Who’s Your Patty?
By Matt Tapia
You gotta love Canada’s exports. We can’t simply disregard this country’s contributions to Western culture. There’s Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future I-III—these flicks are a must-see rite of passage!), Mike Myers (only the first two Austin Powers flicks, thank you) and ’80s-era (pre-MILF) Shannon Tweed. So it was with a great deal of anticipation (and unadulterated bias) that I stumbled upon Mission Burgers and noticed something called the Canada Burger on this Riverside eatery’s menu. Call me a Canuck-phile, but this was the burger-and-patty combo that beckoned to me, nay, demanded that I order it and consume with pure gusto.
But first, a few words on Mission Burgers. This place—situated in a weird limbo between downtown Riverside and the Wood Streets neighborhood—comes off as a gene-splicing experiment that attempted to cross-breed a Farmer Boys (it touts Mexican and “American” food selections) and a mom-and-pop greasy spoon (kitschy décor and a homespun vibe).
Against one wall stands a tribute to the Riverside Police Department, a wailing wall of sorts with portraits of cops, tributes to fallen officers and (weirdly) a photo of a cop lifting weights as a fellow officer looks on. There’s even the requisite badge in a frame and a photo that looks like it was taken during the Civil War.
This place is very low-tech. No flatscreen or plasma TVs here, buddy. It’s nothing but old-school, big fat cathode-ray tubes. Larry H. Parker commercials included. There’s a white wire rack loaded with snack-size bags of Doritos.
And the menu? No rocket science. Tacos, sandwiches, burgers, omelets, breakfast combos—pretty much the basics.
But burgers are why we came here last Friday afternoon for lunch. Or at least, why I came here as my lunch companion opted instead for a Philly cheese steak sandwich. Yeah, we’ve all heard the expression “a mouthful” when it comes to describing generous portions—but that saying is the gospel truth here at Mission. Seriously, the woman that took our order at the counter warned us, telling us there was no chance I’d be able to fit my Canada Burger in my mouth. And while I was able to summon my inner Man vs. Food, unhinge my jaw like a python and cram this mammoth meat monster down the hatch, I will admit to being somewhat daunted. And winded.
But then the burger’s sublime taste explosion made me forget all that. The size of a baby’s head, the Canada Burger delivered clusters of green peppers and onions artfully sandwiched between two meat patties. Adding heart disease to high blood pressure, this monolithic masterpiece also featured slices of bacon and a Thousand Island-like sauce that made cardiac arrest seem like an afterthought. Hell, if this exemplifies the Canadian people’s contributions to burger-dom, then call me a draft dodger, cuz I’m headed straight to Toronto. In all seriousness, this was a surprising departure from your typical burger and usual novelty twists on well-established Americana.
The Philly cheese steak my friend ordered also netted nothing but compliments. With every bite he took, he said, juice dribbled out like he’d tapped a maple tree for syrup. The melted cheese filled every nook and cranny of the sandwich.
The fries that accompanied our burger and sandwich, while not spectacular, were good. Thick and fried just long enough to generate that golden crispness on the outside.
And you’ve just gotta love the minimalist presentation: A plastic tray and sheets of white butcher paper. Why let fancy packaging get in the way of meaty, massive portions, right?
“O Canada” just got moved up on my playlist.
Mission Burgers, 4606 Pine St., Riverside, (951) 682-7272. Open 7AM-8PM Mon-Fri, 7AM-5PM Sat. D, MC, V.