A squeezeburger looks more like a work of art than lunch — not a fancy-food work of art, but hash-house art, for sure.
Onto a handsome, hand-pattied 1/3-pound circle of grilling beef the short-order cook piles a double fistful of shredded cheese. The heat of the meat and the grill around it causes the cheese to melt and to flow like heavy lava out beyond the edges of the hamburger it covers. When it hits the grill it sizzles and starts to cook. By the time the burgermeister lifts it off the metal, the circumference of the cheese has become brittle-crisp, an inner aura closer to the meat is chewy and pliable, and, of course, the cheese that has remained on top is creamy smooth. The cheese spill is so extensive and the ring of hardened, chewy cheese that circles the burger so broad that when meat is bunned, a short-fingered person might have trouble picking it up like a normal sandwich. It’s that long a reach from the outside of the cheese ring to the bun.
Note: There are 2 other locations of the Squeeze Inn, at 1630 K St. in Sacramento (916-492-2499) and 545 Industrial Dr., Galt (209-745-4313).
When we first heard about the cheeseburgers at the Squeeze Inn, we thought we had read about them on Roadfood.com. We remembered something about burgers with a crispy cheese “skirt” that extended well beyond the bun. A little searching told us we had been thinking of the review for the Shady Glen in Manchester, CT. Excited by the prospect of a similarly fantastic cheeseburger on the other coast, we gave it a shot.
We are glad we did. The Squeeze Inn, which has been at its current location for about 20 years, is a tiny red building that was formerly a coffee shop. Located on a busy road, we almost missed the small neon sign in the window that was the only indication of the goodness within. Inside, you literally need to “squeeze in,” as the eating area consists of only ten stools at a counter overlooking the grill. Though there is a pleasant seating area outside, behind the restaurant, a seat there deprives you a view of the fast-paced grill work and the chatter of the regulars. We made an effort to arrive at 4:30, since they close at 6, but the tiny place was already packed. Luckily, the friendliness of the clientele was only outdone by the man with the spatula.
The must-eat item here is the Squeezeburger, which was recommended to us by another customer as we waited to place our order. In its complete form, it is a 1/3-pound beef burger with cheese, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun. Cheese is extra, but the addition is well worth the price. The grill master heaps a mound of shredded cheddar cheese on the burger as it cooks (you should expect to wait at least ten to fifteen minutes for your made-to-order burgers). As the cheese melts, it spreads beyond the burger and forms a perfectly crispy edge around the exterior of the bun. Handling the burger is a bit of a challenge at first, since it requires skill to manage the lacy halo of chewy, crispy cheese. A few bites and tears into the cheese make it easier (and sent us straight to burger heaven). We had wondered whether the large amount of cheese was meant to mask a mediocre burger, but we found our Squeezeburgers to be thick, juicy, hand-packed, and delicious. Even our side order of fries was lovely. They consisted of hand-cut, golden-brown, skin-on potatoes with both crispy and soft pieces.
The Squeeze Inn offers a few other options, such as hot dogs, corn dogs, steak sandwiches, and tacos. However, we suspect the cheeseburgers are its rightful claim to fame. Despite the obvious health issues linked to frequent consumption of massively cheesy burgers and fries, we can’t stop thinking about getting another one.