The Humble Burger
Old school stands are a pandemic staple, even for vegans
By Greg Sabin
Sacramento has an impressive lineup of burger options during normal times. Willie’s Burgers, Flaming Grill Cafe, Burgers and Brew, Squeeze Inn and Pangaea Bier Cafe all boast some notable burgers. Each one, and many more that I haven’t named, brings its own unique take on the humble burger, and serves it up with an admirable lineup of beers and sides to boot.
Locals can count ourselves lucky that the selection is still broad—and the quality is still high. Even after we’ve seen several burger-slinging favorites like Jim Denny’s, Nationwide Freezer Meats and Tiny’s close during the last few decades, many old joints remain, while new purveyors have hit the scene.
A good burger joint is a treat. Sitting at a plastic table while juice runs down your forearm is a joy. But we will be living in takeout land for the next few months—and the overlooked genius of a hamburger stand shines bright.
When I think about these old war horses, I think of Cookie’s Drive-In on H Street in East Sacramento and Scott’s Burger Shack on Franklin Boulevard. One place I hadn’t come across in my travels was Village Drive-In, a small burger stand nonchalantly tucked away in Tahoe Park.
Village Drive-In seems like a throwback because it is. Despite an updated outdoor dining area and fresh coat of paint, if you look a little deeper you’ll find its midcentury roots.
The menu is pretty straight ahead. Burgers, chili, fries and shakes, with a few twists such as fish and chips and teriyaki. But we’re talking burgers—and the “deluxe burger” is as iconic as it comes. A thick tomato slice, iceberg, red onion and American cheese top a larger-than-expected quality patty cooked to “hamburger stand doneness” (i.e., medium-well).
Village Drive-In is only blocks from Tahoe Park with open space and picnic tables. Take advantage of it on a sunny day.
Village Drive-In is at 3810 60th St., (916) 457-3196.
On the other end of the spectrum is Burger Patch, a newish vegan hamburger spot in Midtown. Normally, it’s a bit more of a restaurant. But during COVID, Burger Patch has been converted to a hamburger stand—one order window, one pickup window, zero chairs.
When my nephew, Joey, told me about a vegan burger stand in Sacramento, I thought I misheard him. But, in his resonant bass voice (he’s an excellent singer), Joey clearly said “vegan burger.” As a vegan himself, he would know (he’s a very healthy eater).
Joey led me through the Burger Patch experience, letting me know the burgers are made with a Beyond Meat patty (a tasty, if not 100-percent convincing, stand-in for a beef patty), and topped with cashew cheese (a very close stand-in for American) and all the fixings one might find on, say, an In-N-Out burger.
For this meat eater, the vegan burger at Burger Patch hits the spot. The whole thing is well seasoned with bold flavors and, dare I say it, real burger texture. If you blindfolded me, I probably would guess it wasn’t a beef patty, but the rest, from the cheese to the sauce, are fantastic analogs for the standard burger accompaniments.
The real standout though are the shakes. Yeah, you heard me, vegan shakes. Joey told me to order one and he did not steer me wrong (he’s very trustworthy). The wide-ranging flavors, including seasonal specials, are indistinguishable or even better than the soft-serve-style shakes at most burger joints. Sure, it’s not made with real ice cream, but neither is a soft-serve shake that is typically made from milk powder.
Unlike the old school joints like Village Drive-In, Burger Patch has a slick online ordering system on its slick website that allows for contactless pick up and a whole “secret menu” to explore. You’ll also find plenty about the restaurant’s ownership, ethics and merchandise.
Burger Patch has another location in Davis and a new spot opening soon near Sacramento State.