Don Eittreim, 79, owner of the Jalama Beach Store & Grill.

Peter Vandenbelt

Don Eittreim, 79, owner of the Jalama Beach Store & Grill.

35 Years of the Jalama Burger

Iconic Beachside Meal Worth the Long Drive

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Share Article

At the end of the long and curvy Jalama Road, where sharp gusts and cold breakers chip away at the corner of California, exists a world-famous hamburger stacked with lean beef, fresh-cut veggies, and pickle chips and slathered with secret sauce. This March marks the 35th anniversary of the Jalama Burger™, a simple comfort so coveted its creator trademarked it.

Yeah, that’s my wife, Kathy’s, invention,” says Don Eittreim, 79, owner of the Jalama Beach Store & Grill. Kathy Eittreim passed away early last year, leaving her husband of 58 years and one of their five children (plus various grandkids, of which they have nine) to run the small beachfront café and camping-supply store. “She talked me into buying this place back in 1978,” remembers Don. “She knew we could create something special out here.”

Exposed to open ocean and all the weather that comes with it, Eittreim’s outpost is located at Jalama Beach County Park, roughly 20 miles from Lompoc and 60 from downtown Santa Barbara. For decades, Jalama has been a destination for surfers, windsurfers, beachcombers, fans of wildlife, and families who like adventuresome camping without severing all ties to civilization.

Some days, Jalama’s bitter cold and blowing 50 knots with stinging rain. Others, it’s tranquil and azure with a view to the edge of the planet. Every day — except for Thanksgiving and Christmas — the grill is open, offering a sizable menu of breakfast, lunch, and early dinner. The burgers are its best sellers.

Says Vaughn Montgomery, 36, whose family has been making weeklong holiday camping trips to Jalama every year since before he was born: “For a wave-beaten, sun-blinded, wind-blasted soul — still high from surfing and the long walk back to camp — to sit there on that still patio and sink into a Jalama Burger, especially with a can of cold beer, is enough to make the saltwater run out of your nose onto the lettuce and onion!”

While a lengthy campout could very well turn an American standard into a transcendent meal, foodies on a mission need not commit to picturesque visions of nasal drainage to taste the Jalama Burger experience. There might be a secret to what’s inside, but this burger’s got day trip written all over it.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

The Jalama Burger is simply THE BEST anywhere. That's why people drive their cars, motorcycles, & bicycles from all over the southland to sink their teeth into this amazing taste thrill.

It's well worth the picturesque drive to savor this unique creation!

Barron (anonymous profile)
March 18, 2014 at 10:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Even devout vegetarians eat The Jalama Burger. It's true!

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 18, 2014 at 10:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yeah, good burgers, and some of the nicest people too. Hopefully now I don't have to wait in line for 20 minutes! Use to go up there when it was nothing but dirt roads. Ahhh back in the day....Don has to have seen it all up there.

Now you can pretty much forget about camping up there in the summer time unless you get lucky. Same with our other beaches (unless you make a reservation 6 months in advance) which makes it so crazy that our fearless leaders would even consider allowing Goleta beach to have less capacity.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
March 18, 2014 at 10:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Weren't they supposed to operate the concessions at Gaviota and Refugio (a shorter drive to enjoy the burger) what happened with that?

pointssouth (anonymous profile)
March 18, 2014 at 7:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Note: Devout Vegetarians do not desire to allow the flesh of dead animal corpses to enter the sacred temple of their bodies. A veggie burger is acceptable however.

GluteousMaximus (anonymous profile)
March 18, 2014 at 9:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

lol, "Devout Vegetarians", lol....

Look, I lost my religion before I became vegetarian 13 years ago, I didn't become vegetarian back then to become religious again.. if 99 out of 100 meals you eat are vegetarian then your lifestyle and shopping habits and digestive tract are going to most resemble a vegetarian SO GO AHEAD AND CLAIM IT. Put in your disclaimer for those anal retentive nit-pickers only when you feel like it. It's only for the bologna moralist vegetarians and "Friends" fans anyway, and that tv show is total bologna. Besides it doesn't make any sense to be vegetarian if you are merely doing it not to kill animals because unless you grow all of your own food or get it from non-mechanized farms you actually end up killing more animals in the annual tilling not to mention the initial destruction of animal habitiat when you have a diet high in grains than if you have a diet that is high in grass fed cows, buffalo, wild game or seafood.

So anyway, definitely not vegetarian anymore, and most vegetarians can no longer claim the moral high ground. What I consider the greatest positive impact for the environment and animals alike is decreasing or eliminating grains and eating pastured/wild animals and organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible.

Fortunately the Jalama Burger, from what I've been told is made from grass-fed meat.

And I can also tell you that the Jalama Veggie Burger is amazing as well, if you're into that.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
March 19, 2014 at 11:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Don & Kathy Eittreim are HERO MATERIAL.

The family continues to run the store, and improve the moral of many.

Why no mention of the history on the walls of the sitting area? That has taken a lot of work and son Mike has done a wonderful job curating it!

losolivoslocal (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2014 at 8:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Isn't there an entrance fee to get into Jalama Park? If so, that might negate a trip there just to get a hamburger.

RexOfSB (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2014 at 9:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yep, the' JB' has been a local treat, but was also was around longer than 35 years of Don and Kathy's ownership. The sizzling, yummy offering was handed out through the window in the 1960's by Mada Campbell, wife of Jalama ranger Floyd Campbell, who later moved to Nojoqui County Park in the SY Valley. Mada, who always greeted one and all with spatula in hand from the tiny kitchen, was truly the draw (along with the food) and loved her role as 'Mom" to the early surfers who ventured to the then remote park over the curvey dirt roads to get in some wave action away from the Rincon crowds. Mada would produce trays of burgers and fries serving county park folks, ranch hands, Vandenberg officers and intrepid locals who treated the Jalama store as their neighborhood mini mart and drive-in.

flg1969 (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2014 at 9:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ya the entrance fee has gone up over the years, it is now $10 for a day use pass.. I used to be able to get a AAA discount annual county day use pass for $35 a few years ago, now it is $75 and no discount. With the State Park Annual Day Use Passes now being $195, beach access has become extremely expensive :(

loonpt (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2014 at 9:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Any local knows- they offer a BURGER Pass at the kiosk, which gives you 45 minutes, which is plenty of time to order and eat a burger & fries.

As far as the park finally offering reservations- now it is equal for all to get a reservation, and they leave 35% available to drive ins.

While I might not like the exposure Jalama has gotten- I would rather share than not have it at all......

losolivoslocal (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2014 at 10:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: