146 Grand Avenue, Oakland CA 94612 (map); 510-208-5678; TrueBurgerOakland.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Tasty, quality fast food-style burgers a block away from Oakland's Lake Merritt
Want Fries with That? The fries are ultra-crisp but sport a funny after-taste. Counteract that by adding chili.
Price: Trueburger, $4.95; Cheesy Trueburger, $5.45; fries, $2.50; shake, $4.75
Walking into True Burger, the first thing one notices is the giant mural of Oakland on one wall. But it's the other wall that I like better. A vast expanse of orange, the only decoration is a likeness of a cup with a straw coming out of it. The design is made of plastic letters, and the words that start at the straw and work their way down are the chorus to Kelis's little ditty of sexual provocation "Milkshake." Sing it with me: My milkshake brings all they boys to the yard.... So, yeah, the folks at True Burger have a sense of humor. Oh, and they make a tasty burger.
Cooked up by former high-end chefs Greg Eng and Jason Low, who decided to leave the haute cuisine rat-race to make food that satisfies on a more basic level, the offerings at True Burger are decidedly fast food-style. Burgers are made of eighty-percent lean Angus beef that's ground in-house daily and formed into a relatively thin quarter-pound patty. They don't ask how you want it cooked, but you're not getting medium-rare on a skinny burger like this—I was impressed that they managed to preserve a hint of pink. As a burger-juice fiend, I would have opted for just a bit more liquid, but otherwise this was tasty stuff. My patty was well-seasoned, moist, and got a boost of extra richness from the garlic mayo on the bun.
Lettuce and tomatoes are standard issue with a True Burger, and it's good old American cheese if you order the Cheesy Trueburger like I did. Pickles and onions go on for free, but you have to ask. Burgers are served on an egg bun that is custom made just for True Burger. I would have taken it toasted a bit more, and maybe a touch thinner, but the soft and mild bread was a nice pedestal for True Burger's patty. You can add bacon or chili for an extra buck, and if you're feeling frisky, there's also the Shack Stack-esque True Deluxe, which features a crispy stuffed portobello mushroom on top of their regular cheeseburger.
The fries they serve at True Burger are impressively crisp, though they had an after-taste I couldn't quite place. That may be the result of whatever is added to the spuds before they arrive on-site—True Burger buys their fries frozen. A good antidote to that was to pile on with some chili-cheese action. The mild black bean chili balanced out whatever it was I was tasting, but wasn't heaped on so heavily as to destroy all of that enviable golden-crispness.
And the milkshake—did it, er, bring all the boys to the yard? (Sorry!) My chocolate milkshake hit the spot—smooth, medium-thick, chocolatey and sweet. Judging by the healthy crowd that I observed at True Burger this past weekend, that milkshake (and a very respectable burger) is bringing at least a few boys over to Oakland for lunch.