The Boise area is flush with fast-casual corporate burger joints that claim they do it better than anyone else around.
Five Guys, Smashburger and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. You get the idea.
In-N-Out Burger hasn’t made it to Idaho, but the word on the street is that it won’t be long before the fervently popular California-based joint sets up shop in the flourishing Treasure Valley.
So what is it about America’s infatuation with the burger? It must be that perfect union of seared ground beef and bun, with possibly some gooey cheese and fresh veggies on top.
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The history of the burger in America dates back to the late 1800s, when ground-steak sandwiches (sans cheese) starting popping up at diners and lunch carts in cities east of the Mississippi River. Food vendors at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair surely helped to bring burgers into the mainstream fold by introducing the sandwich to the masses during the seven-month event.
Burgers were nothing fancy back then – just grilled meat and bread – and mostly designed for something quick to eat. That’s still the case, at least the fast-food part, but these days there are more burger variations than you can shake a french fry at. Bone marrow on a burger? It’s been done in the new millennium.
The Habit Burger Grill, part of a California-based chain, is a fast-casual joint that has earned an ardent following since debuting in the West Valley a few years ago. Situated in a strip mall at The Village at Meridian, next to Blaze Pizza, the restaurant specializes in affordable charbroiled burgers – cooked over an open flame and not on a flat-top grill.
The California-focused décor never lets you forget the origin of the restaurant. The concept first came about during the hippy-trippy days of 1969 in Santa Barbara, Calif. This helps to explain the surfer paintings and other coastal scenes that adorn the walls.
Step right up to the counter and choose a burger described on the overhead menu board, and then you will receive a fancy pager that lights up like a disco dance floor when your order is ready. While you wait, hit the self-serve pickled pepper bar and condiment-pumper station, which has ketchup and pinkish fry sauce.
Ordering a Charburger ($3.19) will get you a third-pound beef patty plopped on a toasted sesame seed bun with lettuce chiffonade, caramelized onion, slices of tomato, dill pickle chips and a generous smear of mayonnaise. It’s a good burger, even though it was a skosh overcooked during my visit.
Fans of mushroom burgers should try the Portabella Char ($4.99), a smoky and charred beef patty (this one was juicy and not overcooked) sandwiched in a toasted bun with thick-cut portabella mushrooms, gooey white American cheese, roasted garlic aioli and the aforementioned veggies.
The Santa Barbara Char ($5.89) will have you thinking California, with tangy grilled sourdough bread encasing two beef patties, oozy orange-hued American cheese, slices of fresh avocado, lettuce, tomato and fragrant caramelized onion bits.
Habit Burger rounds out the menu with specialty sandwiches and entrée-size salads.
As for fries, the restaurant serves the freezer-to-fryer variety ($2.09), which are at least hot and crispy. Diners also can score onion rings, sweet potato fries and tempura-battered green beans.
All in all, Habit Burger pumps out decent burgers that won’t put too big of a dent in your wallet.
(Good news for folks who live in Canyon County: Habit Burger recently opened in Nampa near Costco. Plus, it has a drive-thru window, whereas the Meridian location does not.)
The Habit Burger Grill
Address: 2206 N. Eagle Road, The Village at Meridian
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Menu price range: sides and salads $2.09-$7.99; burgers and sandwiches $3.19-$7.15.