The chica's parents bought me a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas, so this cheapskate finally splurged on Mark Kurlansky's The Food of a Younger Land, which collected excerpts from a long-forgotten WPA program that sought to capture America's regional food traditions. It's a great read, and it was an apropos read given the new-ish Habit Burger Grill in SanTana was just next door to the Barnes & Noble I haunt.
I tried it during the holidays, this Santa Barbara institution whose choosing of the county seat for its first naranja location has excited the Don Papi Pulido crowd in their endless, Norma Desmond-esque quest to return the city to a past that never quite existed. The Habit's standard charburger was just okay--I liked the thin mayo smear, so sweet and tart I initially thought it was sour cream because I usually can't stand mayo, and the patty glistened like obsidian with a blackened, juicy appearance. But the buns that the Habit's website claims are toasted had the consistency of moist bread, and its size (about as big as a Carl's Jr. cheeseburger) doesn't justify a three-buck price. Also, hearing Phil Collins cry "One More Night" over their sound systen isn't exactly the best hamburger music. I'm sure the original locations are better, but this isn't Whataburger or even White Castle. If The Habit is the best burger Santa Barbara can offer, even Arby's can rest easy 'round here.
The Habit, 2777 N. Main St., SanTana, (714) 550-1201. What is hamburger music, anyway?
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