4760 Hwy 76, Fallbrook CA 92028 (map); nessyburgers.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A big, basic burger that's more about quantity than quality
Want Fries With That? Eh... skip 'em
Price: Nessy burger, $5.75; fries, $2.75
Much like the namesake monster of Loch Ness, it was local legend that drew me to Nessy Burgers. After hearing tales of huge and tasty burgers from a tiny trailer in the middle of nowhere, I was intrigued. And last weekend, on the way home from Temecula, I finally got to taste the famed burgers for myself.
Nessy Burgers is a converted trailer-turned-restaurant whose location can best be described as "gas station adjacent." It's been around since 1989, and evidently, has a lot of fans. On the afternoon that I made the trek to Fallbrook, the parking lot was packed with the faithful, and the line was long and near-constant. Burger after burger emerged from the serving window, along with massive plates of fries. As my appetite peaked, so did my confidence that this was going to be one of the best burgers ever.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
Nessy burgers sound good in theory. They're made from a mix of sirloin and premium chuck that's ground fresh daily and mixed with a secret blend of herbs and spices before being hand-formed into half-pound patties and grilled.
The reality is disappointing. The patties are dry, taste like an oniony meatloaf, and are completely overcooked. Toppings included a giant heap of tasteless iceberg lettuce and a flavorless tomato—which explains why most people were globbing on the Thousand Island dressing. The bun was standard, mass-produced sesame seed and the cheese was bargain bin American—and not even the slightest bit melted. End result? I went from "happily dancing with anticipation" to "sad panda" in three seconds flat.
The fries couldn't save the meal. They were your typical cafeteria spuds—greasy, and definitely cooked from frozen. Nothing to see here, folks.
After about three bites (two of which were consumed out of professional courtesy), I chucked the lot and walked back to the car, shaking my head. Why anyone would line up for a cafeteria caliber meal baffles me. It wasn't until I did a search of the area on Google maps that I got my first clue why. All of the nearby burger options are limited to fast food—with the closest In-N-Out a good 12 miles away. Perhaps the lack of options and the appeal of a hidden gem is what attracts people to Nessy Burgers. But why anyone would ever go back, I just don't get.
If you find yourself in Fallbrook with a giant hole in your stomach that only a brick-sized burger will fill, Nessy's will do, but it's definitely not worth the drive from anywhere else.