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We had an awkward reunion with an old college sweetheart last week, but we still think she’s swell.
Ten years ago, back in our undergraduate days, a Cheeburger Cheeburger restaurant opened on Dickson Street in Fayetteville, and we fell in love. Part of a small national chain at the time, Cheeburger Cheeburger specialized in big burgers (including a one-pounder), terrific french fries and onion rings, and a tremendous variety of old-fashioned milkshakes.
The restaurant didn’t last long there, however, and we don’t know why. But we never came across her again — until last week, when we dropped by her new location at the Pleasant Ridge Town Center, on Cantrell Road just west of the I-430 intersection.
Now we’re both a little older. Cheeburger Cheeburger just turned 20, having been founded in 1986 on Sanibel Island, Fla. She’s also expanded around the country, with almost 70 locations in 18 states.
We visited on a recent Thursday night, and the place was packed. We stood near the door for a long time, waiting for someone to seat us. It took forever for someone to even acknowledge our presence.
That was OK, though. We were excited about reuniting with the old gal, so we shrugged off the cold shoulder, went to our table and placed our order. Signs posted around the restaurant warn that meals are cooked to order, and that it takes a little longer for the food to arrive. Still, we had been waiting for an unusually long time. Before we said anything, the owner came to our table and said the kitchen had lost our burger ticket, so we would have to re-order. The meal would be on the house, he said.
Oh, well. Our old flame wasn’t as perfect as we remembered her. But now that we have the awkwardness behind us, let’s talk about the food.
The burgers are great, as you would expect. Cheeburger Cheeburger uses premium black Angus beef, and you can taste it. We asked for medium-rare, and we got it, with a perfect pink center.
You can choose from five different sizes: the Classic (5.5 ounces), the Semi-Serious (7 ounces), the Serious (10 ounces), the Delirious (14 ounces) and the Pounder (20 ounces). The weight is measured before cooking.
As befits its name, Cheeburger Cheeburger indicates there are no hamburgers on its menu, and it offers nine cheese options, from American or cheddar to feta or bleu. There is also a choice of 32 toppings, including various sauces, vegetables, spices, and a couple of weird ones, like peanut butter and pineapple.
The onion rings are the way to go — big, delicious and cooked to perfection. We weren’t as impressed with the fries, which is saying a lot, because we love all different kinds. These just weren’t crispy or flavorful enough for our taste. But if you want to see for yourself, get the “frings” basket, which includes both fries and rings.
The decor and spirit of the place is a theme-park version of a 1950s diner. With that in mind, you should definitely take advantage of the specialty fountain drinks, like the root beer floats and cherry cola. The old-fashioned egg cream is particularly good. Stay away from the “shake-a-soda,” however. It’s just a syrup of your choice mixed with soda water, and it is a bitter concoction.
You would be crazy not to get a shake or malt, seeing as they have about 75 flavors of ice cream and a few additions (Oreo cookies, Reese’s pieces) to mix in.
Cheeburger Cheeburger’s menu goes beyond burgers with items like a grilled chicken breast sandwich, a portobello mushroom melt and a BLT. It even has a range of salads, including one that is topped with its Classic cheeseburger.
Considering the amount of food, prices are fairly reasonable. Most people order the Semi-Serious burger, which is $5.79. Medium fries (which serve to two to three people) are $2.99, and large fries are $3.99. A medium serving of onion rings is $3.99 and a large serving is $4.99.
Drinks range from $1.59 for a soft drink (with free refills) to $1.79 for a flavored soda to $1.99 for an egg cream. A half-shake or malt is $2.99, and a regular is $3.99.
That said, it’s a good place to bring a family and enjoy something a step above fast food. Because one thing it isn’t is fast.
11525 Cantrell Rd. (in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center)
Cheeseburgers, fries, milkshakes and more in a retro-diner atmosphere.
Open daily. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Moderate prices. Credit cards accepted. No alcohol.