I know not why the Fatburger franchise is in trouble or what set of wrong-headed decisions or circumstances led them to file for bankruptcy protection a few years ago. In this writer's humble opinion, Fatburger is still one of the best fast-food burger joints we have. Now that the few stores OC has (Buena Park, Irvine and Newport Beach) are up for sale, I took the opportunity to revisit and re-taste before anything changes for the worse. So far, from a diner's perspective, despite the turmoil at the corporate level, the chain looks just as rosy as the meat between the buns.
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Just as it has since the first Fatburger did in 1952, the burger patty doesn't hit the griddle until the sandwich is ordered. Bite into one while it's hot, and the loosely packed meat crumbles as a good burger should, a torrent of beef juices following. You actually taste the meat here. There's an ample amount of it, thick as the width of a finger, even in the smallest sandwich. Fatburger also remains one of the few places where you can ask for a fried egg with your burger, a small add-on that results in a tenfold jump in improvement. The pickles used are still crisp, and the onions are diced small so as to not overpower. No special sauce is employed, only mustard and mayo if you choose.
I notice that nothing has changed to the formula since I last had the burgers. If there has been a few adjustments to the way Fatburger operates over the past few years, it's only been cosmetic. Gone is the Baby Fat. It's just called Small these days. The King Burger is now dubbed Large.
And when you ask for fries or onion rings, the counter person still yells the order over his/her shoulder to the rest of the crew in Fatburger's signature fashion. Since they're just seconds from the fryer, when you pick up your first fry, it will singe your fingertips. This makes all the difference. Then there's the homemade onion rings--perhaps the best to be produced by a chain.Their success stems from one simple, rudimentary reason: they're made from fresh onions. Notice how each bite snaps and doesn't drag the rest of the rings out from the batter like those flaccid frozen ones usually do.
I, for one, hope "The Last Great Hamburger Stand" lasts.