Of course we love our mom & pops, and our favorite burger joints around the country are pretty much all independently owned, but there are certain times in life—overnight layovers, hungover Sunday mornings, all-day shopping trips at the outlets—that the only options around are the chains. Chain Reaction is here to help you decide when to go for the burger, and when you're better off sticking with the chicken fingers.
The Broken Yolk
355 6th Ave. San Diego, CA 92101 (map)
9 locations in San Diego and surrounding area, full list at thebrokenyolkcafe.com
The Schtick: Breakfast spot with over 20 types of omelets, plus some lunch options
The Burger: A nasty half-pound of mystery meat (Angus beef, according to the menu) on a toasted sesame bun
Want Fries With That? Whether the fries or the onion rings are worse is debatable. What's certain is neither option is good
Setting: Standard chain restaurant vibe, nothing stands out
Price: All burgers, $9.29
The Broken Yolk isn't known for having good breakfast as much as it's known for being open early. It's there, and the best thing you can say about it is "it'll do." The menu is egg-centric, with over 20 varieties of omelets, including the "Iron Man," a 12-egg omelet covered in chili that was featured on Man vs. Food.
There's also an entire page of burgers, ranging from a classic cheeseburger dubbed "Old Reliable," to more complicated burgers topped with guacamole, chili, or grilled pineapple. I tried two burgers: the baseline offering, and the Rosarito Beach burger, with bacon strips and guacamole—because if there's one thing you should be able to count on a breakfast place doing right, it's bacon.
In San Diego, you should also be able to rely on a locally-born chain to crank out a decent burger. Burgers, beer, and fish tacos are the cornerstones of the local food scene. Admittedly, I didn't roll into The Broken Yolk prepared to be blown away, but I was surprised how royally they botched both burgers.
The first ominous sign was the hue of the patty: a light brownish grey color that looked just as likely to be turkey as it was beef. The indeterminate origin of the meat wasn't the only problem. The patty was also completely overwrought, and so finely ground and loosely packed that it was spongy. Flavor-wise, the closest meat product the gray matter resembled was wet ham, but mostly, it tasted like absolutely nothing. The only flavor element that really stood out was the mayo.
The Rosarito Beach burger was slightly better. The patty had more noticeable grill marks and a faint charred flavor, but only in certain bites. With zero detectable beef flavor, this burger ended up tasting like guacamole and bacon—both of which were delicious. Without the beef, it would even have been edible.
You can get fries, onion rings, house salad, or slaw with your burger. When it comes to the two deep-fried options, it's a toss-up which one is worse. The crinkle-cut fries have the personality (and flavor) of a cardboard cut-out, and need ample salting to be worth the calories, while the onion rings are coated in breadcrumbs and taste only like oil. Still, both are marginally better than the burger, which I abandoned after two bites and am willfully trying to erase from my memory. Not only is it not worth $9, it's worth $20 to never experience in the first place (you're welcome).
The Broken Yolk may cater to people who want a simple, decent meal and don't have terribly high standards, but even with monumentally low expectations, this burger will still let you down. Play it safe and stick with an omelet.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax