By Kumar Bloomstein
And we’re here! Feels good to finally start this thing. For my first review on The Peel, I wanted to choose an eatery that was quick, not too expensive, and reflective of a college student’s diet. Truth be told, a housemate of mine suggested we head over to Los Jarritos, an incredibly authentic Mexican/new age TexMex joint near Garey and Foothill Boulevard in Pomona. We hopped in the car and got over fast, but upon arrival realized the place has closed. Such a bummer, mainly because it was going to be the first reviewed restaurant for this Food editorial (Los Jarritos will most definitely be reviewed soon). Already driven a couple miles on the highway they call Foothill Boulevard, we scampered around the southern California shopping center to find something else to eat.
Low and behold, a Fatburger stood directly in front of us. Never having eaten there before, I figured it would be a good replacement for my beloved Los Jarritos. When we entered the restaurant, it was empty. Straight empty. A good or bad sign depending on your personality. At the cash register, the employee was decently professional, not enthusiastic, but totally fine. Hey, can you blame him? Many of the restaurants reviewed on The Peel will be classic Inland Empire eats that don’t necessarily subscribe to the highest level of service. But the focus of the places reviewed on The Peel isn’t the service, but the food. With a couple exceptions over the year, food reviewed will be on a college student’s budget, with a student’s diet guiding the restaurants that will be critically reviewed. This means in a situation like Fatburger, the service matters little. Ordering at the cash register was quick, and they happily provided cups of “water” when they all knew we were definitely not going to put water in them.
The wait was about eight minutes, which for a cooked-to-order burger, isn’t half bad. A fast-casual restaurant like In-N-Out and Five Guys, Fatburger’s regular 1/3rd lb. burger was decently big, about a halfway point in burger size between In-N-Out and Five Guys. I had ordered the works, so I expected toppings and grease to be dripping off the burger. The grease was there but the toppings were weak…artificial in taste but overall weren’t uneatable on any standard. With the burger came “Cajun Fries,” similar to the fries of the same name served at Five Guys. Only difference: Five Guys has ACTUAL Cajun fries. These “Cajun” fries at Fatburger were about as un-Cajun as you could get. Just a bunch of fries with some bland pepper sprinkled on them. Still wolfed ‘em down because of my hunger, but from a critical standpoint these fries were a bust. Finishing the burger, I sat for a couple moments letting the aftertaste soak in, and realized that the meat itself doesn’t have a whole lot of taste. The burger itself is simply not as tasty as that of its competition. It neither has the additional selling points that Five Guys and In-N-Out do, nor the taste to back up the marketing. However, this Fatburger Company is international, and thus has been able to profit on some level of sellable products. Despite its lackluster taste, the company and burger itself have clearly been a success among Americans and other foreign countries. The international scope of this chain gives me the impression that my taste preferences could be abnormal. But a quick check-in with my housemate confirms my conclusions. We believe it is above average, but not nearly close to excelling above expectations. This is a mediocre joint that I probably won’t return to, but earned merit through filling up our stomachs. If you’re ever around the La Verne/Pomona area, or out in the boonies of Victorville or Hesperia, Fatburger might be a go-to for consistent “classic post-war baby boom” food (burger, fries, milkshakes), but if you have a desire for better quality, better taste, and more value, Fatburger’s competitors simply outdo the slightly-better-than-fast food burger chain that’s struggling to gain a step in a competitive Inland Empire burger market.
Overall Score: 5.5 or 6/10, depending on one’s opinion of the fries
Directions: Go west on Foothill past Towne and continue to Garey Ave. Go southbound on Garey for about 500 yards, there’s a shopping plaza complex on your right.