(Note: Additional photos available at my website by clicking the link below.)
The day had come for me to get to head back to Orange County.
This time, it was to participate in a wedding. I had my finest outfit available and J., my fiancé, was ready for whatever happened. Alas, the wedding was not Js and mine (much to Js chagrin), but we were there for our friends Matt and Kathy.
I got to Orange County early Thursday since the rehearsal was that afternoon. After getting my luggage and my rental car, I headed over to meet the famed Elmomonster, who regularly posts on this board. This meeting was important to me because it was Elmos food blog that triggered something in my soul that said, Gee, you can do a food blog about Phoenix. So, for the past year or so, I have developed Feasting in Phoenix. Luckily, Elmo and I had struck up an e-acquaintanceship through our food blogs. Now it was time for me to thank him for leading me down the road of food bloginess.
Elmo and I decided to meet at a place called TK Burgers in Costa Mesa, just a stones throw from South Coast Plaza. We set a time of 12:15 PM. I arrived at the location on Bristol and attempted to park my rental car. This was an interesting feat. The TK Burgers location is on a very small plot of land surrounded by walls separating it from the businesses on either side of it. Parking is exceptionally tight and difficult. I drove around thrice in attempting to find a spot that could handle my mid-sized car.
I found a spot near the entrance and backed-in. As I powered everything down, I noticed that Elmo had pulled in to the spot across the driveway from me. (He gave a great description of himself to identify him.) We said our hellos and ventured into the burger joint and placed our orders.
The interior of TK Burgers is fairly mundane. Stark white walls with lots of things about burgers and drinks and such were in a small building that only housed about 8 tables. Additional seating was outside. The concept was simple: you approached the counter, placed your order, got your drink cup, filled it, took a seat, and waited to hear your name yelled out.
There were plenty of choices on the menu from burgers to fish sandwiches to selections for vegans. We approached the counter and stared at the menu board that was behind the cashier. What caught my eye was the Ribeye Sandwich ($5.29). I also wanted to try an order of Onion Rings ($2.19). I decided to wash it all down with a large Diet Coke ($1.69). Elmo chose the Bargain Meal ($4.69) which consisted of a burger, fries and a drink.
There was a discussion over who would pay. I ended up winning that discussion because I told Elmo that if he didnt let me buy him lunch, I would reveal the fact that he is a deep cover Interpol agent working at a secret field office just off the I-405 in Irvine, right next to the Hyatt. So, in order for me to keep my silence, he let me buy lunch.
We got our drink cups, helped ourselves at the soda machine and looked for a place to sit. TK Burgers was exceptionally busy and we had to search for a spot outside. The outdoor seating on the patio was a conglomeration of plastic benches and tables under plastic umbrella-like coverings. It struck me as if this was once an old Taco Bell location.
We waited about 10 minutes and my name was called. We both retrieved our meals. Everything was served on paper plates and we scrambled for napkins and condiments before returning to our seating location.
I noticed that my ribeye sandwich was topped with lettuce, red onion slices and a thick slice of bell pepper. I took my first bite and noticed that the ribeye meat was tasty, but was a bit on the tough side, which I found interesting considering that the thing was cut fairly thin. The taste was good with a bit of the fat left on for additional flavor. The lettuce was crisp and the red onions were a good addition. The bell pepper, however, was so thick it pretty much dominated every bite I took that had a bit of the pepper in it. The sandwich also suffered from dryness, which was only saved by the juiciness of the meat.
The big standout of the sandwich, however, was the bun. It was very soft and had a nice mild flavor. The bun was potato based which gave it a lot of richness and the starch helped pull everything together. This was just superb.
Next, I tried my onion rings. They were served on a separate plate and there was a substantial serving. I had grabbed a plastic cup of their house sauce (think fancy 1000 Island dressing) for dipping. I took my first ring and dunked it into the sauce and then took a bite. Well, they werent great. The problem was two-fold. First, the breading was excessive. Excessively excessive. It was as if they had been breaded about three times. The result was a very thick, dry coating. Second, the onions were terrible. The rings were not actually separated, so each ring might have two or three rings contained within a large amount of breading. The heat wasnt able to get to the rings enough to cook them, but instead just applied enough of the heat the make them limp and cold.
Elmo seemed to be less than excited for his combo meal. He had informed me that he was comparing this location to another location (Huntington Beach?) where he had a great burger combo. He said his burger was dry and not as good as the other location. He sort of shrugged when I asked about the fries.
Overall, my sandwich was okay, but could have been better. The bun, however, was exceptional and I wish every place that serves burgers would have buns this good and tasty. The onion rings needed serious reconsideration.
We finished our meals and chatted about everything under the sun including my choices of meals for my weekend in beautiful Orange County. We said our goodbyes and I headed out to my hotel to change for the wedding rehearsal.
As I drove, I thought about Elmos comment about how the other location was better. Often, satellite locations are not as tightly managed as the original location, so perhaps the Costa Mesa location of TK Burgers needs a bit more oversight. After all, their sign says they have award winning burgers.
Perhaps, but not at the Costa Mesa location.
2966 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Notes: Parking is limited.
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