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AM17: Fatburger

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I have another quick chain visit for today.  I’ve been listening to a podcast about chain restaurants recently called Doughboys.  The most recent episode was about a burger chain called Fatburger.  I had never heard of it before and was surprised to find one in Lincoln.  Well, to my disappointment it actually turned out to be in Thunder Valley Casino rather than in Lincoln proper, but I couldn’t get this place out of my brain for a few days so I decided to check it out for lunch.

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The last time I had visited Thunder Valley was at least 10 years ago.  One major thing that I noticed as soon as I entered the first set of doors was that smoking was obviously permitted inside.  It was thick in the air.  I didn’t actually realize it was still allowed, even in Indian casinos.  This is a huge turnoff, and I can generally handle smokers in most situations (I smoke cigars myself).  Indoors or around food is where I draw the line.

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Obviously this is a food court environment, so the service and ambience were basically non-exsistant.  I decided to go nuts with this burger, especially considering the name, and went with the XXL, a 1lb monstrosity.  All fat burgers with “the works” include mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, relish and mustard.  Taking things further, I added nearly every premium option that is available: cheese, bacon, fried egg and onion rings (the only thing I didn’t add was chili).  My combo with fat fries (steak fries – they have skinny fries also) and a large soda came to a whopping $19.02 before tax.

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14 minutes later and I had a heavy, massive burger which towered over the already largish fries next to it.  As I picked it up from the counter I overheard at least 2 separate people point it out to the person they were with.  It was a spectacle.  It was also hard to get my hands around it, let alone eat the thing.

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The fries were meh.  They definitely needed some salt.  I barely touched them though due to the size of the burger.  That by the way was, actually, surprisingly amazing.  As I was leaving and getting a refill on my soda I briefly watched the person grilling patties.  They started with cubes of ground beef and smashed them down with a flat, metal stamp-looking tool.  That beef tasted amazing, it was nicely seasoned.  It was also really freaking hot.  I had to adjust my grip now and then because my thumb, on the bottom of the burger, was actually getting too hot a few times.  Anyway, what I really enjoyed was how all the crazy ingredients somehow came through and I could taste each individual, discrete flavor.

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If this was located anywhere other than Thunder Valley, I could see myself returning to experiment with different sized burgers and combinations of toppings.  It really was that good.  I just don’t feel any desire to step back into that smokey casino again to do it.  I’m deducting 1.5 from my score just for that.

Website: http://www.fatburger.com

#246: Jimmy John’s

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Here’s a quickie for a chain spot.  I had actually never heard of Jimmy John’s until they showed up in Roseville.  They are located at the corner of Douglas and Rocky Ridge, right next to Papa Murphy’s.  From an r/Roseville discussion about it, I gathered that the subs are average at best and they pride themselves on speed.  This is basically what I encountered.

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The staff (which seemed huge for a deli on a Sunday at dinner time, they had at least 6 or 7 people) all were in a good mood and seemed to enjoy their work, which is great.  My sandwich, the #17 Ultimate Porker (Applewood smoked ham and bacon with lettuce, tomato & mayo)[$7.79] was ready as I was putting the lid on my soda.  It was decent.  I had added oil & vinegar, though I did not taste or notice it at all.  It might have helped out the slightly dry French roll if it were more apparent.  All the ingredients seemed fresh.

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I feel like this would be good in the <$6 range.  Over that and I have a hard time justifying it when we have such excellent options in Roseville as Better Foods Deli, Guy’s For Lunch, Mr. Subs, Mr. Pickles, Beach Hut and so on.

#245: La Fiesta Alteña

La Fiesta Alteña is a new Mexican taqueria located at Lead Hill & Eureka in the old Mas location.  They worked on it for many months and I was surprised to see it was open one day when I was going to a movie at Century 14 in the same center.  On Friday I met my mom for some dinner to try it out.

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We arrived at 5:30 and headed in.  The front door is not obvious, aside from a small little engraved, office-like plaque that said “Entrance”.  They had the far patio door open at the time and, while we went in the front (I stopped in previously to take a peek), we noticed a lot of people walk right past it and head into the patio area, then eventually find their way inside.  When you first walk in it feels like this will be an order-at-the-counter type of place.  There are registers and LCD displays set up at what looks like a counter that you should approach.  Instead, those are for the servers use, and we were greeted and shown to a table.

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The interior has seen extensive remodeling, and it feels very open now, with only a handful of booths in some areas.  The patio is still a fairly unique one in that it is open to the outside, yet sheltered with high glass walls from the wind and elements.  Heaters and fans should keep the space usable year-round.

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When we sat down and started looking over the menus we both noticed that they had the air conditioners BLASTING.  It was downright cold inside on this high-90s day (may have been 100, it was hot either way).  This comes into play, I feel, in a couple ways.  The first was obvious.  Later, they opened the door to the patio from inside the restaurant.  Quickly, a lot of the cool air was lost to the outside and the temperature rose to a more comfortable level.  I’ll get to the 2nd in a moment.

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We skimmed the menus, including the happy hour options (link to the menu, drinks and happy hour here).  I ordered a Model Special [$4 happy hour] and my mom got a margarita [$6 happy hour].  These came out right about the time we ordered.  I decided on the Chile Verde (slow cooked succulent pork, coated with roasted jalapeños and tangy tomatillos served with rice and refried beans)[$11.75].  My mom got the happy hour Nachos with chicken (choice of asada, pastor, carnitas, pollo with melted cheese, guacamole & sour cream)[$5].  We were also served chips and a trio of salsas.

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The chips were very standard, nothing special.  The pico de gallo was the most flavorful and was clearly fresh.  The other, more blended salsa packed a nice heat to it, but otherwise didn’t have much going on.  The beans were warm, mild and enjoyable.

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Our orders came out in roughly ten minutes.  The nacho plate was impressive for $5.  My picture, I am realizing as I look at it now, does not really do it justice.  The plate is actually an oval and it looks like a small circle how I shot it.  That and it was deeper than you’d expect.  It consisted of the same average chips, but was totally loaded with the toppings and there was plenty left over at the end.  This is a great value.

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My chile verde tasted pretty good and had some nice spice and flavor from the jalapeños, however the pork was not quite as tender as I anticipated.  The beans and rice were very standard.  There was a ton of cool sour cream.  At first I didn’t see any guacamole, but later found it hidden under some stray lettuce from the little salad.  It was fresh and delicious.  This is where I think the 2nd point about the air conditioning comes into play.  My plate was somewhat cold, and as a result the beans, rice and chili verde were all room temperature at best.  I think the overlay-chilled air had caused the plates in the kitchen to end up colder than usual, and they definitely didn’t warm them up prior to plating.  It just sapped all the heat out of the food.  That was pretty disappointing.  The nacho plate seemed to be OK though.

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Towards the end of our dinner a mariachi band set up in the patio on a raised stage and started cranking out music.  It was heard pretty easily inside with the door open, and was fairly loud in the patio.  I took a little bit of video (below) before we left.

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The heat issue will leave an impression in my mind but I do think this is definitely a good spot for happy hour.  Those nachos were a great deal for $5.