Richmond’s notorious “Iron Triangle” neighborhood has a history of street violence and rampant drug crimes. People are gunned down almost daily and the sidewalks are home to dozens of makeshift memorials that honor the fallen with empty bottles of Hennessy, candles and stuffed animals. Less than two miles from the epicenter of the danger zone is a neighborhood called Point Richmond. While it is still Richmond, you would think that you went back in time to 1950’s small town America. No bottles of Hennessy here. The quiet neighborhood surrounds a quaint downtown complete with Victorian buildings, restaurants, a few shops and funky burger joint that you will drive right by if you aren’t looking.
For over 30 years, the family owned Great American Hamburger and Pie Co. has been slinging burgers to a crowd of locals and blue collar workers who come out in force during the lunch hour. The street was filled with contractor pickups and delivery vans when I arrived and a line of burly dudes in reflective orange vests was nearly out the door. The thick smell of grease fills the air as I make my way towards the non-descript grey shack that doesn’t have much in the way of signage. Standing inside was like being in a small diner somewhere in the middle of the country. Two women work the kitchen that is surrounded by a counter and stools. The grill was working overtime and was lined with sizzling burgers and buns. The grease was definitely flying. The cheeseburger ($4.30) seemed like a good option from what I could see.
With little fear of getting caught in the crossfire of a Richmond style drive-by, I sat outside at one of the wooden picnic tables. There is also a park across the street that has some tables and a big grassy area if you wanted to tan your buns after lunch. My cheeseburger had a nice thin shellacking of grease on the smooth spongy bun, similar to In-N-Out’s bun. The cheese was molten and there was a lot of it. Two slices of American on top of the thin 1/3 lb. patty. This wasn’t a big fat ass patty this was an old school thin patty, which I like. I’m not used to so much cheese on a small burger. The two slices have bonded with the bun and is almost like having a grilled cheese sandwich with some meat. This is a good thing. The combination of cheesy grease along with the mustard mayo and shredded lettuce hits the spot. The burger is missing pickles though, I think pickles would make it complete. The burger itself is fresh, but thin and doesn’t offer a bold beefy flavor like the bigger burgers do. It wasn’t bone dry and it wasn’t gushing juice, a typical thin patty. I’m down with that. The fries were so-so, a little limp.
A good place if you are in the mood for that classic drive-in style burger that isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg. The ladies who flipped the burgers were cool and they knew most of the people who came in. I’m a sucker for sweets so I got a piece of the homemade cherry pie, was a good choice. Make sure you bust out your work vest and helmet if you want to fit in with the lunch crowd. If you have a friend who has a truck you can borrow with a lumber rack and one of those big ass tool boxes in the back, even better.
Great American Hamburger and Pie Co.
35 E. Richmond Avenue
Richmond, California 94801
Hours: Monday – Friday 8AM – 5PM
Saturday 8AM – 3PM