Novemburger: Wally's Burger Express

Because 50 Burgers, 50 Days wasn’t enough, I’ll write about a new burger every day this month. And next. We’ll call that Decemburger.
Day 2: Wally’s Burger Express
8107 Mesa Drive. 345-7441,
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 11.02.11
The burger: I’m discovering a truth about entry-level burger places: Bigger is not better. If you get a double cheeseburger with bacon ($5.89), you’re confronted with the limitations of the meat. Two patties walking the thin, gray line are not better than one. And these waxy pieces of bacon are the reason we’ve come to seek out thick-cut specialty bacon, even at the grocery store. You want double good? Order two basic Wallyburgers, one for each hand.
At Wally’s, the single-patty Wallyburger ($3.49) is engineered as a set-piece. It’s a balance of that beef with a starchy white picnic bun, toasted, and its interactions with average tomatoes, below-average lettuce and mustard, lots of mustard. Spackle on some American cheese, and it all works somehow. It performs exactly as expected, with nothing new to teach you, but no lessons from the past ignored. A celebration of the ordinary when ordinary is enough.
Wally’s knows the formula because its owner knows how fast food works. In addition to Wally’s, Robert Mayfield runs a couple of Dairy Queens. The parking lot’s spotless, the men’s room has a baby-changing station, they’ve decorated for Halloween, there’s free wi-fi and the Wally’s sign out front lets you know the time and temperature along with the month’s special shake flavors. Ask for pumpkin ($2.49/small) if they still have it. It tastes just like a pie.
Fries or rings? Right in balance with the family burger formula, Wally’s fries ($1.79/small) are standard food-service shoelaces, but cooked well in clean oil. Wally’s doesn’t have onion rings, but they do have something else worth talking about from the fryers: chicken tenders. Big, irregular nuggets hewn from the breast, breaded with crunchy contours and fried with just enough restraint to leave the meat inside moist. A basket with fries and white salt-and-pepper gravy is $5.69.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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