Old drive in burger joints have been disappearing from the face of the earth at an increasingly fast pace as fast food chains like McDonald’s make value priced menus their main draw. Low income families and people that are struggling through tough times have embraced ninety nine cent double cheeseburgers and gallon size buckets of Diet Coke and are appear to be passing on the nostalgia of mom and pop burger stands. I have always felt an obligation to at least try these places to support family run places – sometimes they are good, sometimes they aren’t. I was in Fremont recently and couldn’t resist the temptation to try a small burger stand called Chubby Burgers.
Chubby has been around since the 50’s and is now owned by a Korean family. The painted cinderblock shack with an angled metal awning in front looks as if it underwent a renovation within the past 30 years or so that consisted of building a new wall around the original structure. The place is filled with antiquated kitchen equipment that has probably been in use since it first opened. On one side there is the counter where you order and a small kitchen with the griddle and deep fryers. In a bigger adjacent room, the soft serve machine resides with and all the cones and toppings needed to make shakes and sundaes. The soft serve room has really bizarre wallpaper with cartoon zoo animals that looks like it was intended for a child’s bedroom in the early 1960’s. From a turquoise counter I peruse the old Coca Cola menu that sits high on the wall over the kitchen. The quarter pound “Chubby Burger” for $3.35 sounds like a bargain to me.
Minutes after the thin pre-formed and likely frozen patty hit the griddle and the cook pressed all of the juice out of it with his spatula, my number was called and the Chubby was handed to me in a small brown paper bag. The bag had writing all over it as it had also served as the ticket for the cook. I peeled away the white paper that wrapped the burger to discover that it was anything but chubby. The thin patty burger was very small with a little bit of shredded lettuce hanging out of the simple sesame seed bun. Lifting the bun revealed a thin slice of tomato, a couple pickles, thinned out secret sauce and a square of melted American cheese.
The pedestrian burger was lacking in flavor and upon the first bite the thing I tasted the most were the pickles. The meat was slightly rubbery and had little to no seasoning. Watered down sauce soaked the bottom bun but thankfully never broke through. The veggies were cool and the shredded iceberg lettuce was crisp but was slightly dry. Overall, the burger was edible but I never had a bite that had my mouth watering.
Chubby Burger was once probably a fun place where the kids would meet up and hang out on a Friday night. Now, it is a place where workers can grab a relatively inexpensive lunch or a family can grab a soft serve cone on a warm night. I’ve had much better drive in style burgers and I have also had worse. Cecil’s in Hayward makes a much better burger for a comparable price. I wouldn’t make a special trip here but if I had to choose to eat a Chubby Burger or a McDonald’s double cheeseburger, I would pick Chubby in a heartbeat.
RATING: 2 out of 5
4796 Thornton Avenue
Fremont, California 94536
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10:00AM – 9:30PM
Sunday 11:00AM – 9:30PM