Looking for a quick dinner last night we decided to try out The Squeeze Inn burger joint at the recently revamped shopping center that houses the one and only remaining Vallerga’s store. The refurbished center is now home to not only the larger, brighter Vallerga’s (yea!), but also Taquiza Fish Tacos (yea!), yet another Starbucks (meh…) and a Round Table Pizza (boo!). The center is still home to Buffalo Shipping Post (we like them; way preferable to a UPS Store), and the laundromat with the TV that still gets the worst reception in the known world, as evidenced by the snowy football game we glimpsed through the window; but “The Jesus Store” is gone. The retailer who specialized in Christian Tchotchkes like praying hands statuettes and framed pictures of Jesus has closed up and left us with naught to do but await its second coming. I’ll never forget the Father Guido Sarducci routine on Saturday Night Live where he talks about the guy wanting to sell him the High School Picture of Jesus as a souvenir when the Pope was visiting Mexico. “I mean, how do you know it’s-uh him? That was before-uh the beard and the long-uh hair…” Oh, I am so going to hell.
Another new addition to the plaza is The Squeeze Inn, a smallish burger joint that does just that: burgers. Sure they have fries, a hot dog, and a grilled cheese sandwich, but the mainstay is the burger. My wife and daughter had been there previously on one of my work nights, and were extolling the virtues of the Fried Cheese. Nothing screams Comfort Food like fried cheese, so we head out.
We pull around the side of the Vallerga’s and there are virtually no cars in the lot. Through the windows we can plainly see we will not have to squeeze in to The Squeeze Inn. Two young dudes are behind the counter, another is sitting at the far end straining his neck to look almost straight up at Monday Night Football. We order our burgers and Counter Dude (we find out later that Cooking Dude is really the owner but looks like he’s seventeen) asks my wife for her name to attach to the order. Carole and I look around at the empty dining room, look at each other and chuckle. Presumably he needs my wife’s name so as not to confuse us with all the other Caroles in the place. Counter Dude is a bit of a mouth-breather, so the joke goes zooming over his head like an F-14.
Atmosphere is pretty plain with the counter, the plain tile floors, and plain, uncomfortable looking barstools. The theme (although I never got a concise answer on where the name came from except “It’s a play on words”) was a mish-mash of 50’s diner, car parts, sports memorabilia, and cute signs like “Hippies Use Backdoor. No Exceptions”. Not a big deal; it looks like they opened on a shoestring. I don’t think I would go all out either if my average turn time was to be around 30 minutes per table. Besides, the burgers are the real attraction here, not the furnishings.
I ordered the Squeezeburger and added bacon (go ahead, you’re already past the point of no return), and it was a beautiful mess. The patty looks to be hand-formed, at least a third of a pound, griddle-fried, and served with green curly leaf lettuce (no iceberg, huzzah!) a few curls of slightly thicker cut red onion, and tomato. (Personal pet peeve: how can anyone in the restaurant business justify serving a mealy, pale tomato like the one on this otherwise masterfully beautiful, greasy fabulous mess of a burger when there are racks full of heirlooms not 50 yards away at Vallerga’s?). The buns are substantial enough to hold not only the patty and condiments, but also a good lacquering of mayo and yellow mustard. I am usually a Dijon man when it comes to burger mustard, but the Heinz Yellow just seems to fit here.
The main event, really, on the Squeezeburger is the cheese: they top the burgers with a thick slab of cheddar, let it melt off the sides and onto the hot grill where it turns into chewy, greasy, cheesy goodness. When the burgers are served the cheese has cooled and the whole thing looks like the planet Saturn. The cheese has turned into a mantle big enough to hold Grandma’s ashes and a candelabra, and completely obscures the cardboard basket underneath the burger.
Now there are several way to attack this thing: you can remove the top of the bun and fold the extended cheese shelf back on itself, effectively doubling the burger’s cheese capacity; or you can peel it off and enjoy a fried cheese first course (don’t worry, there’s plenty left on the patty); or, and this is my daughter’s and my preferred method, you can peel off hunks and wrap them around the fries (which look and taste like they were made in-house from fresh potatoes, although I could not see the Veg-O-Matic potato cutter behind the counter) for maximum grease consumption.
After you have dealt with the cheese conundrum, there is the burger itself. The griddle frying and copious amounts of cheddar give up enough greasy juice to meld with the yellow mustard; and it drips a wonderfully artificially colored electric-yellow liquid onto your drop cloth of napkins as you attempt to navigate its consumption. We washed ours down with Blue Moon Brewery Pale Ale, as this burger deserved so much more than a Diet Coke.
All in all, pretty Gee Dee good. It rivals the Deep Fried Blue Cheese Stuffed Burgers at Tucker’s Tavern near the New Orleans Superdome for sheer decadence. A great bit of comfort food on a rainy night, we give it a “Four Angioplasty” Rating. If you don’t mind jacking your cholesterol level up five notches we heartily (pun intended) recommend dropping in.