Biz Beat

Burger in a tasty skirt arrives in Sonora; more on the way

They had me at “cheese skirt.”

This is the aura of deliciousness that surrounds the rather legendary burger at the Squeeze Inn of Sacramento.

Travis Hausauer bought the original Squeeze Inn about 15 years ago. A feature on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” catapulted the restaurant into even more fame. Since then, it has grown into a small chain, with “Squeeze Burgers” available in nine locations. Brad Barnett wanted to bring them to Sonora. And there are more coming.

Barnett is president of Sierra Energy, which operates 16 gas stations and convenience stores in California and northern Nevada. Times have changed, he said, from when people would want to run into a convenience store to grab a package of donuts or beef jerky to tide them over to their next stop.

“What we’re finding is we’re trying to create destinations where people can stop and refuel, use the restrooms and grab good, fresh food for the road,” Barnett said. All 16 of Sierra Energy’s locations already have kitchens, providing fresh-cooked chicken and baked bread throughout the day. Adding Squeeze Burger menu items was a natural progression.

In addition to the Squeeze Burger and assorted sides, the restaurant serves frozen custard, something new around these parts. How dense is it? Barnett referred to it as concrete.

“It’s a very dense, creamy ice cream that is so thick you can turn the cup upside down,” Barnett said. “It’s a fun product.”

The Sonora restaurant opened in late September to an enthusiastic public. And Barnett said he hopes to add Squeeze Burger menu items to other locations as conditions allow, starting with Jamestown.

“We’re really thrilled with the customer response,” Barnett said. “The folks in Sonora have been awesome.”

And they are enthusiastic. My colleague Deke Farrow was up in Sonora on another assignment this week; he and photo director Joan Barnett Lee stopped by to take a look.

“I’ve been working on the cheese,” first-timer Kreg Elkins told Deke before taking a bite of the burger itself.

“Looks good,” he added, then after taking a bite, “Tastes good. The bread (bun) is tasty.”

He was eating with Manny Adriano, who said, “The skirt is really good. I pulled it off because I want to eat it last. The burger is delicious – it goes down nice.”

Deke told me he and Joan sat near a couple of customers who offered a tip on how to eat the burger – by tearing off the skirt.

“Then I noticed that a video on loop on a flat-screen, from ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,’ though playing silently, also made clear that people were tearing it off and/or folding it up into the burger,” Deke said. “I tore off part and folded the rest in, because it’s very flavorful.”

That news wouldn’t surprise Barnett; it’s part of why he brought the Squeeze to his business.

“It’s an amazing product,” he said. “I think it’s the best burger in Sacramento.

“Unfortunately, I’ve eaten dozens of them.”

Find the Squeeze Burger at 13791 Mono Way, Sonora.