Steppin’ Out – The Habit, Folsom, a Revisit

The first Saturday of the month is 50% off day at all of our Hospice Thrift Stores, from Camino to Folsom. As if either of us needed more stuff, Russ Salazar and I meet somewhere and he drives his SUV from store to store because it holds more stuff.

When I called him last Saturday morning to see if the whether was going to be calm enough for us to go, I mentioned that I would like to stop for lunch at The Habit Burger Grill in Folsom.

What was interesting, Russ told me, that a friend of his had recently told him he didn’t like the food at The Habit. Ah, a challenge.

We planned our day to stop first at the Placerville Drive store and then work our way to the Folsom store. Camino, we figured, we would catch another time when the weather was better.

After all those stops it would be around 1 p.m., a perfect time to have lunch.

With a number of books, toys, videos and even a tuxedo coat we “absolutely needed and couldn’t live without,” together with some items we bought at the large “Dollar Tree” in Folsom, we pulled into the parking lot in front of the restaurant, parked and walked to the front door.

It would be an understatement to say it was busy. It was crowded. But, there seemed to be people leaving, so I got in line to order.

Russ told me he wanted an “Original Charburger” with cheese, fries and a drink. I ordered that and also an “Original Double Char,” with cheese, a drink and fries for myself.

I was hungry from our day of cruising the aisles of the thrift stores, and between the delicious aroma coming from the open kitchen area and the looks of the burgers on the other customer’s plates, I couldn’t resist going for the double.

A very pleasant young lady took our order and handed me one of those vibrating disks that go off when your order is ready (everything is cooked to order).

Starting to go looking for a table, I noticed a familiar face behind the counter smiling at me and recalled how I first found out about The Habit. It was Julie Harrington, the General Manager of that restaurant, who lives in Diamond Springs. She had given me coupons for two burgers a couple of years ago when I met her having lunch at The Shoestring in Placerville.

First Julie introduced me to her new Assistant Manager, Jacob, who was making sure the customers were immediately served and happy. She and I then talked a bit and she reminded me again that she had worked with my son, Steve, at the Jack in the Box on Missouri Flat Road too many years ago to mention.

Russ and I then found a table, filled our drinks and gathered some peppers (jalapeño, peperoncini and very hot yellow prepared ones) to enjoy with our meal. In just a few minutes our disk went off and I picked up our hot, fresh order.

As both of us often do, we headed first for our fries while they were hot and crisp, before taking a bite from the burger. They were great, but the burger was fantastic.

Let me describe the first bite. A fresh bun, the proper amount of veggies and sauce, and a delicious warm and juicy hamburger patty. Russ said that the first thing he noticed was that the delicious meat taste came through, not overpowered by everything else. As he did last time, he thought it was the coarseness of the grind of the meat, but Julie had told me they are very careful cooking the meat so that it remains juicy and not overcooked. That is why they cook to order.

At this point I have to comment that their burgers are some of the very best in freshness, looks and overall taste. As I mentioned before, they are made to order and ready for you immediately when completed, they look like the pictures of them (not like something recently sat upon) and it is the mission of the restaurant to make your visit memorable.

One of their mottos is “Respect the Burger.” That is why the burgers look so good and taste so delicious. Everything is put together carefully, not just thrown together.

Russ decided that in addition to the burgers, we should try something different. He ordered one of their new Portabella Char burgers, cut in two. Julie took his order, but wouldn’t take his money. She wanted us to try it and give her and Jacob our hones comment.

When it arrived at our table, we both immediately tried it. A Char Burger with a large, grilled portabella mushroom and roasted garlic aioli. Now, that is a burger.

The portabella gave it a delicious, slightly earthy, taste and the aioli made it even better. Russ had never had a portabella in a sandwich before, but both of us agreed it was spectacular.

You can have the Portabella Char without the meat, if you wish, and you can add the portabella to any sandwich or salad.

The menu at The Habit includes a number of burgers like the Charburger, Double Char, Teriyaki Char, BBQ Bacon Char, Portabella Char and Santa Barbara Style, a Double Char with cheese and avocado on grilled sourdough. like they made at their original restaurant.

Grilled sandwiches included the Grilled Chicken, Chicken Club, Tri-tip steak, Albacore Tuna filet, Golden Fried Chicken and the Veggie Burger.

If you opt for a salad, they have a number they make to order like the Grilled Chicken salad , BBQ Chicken salad, Superfood salad, Santa Barbara Cobb, Grilled Chicken Caesar, Caesar and Garden. To the last two you can add grilled albacore or tri-tip if you wish.

To accompany your meal, soda, shakes and malts, cones and sundaes.

For kids under 10, they have special Kids Favorites: a Charburger, Chicken Nuggets or Grilled Cheese including fries, apple slices or applesauce and a soft drink, apple juice or milk (yes, they have milk).

The Habit in Folsom is located at 1115 E. Bidwell St., #126. Going west, it is easiest to turn left onto Blue Ravine and then immediately right into their parking lot.

They are open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 until 10, and on Sunday from 10:30 until 9. For more information visit www.habitburger.com online.

Steppin’ Out – Nation’s Giant Hamburgers, Folsom

UNFORTUNATELY CLOSED

I don’t know how many times I have driven by this restaurant at 2750 East Bidwell Street in Folsom with out stopping, but thinking I should. Finally, several weeks ago I called Russ Salazar. He said he had some business in the Folsom area, and we drove there for lunch.

We arrived about 1 p.m. and there were only four people eating and two in front of us ordering. There were also only two people working, one young lady taking orders, one cooking.

As we were standing in line, the young lady cooking asked us how many burgers we were going to order, so she could put them down. We answered that we were going to share one, along with a chili dog.

When we reached the cashier, we ordered the burger, cut in two, and a chili dog, also cut in two, along with a water and a milk.

She rang it up, but Russ noticed that the total was too low and pointed it out. She read it back to him and the chili dog was missing from the order. She added it, we paid and we went to find a table.

We found one next to a window and wiped up some water that the previous diners had spilled.

About 15 minutes later they called the order number of the people who had ordered in front of us. Five minutes after that, they called our order.

After I got the order Russ mentioned that we hadn’t received our drinks and that the chili dog had not been cut in two.

I took the chili dog back to get it cut and asked for our drinks, which the lady doing the cooking handed to me. I also picked up a second fork, since the chili dog was obviously not “finger food.”

I returned to the table where Russ was looking at the burger. In the approximately 20 minutes they had taken to cook the burger, the “giant” patty, which looked like it was around one-third pound, was now smaller than one from most other restaurants. In fact, the whole sandwich was not as large as a Carl’s Jr. Famous Star burger. So much for an “oversized” burger.

Russ liked the bun and I liked the veggies, but we both agreed the burger was way over cooked and dry.

The chili dog was an all beef dog, split and grilled, which I liked. The bun was okay, but we both agreed the chili was way too salty.

Nation’s Giant Hamburgers has been around since 1952, serving hearty breakfasts, burgers, freshly baked pies, shakes and more. In fact, they are one of the few restaurants of this kind that serves pie, something that most all restaurants used to serve. Yes, I thought about pie ala mode, but opted not to order it. I actually like it better for breakfast.

Prior to visiting, as I often do, I had looked on the internet at the ratings of this one of their many restaurants. Several people had noted service problems at this location, which I thought might be a result of there only being two visible staff. Perhaps I was right.

When I started writing this story, a little over a week ago, I went online to get some more information on this restaurant. Sadly, what I found was numerous reports of this location being closed. I checked the corporate webpage and it was no longer listed, nor did they answer their phone.

Restaurants as a whole have been having monetary problems for the past year. I get several restaurant publications each week and they have all been predicting an approaching recession because of this.

Restaurants are a very tough business and when they start into a decline, for one reason or another, people are let go or hours are reduced and service declines, starting a downward spiral that they rarely survive.

In the 30 plus years I have been writing about restaurants, I have found, over and over, that people will put up with just okay food if the service is really good, but if the service is poor, it doesn’t matter how good the food is.

For more information on the location of other Nation’s restaurants in our general area, visit their webpage at www.nationsrestaurants.com.

Steppin’ Out – Robby’s Cafe, Garden Valley

UNFORTUNATELY CLOSED

You probably remember this location at 4916 Marshall Road in Garden Valley (next to the real estate office) as Rose’s Garden Café. It was that for over a dozen years until two very delightful and personable people, Robby and Anne Holly, bought it last March and changed the name to Robby’s.

Both Rose and John Anderson were delighted with the excitement expressed by the new owners and John told them, “You have to put your signature on the place,” so that is just what Robby did. The sign is his signature.

Russ Salazar and I dropped by a couple of weeks ago on a Tuesday, about noon. They were delighted to see us, even though the message of our intended arrival that day had somehow been missed.

Several other customers were enjoying a late breakfast when we arrived, but Robby was delighted to share some time with us, while not forgetting the other customers and also greeting new ones on their arrival.

Robby graduated from Michigan’s Culinary Arts Academy in 1981, second in the first class they graduated. I had never heard of that school before and he informed me it was no longer in existence. That is really too bad if he is an example of their quality teaching.

From there his life was a bit of a whirlwind.

“I went to work on a cruise ship that took short trips from Florida and back,” he said. “I was working as a chef when they found out I knew how to carve large ice figures for events. I carved one for them and then that became my job on the ship.”

That was just the beginning for him. He is self-taught on stringed instruments and for a number of years toured playing Bluegrass.
Ask him about the instruments on the wall and he may give you tune or two if he has time. He is also looking to find musicians to drop by one evening a week or so and play.

Well, back to the reason we were there, the food.

The Tuesday Special that day was a grilled, smoked salmon patty with grilled pineapple and teriyaki sauce. It is usually served on a brioche bun, but Robby is having a very difficult time getting them from his supplier in Sacramento. Instead he put it on a seeded hamburger bun, an okay substitute, but I would have loved to taste it on the brioche bun. Hopefully he will find a new source shortly.

We asked Robby for his recommendation on a second entree to share and he said we should try the Homesteader, a wrap on our choice of flavored “tortilla,” filled with honey cured bacon, two chicken strips, baby arugula, baby spinach, tomato and their own buttermilk ranch dressing.

Russ left it up to me, so I chose the tomato chili wrap.

Russ asked that his half of the wrap not have any arugula, since it is not one of his favorite greens. I, on the other hand, love it for its little bit of bite, or peppery flavor. I found that comment from him interesting, but have heard that before. He often reminds me that he is the only Mexican that does not eat cilantro. He just doesn’t like the taste, although they are finding out that issue might be genetic, since a portion of the population says to them it tastes like soap.

Before the food arrived, Robby treated us to what he called our dessert, a “Mounds Bar in a glass,” which he concocted from different syrups and soda. It tasted exactly like that.

I asked him why he served us dessert first and he replied, “You never know what might happen, so enjoy dessert first.”

I started with the wrap and it was wonderful and a real mix of textures and flavors. Russ also liked it, but unfortunately a few pieces of arugula made it to his half of the wrap and he had to fish them out.

The salmon “burger” also had a mixture of great flavors. I think the grilled pineapple was perfect as an accompaniment for the salmon, adding texture and a bit of sweetness and acidity. Russ had similar complements for the sandwich, but also wished it had a better bun.

With our meal came crinkle cut fries, which both of us really liked. I don’t know where he gets them, but they were crisp on the outside and smooth inside. Best of all, ten minutes later they were still crisp and good. One of my pet peeves is French Fries that go soggy in just a couple of minutes, so I was delighted.

Their breakfast menu (served until 11 a.m.) includes a two egg breakfast with pancakes or has browns and a choice of bacon or sausage; The Predator, two eggs, tow sausage, two bacon, ham steak, hash browns and toast; a Breakfast sandwich, served on a croissant or grilled sourdough; a Biscuit Breakfast sandwich; a Breakfast Burrito and the Fat Hillbilly, a Breakfast Burrito with eggs, sausage, potatoes and country gravy and biscuits and gravy.

For lunch you can choose from Combo #1, a 1/3 pound burger, fries and a drink; Combo #2, the Homesteader Wrap with fries and a drink; the Club, a triple-decker on grilled sourdough with fries and a drink and the Ursus Arctos (Grizzly Bear, the high school’s mascot), a sandwich standing a whopping 12 inches tall: six 1/3 pound Angus beef patties, six strips of thick sliced honey cured bacon, six slices of cheese, six onion rings, nine pickle slices, six tomato slices and lettuce served on three Brioche buns, along with a half pound of fries, a half pound of onion rings and a 32 ounce milkshake. $25 for the lot. Not that hungry? Bring some friends.

And, don’t forget they have espresso, cappuccino, lattes, mochas, Mexican mochas and a whole list of other coffee drinks.

Check the specials board and the menu, order at the counter, find a seat and get ready for a delicious meal.

Robby’s Café is open 5 until 2, Monday through Friday and from 7 until 2 on Saturday. Closed on Sunday.
For more information give them a call at (530) 333-9900.