Guilty Pleasures

The Big Buck Burger at Wimpy's Paradise in Chandler is a High-Protein, Fried Bologna Wonder

The Guilty Pleasure: The Big Buck Burger
Where to Get It: Wimpy's Paradise
Price: $10.50
What it Really Costs: Enough protein to put your gut through its paces for hours to come.  

There's something about Wimpy's Paradise in downtown Chandler that makes you feel like you're visiting with old friends — even if it happens to be your first time dining at the restaurant.

This burger, hot dog, and ice cream eatery, which is located in the San Marcos Place plaza, offers the kind of homespun charm you thought only existed in a Hallmark made-for-TV movie. The dining room is decked out in vintage signage (including several tributes to Wimpy, the burger-loving character from the old Popeye cartoons and comics, which inspired the name of the restaurant), plus enough Steelers football memorabilia to remove any doubts about who the owners will root for come preseason. 

The restaurant's real charm shines through in the service, though. Randy Walters, who owns and runs Wimpy's Paradise with his family, is a gracious and easygoing host, checking in with guests to make sure plates have been prepared to their specification, and always ready to divulge stories about the menu's quirkier items and his family's long history in the restaurant business (Wimpy's Paradise evokes the name and style of two bygone family restaurants back in Walters' native Pennsylvania, which his father owned in the years leading up to World War II.) 

One of Walters' best food yarns has to do with the time he invented a Twinkie hot dog moments before going on live television to promote National Hot Dog Day. The creation was so successful, it earned a spot on the restaurant's permanent menu. It's called The Twilly Dog, and it features a plump Hebrew National Hot Dog encased in the pillowy, creamy yellow cushion of an old-fashioned Twinkie bar. Bacon and peanut butter are key ingredients, and the alternating notes of sweet and savory in every bite will both confuse and delight your palate. 

The Twilly Dog is a must-try for serious hot dog aficionados, but if a juicy burger is more to your liking, we suggest the Big Buck Burger. Every dish on the Wimpy's Paradise menu has a story, and the story here is that the Big Buck was inspired by a former customer, Dan Buck, who is described on the menu as a "mailman and customer extraordinaire."

We should all be so lucky as to have a delicious burger named after us — and the Big Buck is very delicious. The half-pound of Angus ground chuck at the heart of the burger is cooked to a juicy medium-rare, and then capped with a thick slab of fried bologna. Bologna, that gummy, squishy mystery meat staple of grade-school brown-bag lunches, has never tasted better than on this burger. It adds another layer of salty, porky, and slightly peppery flavor to the burger, and as any fan of fried bologna will tell you, frying up the stuff only adds to its appeal. 

The Big Buck also comes topped with a fried egg, because fried bologna and eggs go together like burgers and fries, which is cemented in place by a thick slice of American cheese. It all makes for a sturdy, thick burger, full of heft and juice, packaged as neatly as a well-made club sandwich. If you think about it, the Big Buck is sort of a tribute to the three most beloved animal proteins in America — chicken, pork, and beef are all essentially represented here — making this a protein-lover's smorgasbord of a meal. Like Wimpy's Paradise itself, the charms of the Big Buck Burger are too many to resist. 

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Patricia Escárcega was Phoenix New Times' food critic.