Eureka! I've Found Another Hamburger Chain in Fresno! But as our state motto suggests, have we struck gold?
If Fresno has nothing else, it certainly has choices in the fast food dining category. Burgers abound; some local and some from outside. I've covered a few spots, Angelo's Drive-In (a true Fresno Classic) and The Dog House Grill (Go Dogs Go). Oh, right I also covered the non-habit forming chain burger joint in Fig Garden Village (boring). I've eaten at In n'Out all over the state, Red Robin (actually not bad), and of course MCD. My personal preference is The Counter burger chain. I've eaten at the one in Walnut Creek and Corte Madera and they're good.
To add to the hype, there was even some buzz from local foodies, namely Taste Fresno and The Fresno Bee to declare "Burger Wars" was on. I didn't realize it had gotten that serious.
I'll give kudos to the marketing and concept staff at Eureka!Burger corporate headquarters. The menu design, slogans, ad campaign, and layout of the facility look and feel great. When I walked inside I didn't smell grease or stale beer. The room has an open feel with clean lines and great visible space. What stood out even more, the large tap wall of custom beers. I'll give credit to the bartender or cleaning staff for keeping that tap wall space spot and smuge free. Just so you all know, I ate at the bar in front of the tap wall.
Now that I've sold the concept to everyone, how does the burger taste? I ordered a Cowboy Burger, topped with bacon, crispy onions and a housemade BBQ sauce. I ordered my burger medium-rare. A curious matter and it could be Fresno patron driven, the bartender asked me how I'd like my burger cooked with an assumptive close, "would well-done be ok for your burger?" If I wanted well done, I would have gone to MCD. I never order well done. If the meat is fresh, why would I want to overcook it?
When served, the burger and plate looked delicious. Everything was piled high on a white plate and arranged well. When I topped my burger with the bun, some sort of granulated spice was all over the top of bun, I'm guessing paprika or seasoning salt, but I didn't ask. Frankly, I didn't care what it was until I couldn't get it off my hands. It didn't seem to have any real flavor, so I question why it's there other than for decoration. My first two bites of burger exposed no medium-rare beef as requested. Bummer. I was eating at 11:55am, so I got here before the lunch rush, so there shouldn't have been an issue with rushing orders. I'd hate to think the meat patties were being pre-cooked and re-warmed during a busy lunch service with a majority of diners requesting medium or worse (I mean more well cooked). The BBQ sauce was tangy, the fried onions were crispy and well seasoned, and the bacon had the taste and texture like it came out of the buffet steamer. This burger did not make me happy. The fries were fine, no better or worse than anywhere else.
Did I mentioned how cool the Tap Wall of Beer was? Clean, well marked, and serving ice cold brew. This magical wall even had two flat screen TVs with two different sporting events showing right in front of me. I really like the atmosphere at Eureka! and it's walking distance to the cheapest happy hour in town, The Daily Grill. (How that place survives at perpetual half-price is beyond me. Oh right, volume, liquor sales and compromising palates due to price)
I have a feeling Eureka!Burger is going to do well in Fresno for the same reason Friday's or P.F Chang's does well; the concept, the price, and the bar. Fresno will make them rich because Five Guys and In N' Out don't serve beer with their burgers and none of their competitors have any atmosphere. I'll probably end up going back to Eureka with friends for lunch or dinner when I'm in town, simply to sit and have a beer and if there are no other options for dinner that night, I might have a regular cheeseburger. I just hope it will be cooked medium-rare.
So did I strike gold in Fresno with Eureka? Not really. Burger was ok, Tap Wall is cool, concept is cool. The real gold was found at Eureka!Burger headquarters in selecting Fresno for its second chain store.