Worth the Trip
By Bill Gerdes
I recently spent a quality two hours at the Newark airport, my first foray into New Jersey since I was 9, and while nothing about the experience was especially appetizing, I left with a vague sense that Jersey was more than it appeared, more than Snooki and slag heaps, Sopranos and Springsteen and all its other sundry cultural markers. I feel roughly the same way about Jersey Burgers in Riverside—it’s a pleasantly complicated fast food restaurant.
But, to be honest, at first glance it’s not so hot. Jersey occupies an unenviable piece of real estate, right across from the bus station in an area that the local gentry avert their eyes from as they catch the latest overpriced C-lister at the Fox Theater. Jersey’s, however, is worth a stop. It’s more than your average mixed-kitchen grease-pit. And while it lacks the creativity and the panache of Red Hot Kitchen up the road, Jersey’s is the new spot for comfortable clean fast food in Downtown Riverside.
Service is one reason why. The staff here is nice, helpful and extremely dedicated to the pursuit of niceness in all forms—During our 20-minute dining experience we’re asked five times if everything is okay to the point Jersey’s almost felt like the Woody Allen of burger joints, comically insecure. The constant questions were redeemed though by the fact that every server asking us was so . . . well, nice. Jersey’s is clean too, which sounds like faint praise, but we’ve all been to a Homicidal or Pathological Greek whose name should have been changed to Filthy or Skuzzy. Jersey’s was borderline spotless-nice.
Large portions are the order of the day at Jersey; my wife and I easily could have split one combo meal. One reason why the plates are so heaping? Get this—they give you onion rings, seasoned fries and fried zucchini with each combo. It barely matters that the onion rings are mediocre, tasting like they’d been resting in a freezer for months. Not with serviceably thin seasoned fries and zucchini that plain rocks, tastes freshly made and lacks the greasy-ick factor that one often encounters with deep-fried vegetables.
It’s a full kitchen at Jersey’s; they manage to serve up an extensive Mexican side including a lengua (tongue) burrito, a bad-ass looking shrimp cocktail and full entrée plates including a New York steak—but we checked out the burgers. They’re tasty. The avocado burger almost drips in juiciness, but is contained by the tasty sesame seed bun. The burger itself is the typical thin quasi-slider one gets at a place like this, but the beefsteak tomato, avocado slices and lettuce shreds complement the burger splendidly. The veggie burger turns out nicely too, with a mildly sweet veggie patty accompanied by the same vegetables as the avocado burger along with a puffy cracked wheat bun that places like Jersey’s normally don’t serve, which takes the veggie burger from the mildly pleasant to the great rather quickly.
Jersey Burgers also serves up appetizers like fried mushrooms, nachos, wings and a plethora of salads as well as breakfast. It’s worth a look and not just if you’re catching the 8:30 Greyhound to Santa Fe.
Jersey Burgers, 3940 University Ave. Riverside, (951) 784-7660. AE, MC, V.