At the end of that long, serpentine, dead-end drive from Highway 1 to the wave-wracked elbow of California’s coast, where reliable breezes blow salty sea spray into your hair, biting into a legendary Jalama Burger is a rite of passage for Santa Barbara County residents. A few weeks ago, my son chose that baptism-by-burger as the centerpiece of his 11th birthday adventure. Like most pilgrims to the Jalama Beach Grill, he went the traditional route: single patty, cheese, that snappy shrettuce, tomato, pickles, secret sauce, not much fuss.
But not having had one myself in about a decade, I decided to go bigger. Seeing the list of enhancements below the regular burger, I simply added them all: grilled onions, bacon, jalapeños, extra cheese, and, yes, even a second beef patty. The latter, it turned out, was entirely unnecessary — the Jalama Burger already comes with an ample ⅓-pound patty, and stacking on a second one is just plain overkill.
After we all ogled and laughed at my ambitious folly — I truly wondered how I was going to wrap my teeth around its gargantuan girth — I managed to chomp down the whole beast, its messy parts disintegrating atop the picnic table as I waged my battle. (I’m not sure the buns are quite built for a double.) Though physically hard to eat, and psychologically daunting, it was still an utterly delicious experience, and perhaps even strategic: I didn’t have to eat much more than ice-cream cake until bedtime, while salad and tofu proved plentiful in my diet on the days to follow. (I’m a little embarrassed to say that I ate ample amounts of fries and onion rings as well.)
I hesitate to endorse this experience for others, as the challenge starts to overcome the enjoyment about two-thirds of the way through the burger. But the familiar flavors satisfied as usual, lasting memories were made, and perhaps even new rites were recorded. I don’t plan on doing it again, unless, of course, it’s another decade before I return.
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