinly sliced shreds of meat nestled in a long roll—but didn’t include cheese. Instead, it was topped with softly caramelized grilled onions and sliced mushrooms, plus some nice fresh lettuce. The seasoning on the meat was on the sweet side, but it was perfectly pleasant.

The fries were a triumph: more brown than golden, with the skin on. They were freshly hand-cut, but not too thick, and fried to order. There’s not much else on offer—fountain drinks are the only beverages—except friendliness from the staff, and that goes a long way. They greeted and bid farewell to a good half of the customers by name, joked pleasantly with the others and practically urged free refills on everyone. We closed the place down as we munched our huge order of fries, but they were in no hurry to shoo us out the door. Plus, the woman behind the counter assured my husband that they’d be happy to turn the TV to hockey anytime upon request—yes, even if the Kings were playing. That would be enough to ensure that we’d be back, even if it weren’t for the glories of a burger with a cheese skirt.