- Fast food (McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc.)
- Regional chains/landmarks (In-N-Out Burger, Whataburger, Ray’s Hellburger, Shake Shack, Five Guys Burgers and Friends, The Burton Hotel etc.)
- National “fast casual” or sit-down chains (Fuddruckers, Cheeseburger In Paradise, etc.)
Local restaurants and bars notwithstanding, you know what you are getting when you walk into any of these establishments. Each one has a shtick (the Jimmy Buffet theme at CIP, Fuddruckers’ toppings bar) and a particular take on the burger (In-N-Out and Five Guys’ fresh meat, Wendy’s square patty). And, because they are either heavily-regulated franchises or company-owned, the food quality is the same from store-to-store.
Cheeburger Cheeburger falls into the last category. The Florida-based franchised chain has stores nationwide, with a high concentration on the Eastern Seaboard. It’s shtick is the 50s decor, down to the soda fountain, powder blue and pink walls and extensive milkshake menu. It takes its name from the Saturday Night Live/Belushi/Olympia Diner sketch. It’s claim on the burger is never-frozen 100% Angus beef from vegetarian cows.
The Wife and I have been regular customers since the Camillus location opened in 2009, though takeout has been our M.O. lately. It’s in a former Quizno’s location, which means that it’s far too small for a quality sitdown restaurant. The 45-46 seats in restaurant meant long lines at first. Those lines are long gone. When Five Guys opened down the road two years ago, the traffic evaporated. Within seconds of walking in the doors Saturday evening, four different employees asked how many people were in our party.
The menu features five beef burgers at the pre-cooked weights of 5.5, 7, 10, 14 and 20 ounces (turkey patties or grilled chicken breasts are also available). Diners pick a cheese from a selection of nine, and build a burger from a list of 30+ sauces and toppings. Sides include fries and onion rings. A creature of habit, I ordered the same thing I always do: the 7 oz. “Semi-Serious” with provolone, extra pickles, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayonnaise. The Wife went for a turkey burger wrap with black olives and pickles. The Baby attempted to eat her weight in french fries (Side note: She refuses to eat fries when I make them at home. She only eats them from restaurants. Highly frustrating when she throws a fit at home wanting a fry only to toss it on the floor because she doesn’t like it.) and ketchup.
Tonight’s offering was, well, I’ll let The Wife sum it up:
“Did you enjoy dinner? I mean, it just wasn’t me, right? Was it always that bad?”
Our burgers were grainy and dry, beyond the repair of mayo and ketchup. The fries were passable, but only warm by the time they made it to the table. I don’t mind soggy fries, as long as they are hot. Even The Baby, who never parts with restaurant french fries, tossed a few.
Ordinarily good service can even out a mediocre or bad meal. Unfortunately, our waitress was less than accessible. There are about a dozen tables in the restaurant, which could be adequately covered by the three servers and two managers on duty if the restaurant was full. There were five other tables of customers when we talked in. As we left there was one person waiting for a table and two open, but dirty, places for them.
The easiest way to draw attention to yourself as a lousy server is to rush the customer. Our waitress, after screwing up the order of the adjacent table and making little effort to fix it, proceeded to give her dessert speil and drop our check as The Wife, The Baby and I worked through the last third of our fries. Clearly the nonexistent crowd meant that our table needed to be turned over.
Some people will leave $0 tips in instances like this. (I think that’s wrong, personally. Leave a comment card or talk to a manager if you are that mad.) As a classic overtipper, I left a 15 percent tip (the level at which servers are taxed by the IRS…think of it as the minimum) down to the penny. As I left, one of the managers wished me a good evening and told me that he hoped to see me soon. I told him it was doubtful and walked outside to meet The Wife and kid.
Cheeburger Cheeburger is located at 5362 W. Genesee St. in Camillus. Dinner, with the exact tip was $24 even.