One thing to know about the ultra-modern California State Lottery administrative campus on North 10th Street is you can’t buy a lottery ticket there. Nor can you cash in a winning ticket. But you can enjoy the mini museum of lottery-oriented memorabilia from years (and games) past, including the actual wheel from the lottery’s “Big Spin” game show, televised from 1986 to 2009.
The other thing to know is that the massive structure is home to Krush Burger, the brick-and-mortar incarnation of owner Davin Vculek’s uber-popular food trucks of the same name. The restaurant opened in February, and two other stores are scheduled to open in January, one in Davis and one in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
“Why not?” said Vculek on the phone Monday. “We’ve been talking to a franchise partner there for about a year, and now the construction is about to finish.”
Where else will Krush Burger pop up? “We’re working on two more – (a third) in the Sacramento area, another in the Roseville area – and hope to announce them pretty soon,” he said. “We want to grow as fast as we can, but in a responsible way.”
My lunch pal and I wisely arrived early and found street parking out front. The restaurant is surprisingly spacious (16 tables, four TV sets, a ceiling fan as big as an airplane propeller) and accented with rustic wood, exposed ductwork and walls of windows. It soon filled with uniformed cops and firefighters, state workers and folks from around the ’hood. Proudly displayed is the “people’s choice” trophy from the 2012 Sacramento Burger Battle.
The room sprawls, but the wall-mounted menu is to the point: six mini burgers (four beef, one fish, one turkey), salads, sides (tots and fries), milkshakes made with hand-scooped ice cream, sodas and tea, and bottled and draft craft beers, with food-and-drink combo specials ($2.65 to $7.95). We ordered four mini burgers, Krush fries, sweet potato tots and milkshakes.
While we waited for delivery to the table, we considered the mini burger concept. “A big burger is a commitment, while mini burgers are a dalliance,” the lunch pal said. “I love the size – you can have two or three kinds of burgers in one order, instead of one massive burger.”
The mini burger is another term for the slider, which was introduced when the White Castle chain opened in 1921 ( www.whitecastle.com). Generically speaking, a slider is a small sandwich made with a soft bun nestling a miniature hamburger, shredded pork, BLT, fish – whatever.
Our own mini burgers arrived and looked and tasted great. The best of the pack was Krush Burger’s signature dish, the Ninja, grilled and shredded Korean-style short rib topped with crunchy Asian slaw (fresh napa and red cabbages, shredded carrot, cilantro and jalapeño) with a side of Sriracha aioli. “Wow!” we said in unison.
Later, Vculek said, “The Ninja has such a cult following that we could never get rid of it.”
We went through the other mini burgers, and favored the Original (beef patty with grilled onion, lettuce, tomato, American cheese) over the Cow Bell (beef patty with bacon, fried onions, smoked gouda and barbecue sauce). The Fish N’ Chips mini with tartar sauce plays with words: The only “chips” are potato chips, which are crushed and mixed with bread crumbs to form the breading for the crisp cod.
The sweet potato tots were made better with dips into ancho chili pepper-honey sauce. The hot, well-seasoned fries are house-cut from Kenneback potatoes, a top-end variety widely used to make potato chips.
Quality also shows in the soft, brioche-style mini buns baked locally from a proprietary recipe, and the fresh-not-frozen ground-beef patties that are formed immediately before they’re slapped on the grill.
As for the whipped cream-topped vanilla bean and chocolate shakes, let’s say we didn’t miss the beer. “You have to work to get the shake through the straw,” said the lunch pal.
No doubt we’ll return for “little” food with big flavors, but we won’t forget about the original Krush Burger food trucks, whose locations are ever-changing. To find them, see the weekly schedule posted on the website, or follow Krush Burger on Twitter and Facebook.
Dining at Lake Tahoe
Winter is flirting with the Tahoe Basin, and soon skiers and boarders will be lined up for the lifts, just to come back down the mountain and go up again in a sporting ritual that brings to mind the Myth of Sisyphus.
Next time you’re in the area and looking for an après-ski lunch or dinner, consider the rustic lodge-like Beacon Bar & Grill at Camp Richardson. It’s the place to hang with party-hungry locals and gaze at one of the better views of Lake Tahoe.
We dropped by one recent Sunday and sampled several menu items. As always, the wine-butter-garlic-steamed clams were winners, but the best dish was the lobster and shrimp po’ boy sandwich. Chunks of battered and fried lobster tail joined fried prawns on a tender, toasted french roll with lettuce, tomato, onion rings and spicy aioli.
Surprisingly, the fish tacos were overwhelmed by too much grated cotija cheese and roasted jalapeño cream, and the usually succulent chunks of blackened mahi-mahi had been left on the grill to dry out.
The Beacon’s signature drink is a slushy, orange-colored version of the Rumrunner, topped with dark rum. It’s a cousin of the original Rumrunner, which was born in a tiki bar in the mid-1950s in the Florida Keys. The real thing calls for light and dark rums, blackberry brandy, banana liqueur, pineapple and orange juices, and grenadine, shaken and poured over ice.
Still, one of the Beacon’s Rumrunners can easily lead to two.
The Beacon, 1900 Jameson Beach Road, South Lake Tahoe; (530) 541-0630, www.camprichardson.com