*Editor’s note: Today’s burger review comes to us from Matt Mills McKnight, a freelance photojournalist based in the Inland Northwest town of Sandpoint, Idaho. To see more of Matt’s work, check out his website www.mattmillsphoto.com
Before I ever moved to the Inland Northwest my mind had conjured up ideas of the region with help from David Lynch’s television series Twin Peaks. For those not familiar with the series, it was supposed to take place somewhere in the no man’s land north of Spokane, Wash. moving towards the Canadian border.
On numerous occasions while driving back to my home in Sandpoint, Idaho after visiting Spokane, I couldn’t help but lock eyes with this establishment’s looming sign along Highway 2. The whole place seemed like it was meant to be on a Universal Studios back lot, next door to the Bates Motel. And it turns out the place has been in business at the same location since 1933, likely with a few ghosts of its own.
So finally one day after picking up my San Francisco-based reporter colleague Matt Shechmeister at the airport for a week’s work on our project about militia culture in North Idaho, I knew it was time to check this spot out before crossing the border. This time I was taking a backseat on the big burger consumption, and allowing him to step forward to the challenge of their kingpin, the Breakfast Steak Burger ($8.50, includes fries).
Burger aficionados, introducing Mr. Shechmeister…
After a few tentative steps into the dining room, a blond woman popped out from the kitchen and stopped a little short. We thought she might have been wary of our slight city slicker vibe, but realized later that we had arrived about 2 minutes before the kitchen was supposed to close.
She went ahead and seated us anyway and didn’t rush us at all.
We later learned that her name is Shaena Reilly, she has owned the Chattaroy Hills Restaurant for 3 years. She took great care of us, and I was moved to do some mental math. First, she was really cool about keeping the kitchen open. Second, she owns an awesome restaurant. And third, (ladies: earmuffs!) she has that “dude your mom is HOT” look in full force. Any way you count it up, Shaena is a 10.
And so was the burger. Just the list of ingredients blew my mind, so brace yourselves dear readers.
The bun is sesame seed, served without any sauces, and it contains two just-right beef patties, each caressed by a slice of melted cheese. But it’s between the patties where the magic happens. Lodged there are two big bacon slices and a quarter-inch thick ham steak. So, taking it from the top, it goes: bun, fixings (on the side, ketchup/mayo/mustard, lettuce/onion/tomato/pickles), cheese, burger patty, bacon, ham steak, cheese, patty, bun. That in itself is worth five Hamblogger cows, hands down.
Going beyond the numbers, the bun was toasted to a golden brown, which was crucial to tempering the bread in preparation for the massive cargo. Both patties were evenly cooked without much pink, but not dry at all. The ham steak was tender and was easy to bite through, and the bacon was too. Of course, eating the burger still required me to open half of my head, and at some point I started feeling like Pac-Man, though that did not detract from the experience. Taking down this fearsome gastronomic adversary generated a sense of genuine accomplishment. I had gone big on every level, loading up the bun with ketchup, mustard, and a non-trivial amount of mayo. Plus I threw on all the included veggies, a leaf of green lettuce, tasty tomato slices, curlicued onions, and a pile of savory pickle. Though the bread did compress a bit under the pressure, it maintained its integrity until close to the end, when there was simply more meat left than bun, and I had to resort to the fork and knife.
That still left me with fries to contend with, and I was sad when I had to leave many behind. They were made fresh, a smudge of potato skin on the tips, just enough to taste. The outside was crispy, and they were cut medium thick so as to allow a little soft potato but none of the mushiness you find in steak-cut fries. Apologies to the British, but I hate the squish of “chips,” so I was stoked.
After it was all over, I felt like I had eaten a Zeppelin, but there was none of the queasiness that accompanies the fast-food equivalent to a megaburger like the one at Chattaroy Hills. The ingredients were fresh, juicy but not swimming in grease, and thoroughly delicious. Those who are crazy for fancy buns are out of luck, but Chattaroy Hills Restaurant is not that kind of place, and toasted sesame seed will be just fine, thank you.
The restaurant itself is more of a breakfast and lunch spot that closes at 2 o’clock. But don’t let that detract you from visiting them afterwards as you can walk through the restaurant’s doors, down the hall and into their lounge. Although we decided against saddling up at the bar for mid-afternoon drinks, the spot was no laughing matter. It’s open through the evening, with a full liquor license and regulars reminiscent of Sheriff Harry (yes, another Twin Peaks reference) already saddling up when we left.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5
Chattaroy Hills Restaurant
4015 East Denison-Chattaroy Road
Chattaroy, WA 99003-9640