Friday, September 18, 2009
Jack's Prime: Welcome to Prime Time*
As you've probably gathered if you've been reading for any appreciable length of time, my love for the simple hamburger (or preferably, cheeseburger) knows no bounds. I view a burger as a blank canvas, with the chosen toppings providing insight into the soul and the psyche of the eater. Okay, maybe that's a tad pretentious, but I most certainly do love burgers, and the countless variations thereof.
Discovering a new hamburger restaurant is always a thrill for me. Whether a small roadside stand doling out blackened burgers and greasy fries to blue collar workers on their lunch break, or a higher-end establishment marketed to trendy diners and touting expensive cuts of beef and exotic names for their produce, I'm game for just about anything when it comes to burger joints. A few weeks ago, after an hour-long discussion about where to have dinner with family, I found myself at Jack's Prime in San Mateo, California. Though I'd heard good things about it over the last several months, I hadn't yet eaten there. What can I say? When I'm in San Mateo I'm usually coaxed downtown by the siren song of authentic Mexican food.
My initial impression of Jack's Prime was that it seemed like a '50s era diner - hip rock 'n' roll aesthetic, delicious-looking burgers, a variety of milkshakes - albeit with modern-day prices. As we waited to be seated, we perused the menu and found that the average price for one of Jack's burgers was $9.25. Certainly not unexpected in this day and age, and the fact that they came with fries or a side salad sweetened the deal. In fact, Jack's allows substitution of onion rings or sweet potato fries for a nominal fee. I silently hoped that the food would live up to the hype.
Once we were seated, we ordered milkshakes. Jack's menu boasts flavors including chocolate, vanilla and strawberry (duh!); as well as mint chocolate chip, coffee, mango, and cherry vanilla, and Coke and root beer floats. Katie and her sister Becca shared an unbelievably thick chocolate shake. My father-in-law got creative, and asked if they could make a root beer-flavored shake. I'm not exactly sure how, but they did it, and it was exquisite. As for me, I'd ordered an excellent blueberry vanilla milkshake at Red Robin a couple months earlier, and with thoughts of that particular treat in my head, I decided to try the cherry vanilla.
It was good, though not quite as mind-bogglingly delicious as I was hoping. Make no mistake, it's rare that I find a milkshake disappointing, and I certainly was not disappointed by this one. But next time I think I'll see what Jack's does with the traditional strawberry shake.
As for the burgers, they run the gamut from the classic hamburger and cheeseburger to the Wine Country, which consists of "Laura Chenel goat cheese, cabernet/balsamic onions, sauteed mushrooms, mixed greens, tomatoes, and a burger seasoned with Napa Valley herbs and Prime Burger Sauce"; and everything conceivable in between. In addition to a veggie burger and a grilled chicken burger, Jack's also offers the Phoenix From the Flames, on which virtually every ingredient seems to exist to cause heartburn; the Hot Hawaiian, featuring teriyaki sauce, grilled pineapple and caramelized onions; and the Ultimate Bacon, which includes not only applewood smoked bacon, but maple bacon mayo and actual bacon in the patty. I ordered the Maytag Blue Ribbon burger, which came with maytag blue cheese, caramelized onions, iceberg lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes kosher dill pickles and Prime Burger Sauce. It's seen below.
It's worth noting that, while I normally eschew tomatoes on my burgers, I opted to keep them on, and quite enjoyed them. It's been a very long while since I've actually had a burger with tomatoes on it, and while I'm not likely to re-think my general policy on tomatoes, they didn't ruin the burger.
We left Jack's Prime that night very satisfied with our food, and looking forward to a return visit. The Phoenix From the Flames might be a good choice for next time.
Jack's Prime is located at 3723 South El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94003. Their website is jacksprime.com
*(Yeah, I know. Not the most creative or spontaneous title I could have gone with. But picking the perfect title was never my strong suit. Given the choice between an amazing title and a coherently-written paragraph, I'll take the latter any day of the week, thanks.)