Restaurant Reviews

Restaurant review: Take a burger detour to SkyVue Grill

SkyVue Grill debuted last fall in the former Rockies Drive-In spot on a somewhat hidden stretch of Fairview Avenue near Orchard Street.

Some say it’s a hard location to access due to Fairview’s one-way traffic flow through the area. I disagree. Think of it as a burger detour.

There’s been a burger joint at this location dating back to the late 1950s — long before The Connector was even built. In those days, cars zoomed by the restaurant in both directions. Sounds like the plot to Pixar’s “Cars.” A little burger joint gets lost in the blur of interstate progress.

The building’s look will surely remind diners of America’s glorious carhop days. But long gone are the teenagers on roller skates zooming around with burgers and shakes on colorful plastic trays.

Owner Rob Good, who formerly managed Crusty’s Pizza in McCall, admits he’s more into Jimi Hendrix than Buddy Holly, yet the interior — with its long counter bedecked with black-and-white checkered tiles — still smacks of the decade when “Peggy Sue” topped the charts. The retro-looking sign out front also harks back to the days of the Eisenhower administration.

Good takes his menu well beyond the burger-joint status quo. The cooks hand-form the burger patties (made from Double R Ranch Angus beef), which get grilled in spattering butter and plopped on puffy Gaston’s Bakery buns. Dill pickle slices are made from scratch, as is the soft-serve ice cream that spins away in a machine behind the counter.

I was surprised not to see hand-cut fries, though, with this level of scratch-cooking going on. But the skinny fries ($3.50 a basket), frozen and from a bag, were good and crispy during both visits.

Fries also get turned into chili cheese fries ($4), a basket of golden-brown fries gooped up (in a good way) with cumin-spiked chili and melted cheddar.

Burgers meet lots of butter at SkyVue. A Baby Butter ($2.50) was perfect for my daughter’s small appetite, with its 2-ounce patty and sweet grilled onions (add 50 cents) sandwiched between a slider-sized bun.

Go big like I did with a Butter Bomb ($7), a fluffy bun filled with a stratum of juicy beef (two 4-ounce patties), lettuce chiffonade, sliced tomato, onion, dill pickle slices and a skiff of horseradish-tinged “special sauce.” No other toppings were needed on this one.

Another good pick is the Butter Burger ($5), especially if the 4-ounce beef patty gets topped with gooey Swiss cheese (add 50 cents) and crisp slices of smoky bacon (add $1).

The butter-grilled burgers are no doubt a big draw at SkyVue, but it appears the chicken offerings still need some fine-tuning.

The chicken breast on my son’s chicken sandwich ($6) had a golden hue thanks to a light, cornstarch coating, yet the bird underneath was dry and rubbery — making it messy to eat when the bun came apart around it. There were pickles and lettuce everywhere.

SkyVue serves wings in various forms, tossed in a gamut of gussied-up wing sauces. But next time I’ll skip the ones made with boneless chicken breast ($7 for a pound) because the breaded nuggets were excessively chewy. A chili-garlic Thai sauce did its best to add much-needed moisture to the tough chicken chunks.

The traditional chicken wings ($7 for a pound), on the other hand, were juicy and tender to the bone. These drumettes and wings came coated in a vinegary and buttery buffalo sauce that nearly lit my mouth on fire, but the chunky blue dressing quickly cooled my palate.

I was unpleasantly surprised to find out that the veggie wings ($3 for a half-pound) were simply breaded broccoli flowerettes, which would have been fine if the little trees actually had a crispy coating. What I got was a pile of sporadically breaded, mushy broccoli tossed in a habanero-kicked Belizean sauce.

SkyVue will surely be busy this summer dishing up frozen treats.

A rich and creamy chocolate shake ($3.50 for a 16-ouncer) was perfect for a milkshake purist like myself.

My kids loved the sweet and salty caramel shake ($2.50 for a 12-ouncer) and a peanut butter shake ($2.50 for a 12-ouncer) with bits of Reese’s Pieces (add 50 cents) stirred in.

We all had fun watching the root beer float ($2.50 for 16-ouncer) go through its fizzy chemical reaction once the vanilla ice cream mingled with the draft root beer (produced by Crater Lake Soda in Oregon).

The restaurant also serves a line-up of fun sundaes, like a Black and Tan ($3 for a regular size) made with chocolate ice cream swirled with caramel and chocolate sauces and chopped walnuts, crowned with fresh whipped cream. Need I say more?

Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Patrick Kelly: