Before the term California Cuisine signified elitist fare, southern California was known for its hamburgers. So many things have changed in what once was known as the Golden State, but hamburgers remain a strong suit. For proof, have a meal at Tony’s.
The menu lists thirty-two different configurations, not counting eight different types of slider, a half-dozen “chicken burgers” that substitute a grilled breast for a beef patty, a salmon burger, a turkey burger, and a meat-free garden burger. #1 on the menu is called Tony’s Classic. It is a 6-ounce round of char-broiled ground beef with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and Tony’s “secret sauce,” which is pink and mayonnaisey. As is true of paradigmatic old-school California burgers, the festoonery makes it a sight to behold. Even this most basic variation is piled so high that it arrives with a sharp knife plunged down through the top of the bun. The knife has two purposes: to hold it together, then to cut it into bite-size pieces when it becomes clear that lifting the whole thing like you would a modest-sized burger is nearly impossible without major dissolution.
The elaborate variations are outlandish. The Hulk, for instance, is three beef patties (that’s 18 ounces), a fistful of bacon, and three different cheeses dressed to a fare-thee-well. The Cathedral City Express includes grilled pineapple slices, both grilled and deep fried onions, and chorizo sausage. There are hot chile-topped burgers, breakfast burgers layered with eggs, and a cross-fit burger that substitutes big fresh leaves of lettuce for the bun. That last one is popular among the protein-eating muscle-builders that come from the gym just a few doors down. It consists of beef, bacon, an egg, avocado, and grilled onions.
Good side dishes include vigorously seasoned, fresh-cut French fries as well as fries topped with garlic, cheese, or truffle oil. There are sweet potato fries and slices of beer-battered, deep fried avocado, and as well as fine sweet and sour cole slaw.
Ambience is sports-bar pubby. TVs on the wall show sports events. The drink menu includes a large selection of beers and margaritas as well as milk shakes. In addition to indoor seats, there is plenty of sidewalk seating with a view of the shopping center.