Finding Heaven at B & C Burgers

Little, forgotten Placentia is one of the stranger cities in Orange County’s immigration wars: a place where the descendants of orange pickers and orange growers age together with nary a clue about the tortured past of their respective ancestors, where the old Mexican guard has beat back the city’s gentrification efforts of the La Jolla barrio repeatedly over the decades, but where an uneasy détente exists in its restaurants. It’s the type of city where the most popular restaurants are Mexican dives (El Farolit, the soon-to-be-reopened Tlaquepaque) with 30-year-old menus, where even the most resolutely gabacho establishments sell enchilada plates and stock Tapatío on each table. And then there’s the mish-mash at B & C Burgers.

It stands in a forlorn shopping center, an intact relic of the days when restaurant seating consisted of fake-wooden tables and stiff seats with two-toned back cushions. The clientele is equal parts Mexican laborers playfully yapping with the owner, older gabachos greeting the workers with badly mangled Spanish, and a smattering of Cal State Fullerton students looking to stretch their FAFSA grant money.

Everyone is here for breakfast: sturdy omelets, thick short stacks, sweet French toast, crispy potatoes, a Monte Cristo sandwich fried to greasy perfection. The sandwiches work—cold cuts, Italian subs—but the burgers are better. A chicken sandwich is classic diner Americana—a factory-rounded breaded patty minimally dressed with pickles, lettuce and a light ranch sauce; tartness and sweetness complement the chicken’s crunch, and a sesame bun toasted long enough so that some of the seeds blacken adds smokiness. And the Frisco burger—a cheeseburger enlivened with bacon and sourdough bread—is deliciously simple. Specials written on a dry-erase board can include anything from chicken-fried steak spiked with a great gravy to a tangy Ortega burger. Can Mexicans concoct a good New York steak sandwich? .

Honestly, the Mexican part of B & C’s menu works if you’re into retro: enchiladas buried under processed cheese, refried beans and Spanish rice next to nearly every order. But do ask for the salsa brava—the spicy stuff. Out comes a canister of relishy bliss: pale-red in color, replete with mysterious stems and spices. The heat comes at the end, and it’s a scorcher, but it’s about the flavor, with hints of citrus and carrots and maybe even oregano. Use it on everything savory, from the fries to the burgers to the steak—its tang brings out the beef’s juiciness. And make sure to take home some soft, chocolate-covered macaroons—because that’s such a Mexican treat.

B & C Burgers, 1868 N. Placentia Ave., Placentia, (714) 223-5881.


This column appeared in print as “Mexican-American Burger Dive Heaven.”

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