Beware of Burgers
By Matt Tapia
You’re not supposed to be able to mess up a burger. Really, you’re not.
Steven’s Place—a divey, diner-y burger joint in Corona—proves that belief wrong. Dead wrong.
And that makes me a bit sad and disappointed. Truly I had no intention of slamming the place. Granted, from the outside, the place doesn’t look overly inviting with its grimy windows, faded exterior and humdrum location in a shopping center that counts a Food For Less, a Dollar Tree and a grubby Mexican seafood place (Mariscolandia—the Disneyland of shellfish?!) among its neighbors. I guess the low-rent surrounding should have provided a hint, eh?
But sometimes it’s these unexpected, out-of-the-way places that are the gems, right? Places with hardscrabble décor that also just happen to be guilty of coming up with creative—and delicious—menus. You see this on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives all the time.
Sorry. Thanks for playing. All that Steven’s Place serves up well is disappointment with a side of regret.
Let’s reconstruct the crime, shall we? At first, I thought this was one of those Asian-run/owned, Mexican-staffed diner-type places that the IE seems to be bursting at the seams with (there’s Corona Burgers over in, you guessed it, Corona; there’s Mission Burgers in downtown Riverside—hey, I guess when it comes to naming these places, there’s no points won for imagination?). But a glance into the kitchen showed there were no Hernandezes or Martinezes manning the grill. The owners and the staff were one and the same folks—and that’s fine—though the very affable, patient woman who took my order . . . well, her English wasn’t that bad. Kind of risky staffing move if you ask me if you’re taking down picky people’s food orders when English ain’t your second language. Guess they live life on the edge here.
And, look, I’m just pointing out the ethnicities of folks at Steven’s Place as mere detail; I’m painting a picture of my dining experience.
And this is as good as it’s gonna get. Stay with me.
So anyways, my dining companion and I order what I figure are
Staples of any diner-type place, a good cross-section by which to judge this eatery. Judge? I should have said Judge Dredd.
I ordered the bacon and avocado hamburger. My companion ordered the Philly cheese sandwich.
The Philly cheese started out OK, but then something went wrong. Maybe it was the mayonnaise that they doused the sandwich with (boo!). Maybe it was the fact that my companion’s queasiness escalated during our stay at the restaurant and continued the rest of the afternoon. My lunch companion was not happy.
His meal pretty soon became a sad, sad sandwich.
Then my burger arrived. Yikes. Visually, it kicked ass. The patty looked juicy (check out the photo!), the lettuce seemed crisp, the cheese and avocado all messy and melty and yummy.
It turns out that this is one of those books you should judge by its cover. Or maybe I should have just eaten the book. It might have tasted better served up with enough Thousand Island dressing. Unfortunately, the burger I sampled turned out to be a soggy, limp, tasteless lump. No spice. No vim. No gastronomical vigor. No intangible quality to make the eating experience special. No nothing.
It was a tasteless lump of meat stuck between two pieces of bread. Considering that the burger came with bacon and avocado—ingredients that are always good in the clutch and can salvage many a dubious meal—it was sad to see that not even these ingredients could save the soul of this burger. It was so bad, I did something I never do: I didn’t finish my meal. Halfway through, I put the burger down and I left.
You have been warned.
Steven’s Place, 123 N. McKinley St., Corona, (951) 735-2900. D, MC, V.