Carl’s Jr Restaurants

Interior

Exterior

Western bacon cheeseburgers and sides

*** (3 stars)

Carl’s junior offers a nice variety of pretty typical fast food. Unlike at most of the competitors you can get a BBQ bacon cheeseburger and onion rings, which are my favorites.

The food at this Carl’s is good, but it is quite slow, even when uncrowded, so don’t visit if you’re in a hurry.

The place is clean and the staff seems nice.

Carl’s Jr Restaurants
1611 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(323) 731-0384
https://www.yelp.com/biz/carls-jr-restaurants-los-angeles-3

The 3rd Stop

Pretzel bites to go

*** (3 stars)

This is a nice little sidewalk cafe and wine bar. The menu is extensive and we only had time for a snack, so I don’t have a lot of data points to go on. But I will say we were there in mid-afternoon, were the only customers, ordered a diet coke and espresso and pretzel bites, and the service was so slow we ended up having to take the pretzel bites to go. So I can’t recommend it if you’re in a hurry.

The pretzel bites, by the way, aren’t what you’re expecting. It’s actually a bowl of fondue with the pretzels floating in it. It was okay, but I wouldn’t have it again.

The 3rd Stop
8636 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 273-3605
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-3rd-stop-los-angeles

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery

Interior

Exterior

Nachos (no beans)

Rib eye

Chili

**** (4 stars)

Based upon the name I was expecting sort of a dive bar, but it’s actually quite modern and nice inside. The menu offers a broad range of sports bar food, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good our selections were.

The nachos were actually better than any I’ve gotten in Chicago’s Mexican restaurants. They were spread out in a thin layer over a huge rectangular tray, so they stayed nice and crisp. We ordered them without the black beans, just our preference.

I had the ribeye, and it was a pretty darn good steak for much less than half what it would cost in any of River North’s steakhouses. About half of it needed to be trimmed away, but that’s what makes a ribeye so tender and juicy, and this one certainly was.

Service from our original server was a bit spotty, but the bartender and manager filled in nicely during her unexplained absences.

I was definitely favorably impressed, and will return.

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
One West Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 755-9339
https://www.yelp.com/biz/rock-bottom-restaurant-and-brewery-chicago

Culver’s

Bacon cheese single burger

Interior

Exterior

Mint and m&m mini custard

**** (4 stars)

My friends from the Midwest were excited about the local arrival of Culver’s, so I was looking forward to checking it out.

The Bacon Cheese Deluxe Single burger I had was good, better than most fast food burgers, and came with all the trimmings I like.

The specialty here is frozen custard, especially “concretes” made by mixing in ingredients. I had vanilla custard with mint flavoring and m&ms added. It was very tasty, fairly indistinguishable from soft serve ice cream.

It’s worth noting that custard is REALLY high in calories compared to alternatives. It’s also worth noting that the serving sizes are really large. I had a “mini” which, when I was a kid, would have been called a large. Between the caloric content of the custard and the size inflation, it would be easy to order a single serving that had over 1000 calories!

Service was very friendly. I was greeted on arrival and departure, and the food is delivered to the tables and the tables are bussed, all nice services not usually found at fast food places.

Culver’s
13649 W Colonial Dr
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 395-2225
https://www.yelp.com/biz/culvers-winter-garden

The Habit Burger Grill

BBQ Bacon cheeseburger

Interior

Exterior

***** (5 stars)

This is the best quick serve burger I’ve found in Orlando. It’s also the best-priced quality burger I’ve found, costing barely more than fastfood chain burgers.

I had the BBQ bacon cheeseburger, which came will all the trimmings I’d usually order, standard. It was juicy and flavorful, and the bun held together well.

Breaded onion rings were nicely crisped, and the manager offered me some ranch dressing that was perfect for dipping them.

The burger, rings and a large drink came to under ten bucks. It was a great meal for that price.

Service was friendly, and the cooked-to-order meal came out very quickly.

The Habit Burger Grill
4706 Millenia Plaza Way
Orlando, FL 32839
(407) 351-9009
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-habit-burger-grill-orlando-2

O’town Burgers N Wings

Lunch wings combo

Lunch 1/2 pound Angus burger combo

Exterior

Interior

***** (5 stars)

Usually when a place tries to do too many things, they fail to do any one thing well. Fortunately, that’s not the case at O’Town. Not only do they have one of the best burgers in town, they also have terrific wings. Plus the gyros, shawarma, and other offerings look great, too.

We shared the lunch combo burger and the lunch combo wings. The burger was a generous 1/2 pound of Angus beef, perfectly seared with a bit of char on the outside, and with all my favorite toppings: lettuce, tomato, onion slice, pickles, and a mayo-based sauce. I added a bit of mustard and it was heaven.

I also really liked the wings, which were perfectly cooked, not fatty, and served with a delicious teriyaki sauce (many other sauces are also available).

Each special came with fries (thin cut) and a drink, and both were reasonably priced.

Service was friendly. It took a while because the food was cooked to order, but not too long, and when our food was delivered our drinks were refilled.

I’d definitely place this in the top burgers in town, and will definitely return.

O’town Burgers N Wings
6614 Old Winter Garden Rd
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 286-0515
http://www.yelp.com/biz/o-town-burgers-n-wings-orlando

Tommy’s Original World Famous Hamburgers

Exterior

The grill

***** (5 stars)

There’s nothing quite like an authentic Tommy burger. There are imitators all over town, but none of them get it quite right.

There’s something about the flavor of the strange orange glop they call chili that can’t be duplicated. Frankly the stuff might be terrible by itself, but with the slab of tomato, diced onion, and handful of dill pickle slices, it all seems to go together.

Oh yeah, and there must be meat in there somewhere, although who knows what it tastes like.

The fries deserve a shout out, too. They’re not thick or thin, but just fat enough to have a nice crust and soft inside.

Oh, and don’t get that orange stuff on your hands. It never comes off.

Tommy’s Original World Famous Hamburgers
2575 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90057
(213) 389-9060
https://www.yelp.com/biz/tommys-original-world-famous-hamburgers-los-angeles-6

Burger Lounge

Shake

Exterior

Interior

Half and half fries, lounge burger

**** (4 stars)

I have fond memories of backyard type burgers being served at small grills from my youth, and the burger prepared at Burger Lounge is just like those. It has all the ingredients I regard is essential and a hamburger: a slice of tomato slice of onion and lettuce on the bottom that holds together.

I also tried a 50-50 mix of onion rings and fries. Although the fries were nothing special, the onion rings were perfectly crisp and delicious. I also had a root beer float, which was just like I used to make for myself.

As others have noted, for a counter serve place the service here is terrific. Several people checked on me outside while I was eating and brought me condiments on request. An excellent dining experience.

Burger Lounge
281 S Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 385-0898
https://www.yelp.com/biz/burger-lounge-beverly-hills

O’Charley’s Restaurant & Bar

Exterior

Entry

Interior

Interior

Bread

Wedge side salad

Cedar plank salmon

Appetizer sampler

***** (5 stars)

I rarely give five stars to a chain restaurant, but this place really deserves it. Sunday lunch here was one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in months. Everything about our visit was perfect, from the hostess stand to the friendly and attentive server, James, to his helpful assistant and the manager. And the food was far above expectations.

The first surprise was the interior decor. From the outside I was expecting a dark and dreary steakhouse. But it turns out those brown walls are panes of smoked glass, and inside the place is lit by a two story atrium. There’s also outside seating, which wasn’t apparent from the parking lot.

I had the cedar plank salmon. It was a huge, succulent piece of perfectly seasoned fresh salmon, and had really picked up the cedar flavors from the plank it was served on. This was honestly better than the cedar plank salmon at Disney’s Artist’s Point, at about one-third the cost.

Not only was the salmon great, the sides were, too. I selected the wedge salad and a loaded baked potato. Both were every bit as good as you can get at any high-end steakhouse in town. For all that fabulous food I felt like $16.99 was an extremely fair price.

My companion went a completely different route and had the appetizer sampler. The potato skins, fried cheese, and chicken tenders were all perfectly crisp and excellent–everything you’d expect from a good sports bar-type place, but served in a much nicer environment, and at $8.99 another great value.

Our drinks were refilled multiple times, the waiter stopped by to check on us and chat several times, and the manager bid us farewell on the way out the door. I can’t really imagine a better dining experience than this.

O’Charley’s Restaurant & Bar
8081 Turkey Lake Rd
Ste 700
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 354-0010
http://www.yelp.com/biz/o-charleys-restaurant-and-bar-orlando

Smashburger

BBQ Bacon cheddar

Exterior

Interior

Spicy jalapeno Baha and smash fries

**** (4 stars)

The main attraction here is the extraordinary staff. They are definitely into providing great customer service.

The burgers are fairly juicy, despite being “smashed”. I tried the BBQ bacon Cheddar burger, which was fine, but I wasn’t a fan of the limp bun. That said, if you build your own burger there are several bun types and many toppings to choose from, so next time I would definitely roll my own. They also have turkey and black bean burgers.

The burger price seemed comparable to competitors such as Burger-Fi and Shake Shack. However the “smashfries” were a rather small serving for the over $2 price. I was expecting them to have more of the rosemary flavor that warranted them being more costly than the regular fries.

Smashburger
5812 Conroy Rd
Orlando, FL 32835
(407) 440-3595
http://www.yelp.com/biz/smashburger-orlando-5