Behold the beginning of our annual 100 Favorite Dishes countdown! Every day until the publication of our fantabulous Best Of Issue, we'll list our favorite meals this year in descending order. Enjoy, pass it on, and tune in daily!
There isn't much to San Clemente's Rider's Club Café beyond burgers, beer, sandwiches and a token salad. The café is more accurately described as a shack, always brimming with more people than it has room for. The one narrow, dead-end street for parking is consistently full because of said people. But the smell of beef on a griddle beckons you away from your precariously parked car, and the burger makes you forget about it.
The burgers are ultra-customizable, with several protein, cheese, and topping options. Whatever your fancy, Rider's takes the basics and classes them up a little: the lettuce is a spring mix, the pickles aren't Vlasic, cheeses range from Goat to Muenster, and the beef is cooked to your specification. Rather than fries, the burger is accompanied by homemade chips and, if you remember to ask, pickled beets.
The most beautiful burger moment is when you lift it and observe the cheese oozing lava-like, taking some of the toppings with it. The meat is marvelously juicy, melding so thoroughly with the cheese and house aioli that it's butter-like. The pickle slices are so crisp and light, they might still be cucumbers. And the bun, while soft and fluffy, holds up to its oozing insides. The accompanying beets are bizarre and wonderful in their sweet and tangy contrast to the buttery burger.
Eating this burger isn't pretty--it's a multi-napkined feat.
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86. Smoked Trout at Provenance 87. Small Plates at A&J Restaurant 88. Corn Cheese at Zoomak Asian Bistro 89. Pumpkin Curry at Bhan Baitong 90. Poke at Costco Tustin II 91. Pambazo at Tacos Radioactivos 92. Beef Pho at Pho Crystal Noodle House 93. Breakfast Burrito from Cafe Calacas 94. Koobideh Plate from Grill Cafe 95. Tacos de Cecina from Alebrije's 97. Breakfast Sausage from Da-Le Ranch 99. Tres Amigos Burrito from Piaggio on Wheels 100. Bacon-Wrapped Dates from Lola Gaspar