8 years ago
|Sheila Himmel , a Professional Reviewer, wrote:||
by Sheila Himmel, Mountain View Voice (Aug 3, 2007)
A knowledgeable friend claims that Clarke's Charcoal Broiler burgers are the best in Silicon Valley. She and other fans have been patronizing Clarke's for so many decades that just driving up to the jaunty, nautical pier-like front makes them happy.
The loyal Clarke's clientele ranges from soldiers in fatigues to young families with children, from the weekday lunch crowd to folks who remember when William Clarke came back from World War II and put up a hamburger stand on El Camino Real. (It's been in the Blach family for 35 years.) Incoming cars go from beat-up Corolla to shiny Jaguar convertible. Few people linger.
Most of them know what they want, or study the multifaceted burger options and add-ons before getting in line. It would be rude to get to the front and say, "Hmm, do I want a Smokey Cheddar Burger or just a Sharp Cheddar Burger, and do I want it on a French roll or the usual sesame bun? Oh, and add bacon, no, wait, Canadian bacon!"
Meanwhile, the soldier in back is turning red as a beet.
My favorite is the basic Clarkesburger ($5.95), a lean one-third-pound patty that comes off the chain-mail charcoal broiler smoky, juicy and slightly crumbly, without those burned lines that look nice but taste, you know, burned. The burger makes a perfect textural contrast with a slightly toasted sesame bun, somewhat juicy tomato slices, and crisp sheaf of iceberg lettuce.
Medium, with just a hint of pink, is the default mode for all 21 or so versions of hamburger. If you want your burger cooked more or less, just say so.
If you want to use the restroom, ask for the key, and if you want, say, jack cheese instead of American cheese on your patty melt, add $1. Otherwise, the patty melt ($7.75) has the virtues of a one-third pound Clarkesburger: sauteed onions and toasted rye bread, but they're foiled by a slab of orange gunk.
Condiments reside on the original building's brick fireplace, behind the ordering counter. Traffic tends to back up, but the condiment station is clean and stocked with "imported and domestic" possibilities including iceberg lettuce, jalapeno peppers, sauerkraut and a flotilla of sauces, onions and mustards.
At lunchtime, you're likely to wait a lot longer for the burger -- at least 10 minutes -- than it takes to eat it. But lunch is still the time to go if you like your fries steaming hot with crisp coats. At slow times, the fries may go limp.
Medium-thick, with a little skin, the fries ($1.50) were winners at lunch and losers at dinner. Also disappointing, potato salad and sweet coleslaw ($2.25 each in a half-pint) both drowned in mayonnaise.
A big basket of fried zucchini ($3.95) with ranch dressing was good for sharing. The Clarke's fryer also does onion rings and beer-battered mushrooms.
For lighter eaters, Clarke's offers cheese sandwiches, smaller burgers and hot dogs. For vegetarians, there's a garden burger. On weekends, Clarke's breakfast menu hits all the egg and pancake bases. The Clarke's full dinners include a roll, baked or fried potatoes and your choice of salad. The chicken and ribs are OK.
Why bother? Just have a burger and a milkshake or a beer. Clarke's carries good domestics and imports in bottles and Gordon Biersch on tap.
Atop the condiment station, and the centerpiece of the Clarke's Web site, is a red vintage pickup truck with a thought bubble saying: "Clarkesburgers are charcoal broiled, not grilled." That's all, folks.
Clarke's Charcoal Broiler
615 W El Camino Real
Mountain View, California 94040
650-967-0851 | phone
650-967-5191 | fax
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