The Guilty Pleasure: Country Fried Burger Where to Get It: Paradise Valley Burger Company, 40th Street and Bell Road Price: Seven bucks. What it Really Costs: Good luck resisting the sweets.
For some reason, the coming and arrival of the new year has brought me a serious craving for good burgers. In my neighborhood, I can barely swing a cat without hitting a fancy-pants gourmet burger joint. I like my little local spots, but they have a slight tendency to blend together into a blur. So, I keep going around town in search of something fun and new.
On a recent sojourn, I stopped by Paradise Valley Burger Company up in north Phoenix just off the 51 at 40th Street and Bell (which, in my humble but correct opinion, ain't even close to Paradise Valley), and found a hotbed of guilty pleasure burgers.
I was tempted by their weekly special, with pork sausage, mascarpone, and fried fennel, among other toppings. A scan of their Facebook page reveals a parade of outlandish burger toppings, seemingly one bad pun away from being a running joke on the Fox TV show Bob's Burgers.
However, this time I was there on a mission.
What better way to make a burger even more of a guilty pleasure than to cross it with another guilty pleasure? It so happens that PVBC has done it by crossing a burger with one of my very favorite unhealthy dinners, chicken fried steak.
To be proper, they call it the Country Fried Burger, as calling it a Chicken Fried Burger sounds like fried chicken is going to be involved, and there's an actual burger instead of the cube steak traditionally used in chicken fried steak. No matter what you call it, it's delicious.
As chicken fried steak aficionados know, there's a range of coatings to turn a piece of meat into a CFS. Some opt for a simple flour dredge, others (myself included) do a double breading with flour, egg wash, and back into the flour, and still others use ersatz substitutes such as bread crumbs or (heaven forbid) corn flakes.
PVBC goes for the simple flour dredge route. I wish they had gone with a heavier breading as the flour dredge doesn't register as much of anything once it's on the burger. However, I understand why they did it. My preferred double breading method would take the burger into carb overload. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with carb overload, mind you. I'd just like to taste the burger in there.
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The other toppings are most welcome. Country-style creamy gravy is a must for chicken fried steak, and theirs delivers a delicious punch. A big heap of crispy fried onions is certainly not traditional, but adds just enough of the crispness I wanted from a double-breaded CFS without pushing the burger off kilter. Next time I get one of these, I'm tempted to add a runny fried egg to it. And, as with most any chicken fried steak, a splash of hot sauce would also help liven up things.
Given my insane sweet tooth, it's a wonder I didn't make it out of PVBC ten pounds heavier. I kept things relatively light and sampled their French toast fries, an excellent crisp and light homemade version of those French toast sticks I remember from the school cafeteria's breakfast-for-lunch day. If I've been extra-good, next time I'll try a shake, possibly the Lucky Charms marshmallow shake.