It’s almost a law: You can’t drive down Interstate 5 without stopping for a burger and fries. Back home in California, of course, it’s In-N-Out that’s everyone’s favorite I-5 stopover. In the Northwest, no sooner will the phrase “road trip” cross your lips than someone will mention Burgerville.
Burgerville — at least the location in Centralia where we stopped yesterday — looks and feels much like any major fast-food outlet. Unlike other specialty burger spots, there’s nothing retro, chic or upscale about it. But when you take a closer look at the menu, you notice some telling differences: Tilllamook cheddar cheese, seasonal fresh berry shakes, Diestel Farms’ free-range turkey, and Oregon Country natural beef — just like at Palace Kitchen.
Holy cats! It even says “fresh, local, sustainable” right there on the brightly-colored menu board, in huge letters… and yet, everyone eating (and working) here looks like normal semi-rural folks, just like you’d probably see in the McBurgBox down the road. Nobody’s a hippie, nobody looks like Alice Waters. It’s downright tear-jerking to see so many of My Fellow Americans choosing to vote with their wallets and feed themselves something other than crap.
The fries are pretty good, with a nice potato-y taste; the so-called ketchup we’re dipping them in is ghastly, worse than you’d find at a cheap diner. The burgers are merely serviceable: They may be made from happy cows, but they’re typical machine-made smashpatties, cooked to within an inch of their lives. They’re saved from snackbar status by fluffy sesame-seed buns, leafy lettuce, truly ripe tomatoes, and tasty cheese. And Cam’s Mocha Perk milkshake — made with real ice cream — sports little flecks of espresso.
As much of a sustainable-food geek as I am, I’m not sure I could give up In-N-Out for Burgerville; the food’s just not as tasty. But it’s a damn sight better than McD’s or any other mainstream greasepit, and a worthy stop when hunger strikes on your next Northwest road trip.
Cameron says: I’m not in love with B-ville — certainly not enough to give up In-N-Out. But Anita pegged how I feel about the place as we were pulling out of the parking lot: “I don’t feel like I just ate a vat of chemicals.” A poignant note, particularly with the memory of a desperate, nasty, late-night trip to Jack-In-The-Crack in Seattle still fresh in my mind.
818 Harrison Avenue
Centralia, WA 98531
(and 38 other locations in Oregon and SW Washington)