This Hole-in-the-Wall Life
Every year, my parents return to their home state of Zacatecas in central Mexico for a week to celebrate the Christmas and Virgin of Guadalupe holidays. And every year, they put me in charge of feeding the assimilated, finicky Americans who are my younger siblings. Every year, I relish the opportunity to introduce Gabriel and Alejandrina to the wonders of Orange County ethnic cuisine; every year, we end up ordering burgers. And that's how we ended up at Varsity Burgers in Anaheim a couple of weeks ago.
My family has spent many Sunday dinners at this burger joint; I had never so much as ordered something from there until last week. But maybe I'm the close-minded fool. Varsity Burgers is everything a postmodern burger joint should be. Photos of sports icons—Muhammad Ali, Oscar de la Hoya—share wall space with group shots of youth teams. An arcade is in the back; the drive-thru is open late. There are burgers, of course: luscious quarter-pounders topped with cheese, chili, bacon, many sauces, or—in the case of the Colossal Burger—pastrami shavings glued together with melted Swiss cheese. Breakfast features pancakes, French toast, New York steak and eggs and omelettes of plenty—the Denver variety has enough onions and bell peppers to constitute a salad. Health-conscious eaters can enjoy salads; those looking for something bulkier will enjoy a wide selection of classic American sandwiches—tuna melt, Philly cheesesteak, filet of fish, grilled cheese, BLT. A best-seller is the teriyaki bowl, filled with sweet bits of beef or eraser-sized chicken niblets.
But if you want to succeed as a burger joint in Orange County nowadays, you must also appeal to Mexicans, and Varsity Burgers has one of the most unexpectedly delicious Mexican menus around. It makes sense in a way: Varsity Burgers occupies a building formerly occupied by an El Conejo location, and the majority of its customers are Latinos, many of them students from Anaheim High School down the street looking to stave off homework for a couple more hours. And so you find here the favorites of Mexican Americans—burritos, tortas, carne asada plates and the like, all worthy of a quinceañera.
Gabriel got the teriyaki beef bowl when I visited; Alejandrina finished about half of a carne asada burrito the size of a child's forearm. And I? Stuck with the double-cheeseburger and washed it down with a large cup of the frothy, sugary Orange Bang! Foreign food is great, but sometimes the best dinner is the one enjoyed by the people you love—right after they've proved you a fool.
VARSITY BURGERS, 600 W. LINCOLN AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 956-2772; WWW.VARSITYBURGERS.COM.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.