Like Cambodians owning doughnut shops and Cubans starting Mexican-produce empires, one of Southern California’s great anthropological culinary mysteries is how old hamburger stands became the best places to find breakfast burritos. A’s Burgers in South County, Athenian Burger #3 in Buena Park (the county’s king of the morning tortilla torpedo), Bill’s in Costa Mesa—these and other county spots began life in Orange County when Mexican food still largely came crunchy and in combo plates, when the steak sandwich ruled and the sole ethnic item on most menus was a kielbasa. But such places began incorporating more Mexican cuisine as the decades passed, and cults grew around a burrito that really doesn’t have a place in most Mexi households. Why? A dissertation topic for doctoral candidates if ever I heard one.
Add George’s Hamburgers in Fullerton to this list of burger/burrito emporiums. It’s one of the last true burger road stands in Orange County, a box squeezed onto a stretch of Commonwealth Avenue that can’t decide whether it wants to be industrial blight or part of the downtown funky charm. These breakfast burritos are as much a part of a Fullertonian’s life as Fullerton High beating Anaheim High in football, as making out in Hillcrest Park or yearning for the Reagan Years Arcade. It’s a straightforward thing: greasy bacon, crunchy hash browns, eggs whipped to a silken consistency, all wrapped in a flour tortilla I wish were just a bit more burnt, with a respectable salsa on the side. Cut in half, each portion’s insides—compact layer upon compact layer—look like those cutaway diagrams of Earth in your geography class that showed the planet from magma to stratosphere. The tradition here is to dunk each bite in ranch dressing; the combination of fat-on-fat-on-fat transforms this gem into something approaching a slightly melted chicharrón.
Almost as legendary at George’s are the chili-cheese fries. Thick, salted potato strips get buried in a layer of flavorful chili, white onion slices and cheese so sticky you can bind the opposite poles of magnets with it. It’s presented on a massive Styrofoam tray, all for the ridiculous price of $5. Ranch dressing is also advised, but I’d wait to go home and drown the chili-cheese fries in Cholula to offset the sweet, sweet grease. And the actual hamburgers at George’s? Good, sometimes even great—but if that’s what you want, honestly, you’re better off at In-N-Out a couple of blocks east. Only in Orange County can recommending a burger place for its Mexican food make sense—okay, maybe in Los Angeles. . . .
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George’s Hamburgers, 815 W. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 870-9960.
This column appeared in print as "A Mystery Wrapped In an Enigma Wrapped in a Flour Tortilla."