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Restaurants & Bars 5

McNear's and Chiliburger rant

Sharuf | May 14, 200311:55 AM

Stopped for lunch at McNear's in Petaluma yesterday. Charming tavern/cafe atmosphere, and well populated with customers. We sat outside in front.

I ordered their chiliburger from the lengthy burger list (I forget their made-up name for it). Wasn't surprised that it arrived well-done instead of medium-rare like I asked. Burger flippers seem incapable of producing a medium-rare patty. Another annoyance, the waitress forgot to bring me the hot sauce I asked for.

It was not a "chili size" -- the swamped-in-chili version that you almost never see anymore. It had a modest ladle of chile over the meat and bun, along with shredded cheese, chopped onion, and diced bacon. All in all, give it a "B".

The main problem was the chili, which they also offer by the rather expensive bowlful. It was a kind of generic lunch counter chili which seemed assembled from chili fixin's from the restaurant supply warehouse. A gallon of kidney beans, a gallon of chili helper, and a few pounds of burger, and there you go. Something any fry cook can deal with. There's a big difference between this and chili made by someone who cares about chili.

A proud chili cook wouldn't dream of using kidney beans -- too big, and the skins are too noticable. Pintos or red beans are the proper legume for beany chili. Also, chili needs lots of things added for complexity -- the cook's choice of such items as onion, tomato, bell pepper, chile, garlic, and who knows what all secret ingredients. Also, chili needs to be made yesterday and sit overnight before heating and serving. Same-day chili just tastes a bit raw.

Since I love chiliburgers (and chilidawgs) I keep ordering them and keep getting a big disappointment.

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