The Oakley location, close to Fresh Market, is set back from the street, but you can’t miss the yellow exterior. Inside, Americana diner décor complete with boomerang Formica tabletops and lots of stainless steel trim, neon and a free jukebox are retro-cool. Orders are taken at the counter.
I am probably the only person in the world today who freaks out when I have to order fast food. On my rare visit to a Subway or Chipotle, I tend to freeze up and am never able to decipher the menu choices rapidly enough to suit the people in line behind me. I find this experience a lot like having a semi truck rapidly approach the rear of my little car on the I-75 Cut in the Hill. In the fast food lane, I need hazard flashers.
So I encouraged my fellow diners to pass me on the left as I gawked at the Fatburger menu and listened for clues.
There are healthier options at Fatburger, including a meatless Boca Burger and a lean turkey burger, but I settled on a Baby Fat with Cheese ($2.99) — the smallest-sized beef burger. Then I had to pick toppings! Rather than cause a multiple-car pileup, I said “Everything.” Do not say this at Fatburger unless you are wearing a rubber suit. “Everything” is a lot for a paper wrapper to contain. Side dish? Onion rings ($2.69) sounded good. And in the spirit of the “Last Great Hamburger Stand” experience, I opted for a chocolate shake ($2.99).
The shake came first, and I stuck the straw in to get a quick sip, but it was almost impenetrable. Actually, this is good: The reason the Fatburger shakes are so thick and so cold is that they’re classics, made with ice cream blended in a mixer. And the cups, though plastic, are biodegradable. Yay, planet.
I watched while my burger was fried in view — much like Steak N Shake (see, I have been to fast food joints!) and worked on that shake. The whipped cream on top was floppy but passable, and as the edges started to soften, I got a good sip of not-too-sweet chocolate. Nice. My order was called, so I headed out to eat in the car and listen to the radio — a little Diane Rehm Show being more my speed than the jukebox tunes. Crispy breaded onion rings, impressive circumference, genuine and juicy. Thumbs up.
Now for the Baby Fatburger: fluffy bun, a little chewy in the meat department with no distinct flavor other than the avalanche of toppings about to slide down my sleeve. And that mustard mustache is not a good look. The burger went back in the bag. The shake, though, was delicious, and lasted all the way through Fresh Air.
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