Back in June I noted that construction fences had gone up around the Burger King at 575 El Camino Real, near Whipple Avenue. After doing some research I wrote about the planned remodel in my post Fact Finding. I was encouraged when, one week later, a large hydraulic excavator and a small tractor appeared on the site; surely demolition was imminent. However, it wasn’t until just a few days ago—some eight weeks later—that demolition began. On Monday of this week, the site looked like this:
Whereas on Tuesday it looked like this:
This project is billed as a remodel, but as you can see it is a complete teardown and rebuild. When done we will have an all-new Burger King that is smaller than the original and rotated so that the main entrance is towards the back (facing the Caltrain tracks) with the drive-through up against the sidewalk along El Camino. The only plan I could find was attached to a landscaping agreement and thus is somewhat rough, but it clearly shows the new drive-through configuration, the main entrance in the back, and the reduced building size:
Redwood City’s Burger King must be doing well in order for them to pour this kind of money into a new building. It appears, however, that most customers no longer dine in the restaurant: from the design of their new building they seem to be emphasizing the drive-through more and greatly shrinking the dining room.
The start of demolition of Redwood City’s Burger King restaurant coincided with a Redwood City Voice article that purported to determine the favorite local burger joint of the city’s seventeen college interns. I read the article with some amusement, but was surprised—and a tad disappointed—to see that my own favorites were not even mentioned. Clearly these interns need to get out more! The article asks readers to comment and supply their own picks, which I briefly considered doing. But as usual I have a lot more to say on the subject than can fit into a comment box, thus this blog post.
The Voice article lists the following candidates for “best burger”:
- The Patty Shack
- Canyon Inn
- In-N-Out Burger
- Five Guys
The last two are fast-food places, and the article concludes with the intern’s choice between just those two. I have to agree with their verdict, which was to crown In-N-Out Burger as the fast-food winner. But everyone has different tastes, and I know that there are a lot of Five Guys fans out there.
Staying focused on fast food for a moment, I was interested—but not entirely surprised—to see no mention of the more established fast-food joints. Naturally Redwood City has its share. As I sit here I can think of five “old-school” fast-food chains that exist within Redwood City’s borders:
- McDonald’s (on Chestnut near El Camino Real, on Woodside Road at Nueva Avenue, and on Whipple Avenue near Veterans Boulevard)
- Jack in the Box (on Woodside Road at Broadway, and on Woodside at Kentfield; there is also one just beyond our border in North Fair Oaks, on El Camino Real at Fifth Avenue)
- Wendy’s (on El Camino Real, about a block north of Woodside Road)
- Carl’s Jr (Veterans and Main)
- Burger King (the El Camino Real location is of course under construction at the moment, but there is also one on Middlefield Road near Woodside Road, in with Costco and Orchard Supply Hardware)
I suspect that most burger aficionados would agree that both In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys make a better burger than any of the above-listed chains, but as I said, tastes vary.
Even with such a variety of fast-food choices, unless you truly are in a hurry I’m not sure why you’d patronize any of them given the arguably better options that are available at Redwood City’s more traditional restaurants. And many of those—Homeskillet and Canyon Inn included—will package your order “to go,” so although it may take a bit longer to prepare your order, you still have the flexibility to take your food back to your office, your home, the park, or to Courthouse Square…wherever you might prefer to enjoy your favorite hamburger.
Of all the burger places on their list and mine, Canyon Inn has been in business the longest. You’ll find them off Oak Knoll Drive (which turns into Hopkins Avenue closer to downtown) at Canyon Road, kitty-corner from a small residential shopping center. When my kids were growing up we used to go to Canyon Inn much more than we do now: back then at least they had a number of video games and pinball machines that kept the kids amused while we adults sat back and enjoyed our food and perhaps a pitcher of beer. Those games might still be there, but I’ve found so many other good choices for this kind of food elsewhere in Redwood City that I haven’t been there in a long while. I always found their Guacamole Burger to be fairly good, though, so perhaps I need to give them another visit.
Homeskillet is one of Redwood City’s newest offerings. I have yet to try them out, although I followed their progress with great interest. They’re located in an old doughnut shop on Veterans Boulevard, at Middlefield Road, in the shadow of the giant Indigo apartment complex. Homeskillet appears to primarily be a breakfast place, with lunch a close second. They are definitely on my list of places to try; I hope to do a proper review one of these days. I do note that they use Niman Ranch beef, which is a good sign…
I should also mention Timber & Salt (on Theatre Way), which I’ve been told has a really good burger. However, although I’ve eaten there a number of times, I’ve always been tempted by other items on the menu and thus cannot personally attest to the quality of their Timber & Salt Burger.
Given that I haven’t been to Canyon Inn for a long while and have yet to try Homeskillet, just where do I go in Redwood City for a great burger? Although I would have a hard time picking my absolute favorite, the following four are all, in my book, reliable sources for a really good hamburger or cheeseburger. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order.
Aly’s on Main, which is located on Main Street right next door to the Patty Shack, is by no means a fast-food place. At Aly’s dining is a leisurely affair—what a concept!—and so don’t expect to get in and out quickly. But if you are comfortable with that, I think you’ll find that the food is worth the wait. As for the burger, what Aly’s serves is an organic, 100% grass-fed beef patty on a brioche bun with cheddar cheese. Aly’s grinds their own meat on the premises: the high quality of their ingredients is what makes Aly’s so special. Not a beef eater? Aly’s menu also lists turkey and lamb burgers. And, of course, they have numerous other items on their menu if you decide that a burger is not for you. But if you are a burger aficionado, give Aly’s a try and see if their high-quality ingredients and careful preparation don’t make for a really top-notch hamburger. Oh, and I should note that the burger comes with their “thrice fried” french fries, which are simply delicious!
For a great basic burger, don’t overlook Redwood City’s City Pub, on Broadway between El Camino Real and the Caltrain tracks. Their Pub Burger consists of a ground beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayonnaise on a Kaiser or wheat bun. Cheese is an optional extra, as are grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms, fresh jalapeños, bacon, avocado, and guacamole. With your burger you have a choice of either wedge-cut fries dusted with parmesan cheese, or a side salad. The burger may be simple, but it’s a good one; I highly recommend it.
In addition to the Pub Burger, City Pub’s menu also lists an “American Kobe Burger,” a garden burger, a turkey burger, and a salmon burger. Thus, City Pub likely has one that will suit almost anyone’s tastes. Being a pub, they of course have a large selection of beverages to accompany your meal. They also have a large number of tables, both inside and outside, so whether you want to sit by the fireplace, sit at the bar and watch sports, or catch some rays outside, you can do it at City Pub.
You may know Kristie Marie’s (on the downtown corner where Broadway crosses the Caltrain tracks) as a great place for coffee and a to-go breakfast item, but they are open for lunch, too, and serve one of Redwood City’s little-known secrets: a truly fantastic burger. Kristie Marie starts with one of her soft house-made buns, and adds a beef patty plus cheese, tomato, arugula, and a caramelized onion and bacon relish. The combination makes for an incredibly juicy, and admittedly somewhat messy, burger that just tastes fantastic. The reviewers on Yelp who’ve tried it agree with both my wife and I: this is one great burger.
Kristie Marie’s is a small place, with very few places to sit, so while you might get lucky and snag a seat, be prepared to take your food elsewhere. Fortunately, it is only a couple of easy blocks away from Courthouse Square, so if you need somewhere to enjoy your burger, head that way and perhaps grab one of the city-provided umbrella tables.
While my other three choices are in downtown Redwood City, my last pick—Redwood Grill—is located in Woodside Plaza. While I admittedly haven’t been there in a couple of months, my wife and I have had several meals at Redwood Grill since they opened and we really liked what we had. Their “Redwood Burger” has the expected onions, lettuce, tomato, and a spread of some sort. To it you can add cheese, bacon, avocado, egg, and/or sautéed mushrooms (for an extra charge, of course). You can also get a basket of “Fries Your Way”: in addition to lightly salted fries, you can also get ones coated in truffle oil and sea salt, or fries smothered in cheese sauce, sour cream, chives, and bacon. Personally, I’m a purist so I stick with the regular fries, but its nice to have options, and Redwood Grill provides a number of them.
I’m sure that there are places I’m forgetting, and I know that there are places I have yet to try, but you can’t go too far wrong with any of my choices. In my opinion they all serve a better burger than you can get at any of the places chosen by our city interns (with the possible exception of Homeskillet; not having eaten there yet, I cannot fairly judge that one). These days with all the fancy food offerings available in Redwood City it is easy to overlook one of the truly great entrees: a well-made hamburger. But don’t: these restaurants easily elevate the simple hamburger well above what you get at a typical fast-food place.
The Redwood City Parks and & Foundation is trying to get the word out about their third annual “Picnic en Blanc” community picnic and dance fundraiser, the proceeds from which will go towards Redwood City’s soon-to-be-constructed Magical Bridge Playground. Picnic en Blanc takes place at a location that remains undisclosed until 48 hours prior to the event—although I’m told that this year’s location is going to be really great. The picnic will be held on Saturday, August 26, from 5-9 p.m. Event-goers wear all white (the “en Blanc” part) and bring their own food and drink (if you prefer, you have the option to order sandwiches and platters from Whole Foods when you buy your tickets). There will be live music and dancing, so come prepared to have a great time! For more information and tickets, head over to the event website at http://www.rwcpaf.org/picnic-en-blanc-2017.html.