Some Good Habits
By Bill Gerdes
No habit jokes here-oh no. No, “You’ll make a habit out of habit Burger,” or “even Charlie Sheen would kick the habit for Habit Burger,” or even, “nuns lose their habits for Habit Burger.” No, that would be lame. And the burgers here, at Habit Burger, are not lame–they are rather tasty.
Now Habit Burger is a chain, and got started in Santa Barbara in 1969, but it’s a wee-little chain, minute really, and thus retains the same vibe, and something of the same feel as the original. Okay–there are actually 43 locations and counting, but it feels small especially when you’re looking for a table on a Sunday around noon. My first reaction upon arriving is this place is crowded, I mean out-the door, people-with-food-trays-but-nowhere-to-sit crowded. We were on the verge of changing our order to para llevar when a seat opened up outside. Now we could sit down while we waited for our restaurant hand-buzzer to vibrate and let us know the grub was ready.
Hand buzzers and fast food don’t normally go together. But this is only one of the subtle differences between Habit Burger and a normal chain or dive burger stand. The Habit is also almost antiseptically clean, scary clean, obsessively clean. I sort of enjoy that when it comes to restaurants, even as I imagine what it takes to keep the place so spotless; perhaps an anally-retentive, meth-addled, Alice from The Brady Bunch is kept locked in the basement and only let out at night to ravage the place with Ajax and Fabuloso. The other item slightly disparate from other places is the wait here.
So, there’s something of a restaurant-style wait at Habit Burger, which turns out to be worth it when the food arrives. Truth be told: They make a damn fine burger. I opted for the Charburger menu special with fries and drink, at $5.95 not a terrible deal for these recessionary times. I gotta say my burger reminded me of the ones they used to serve in the Arlington High School cafeteria back in the day, just an upscale, updated, yummier version. And I loved the burgers in high school. The one at Habit Burger was juicy but not messy; home-style but not homely; a smaller burger with mayo, grilled onions, pickles, a lean and tasty patty, along with–the kicker for me–semi-melted American-style cheddar cheese, on a white yet seedy and delicious bun. Good times.
My burger paled in comparison though to my girlfriend’s veggie burger, which was a genuine revelation, possibly in the running for one of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever tasted, with just the right amount of sprouts, guacamole, cucumbers instead of pickles, and a meatless patty that didn’t taste like a seasoned hockey puck. If you hate veggie burgers the ones at Habit Burger might change your mind. The regular fires were also scrumptious, hot salty affairs that can hold their own with the excellent burger options. The sweet potato fries were ice cold however–cold fries of any description kind of suck. But Habit Burger in general does, very much, not suck. You could have worse habits.
The Habit Burger Grill, 4200 Chino Hills Pkwy., Chino Hills, (909) 597-3344; www.habitburger.com. Mon-Sat 10:30am-9pm, Sun 11am-8pm. V, MC, AE.