This is the fourth in a series reviewing burgers offered by Menlo Park establishments.
Left Bank on Santa Cruz Avenue opened in 1998 in what was once a bank space, and serves a half pound burger with lettuce, tomato, and onion on a potato bun with a basket fries for $9.75. Cheese and premium toppings are each a $1.50 extra.
Stepping beyond the elaborate bar into the dining room, sitting at a table with a white tablecloth, wondering how exactly they printed those giant posters that line the walls, you realize that this is no burger joint. But hidden somewhere on the menu in between the Salade Nicoise and the Poulet Fermier is Le Burger Américain, which, if I’m not mistaken, loosely translates to The American Hamburger.
When thinking of America, a French person might imagine cowboys, fast food, and jeans, but one specific quality would surely come to mind — big. Double the size, weight, and thickness of the typical quarter pounder, the burger at Left Bank is definitely that. The half-pound of ground beef excels at retaining juices that inject a meaty flavor into your mouth. Its sheer mass draws the lettuce, tomato and red onion in with its gravitational field. An equally hefty potato bun dusted with gritty cornmeal is required in order to handle the massive burger.
It’s debatable whether Le Burger Américain is complete without melted cheese on the patty. Thankfully there’s no processed American cheese product at Left Bank. It may be because American cheese isn’t really cheese. Or maybe it’s just because it’s a French restaurant. In any case, Left Bank’s offerings — Cheddar, Emmenthal (shown pictured) and blue cheese — not the creamy singles, justify the buck-fifty extra. An additional $1.50 grants the option of adding bacon, avocado, or mushrooms.
Contrary to popular belief (well maybe only my belief) pommes frites are not fried apples; they are in fact the familiar French fries. Thin, crispy and salty, the fries are held in a wire basket that resembles an inverted ball whisk. They are gratuit with the burger, although honest fries can be worth a lot.
Left Bank is an entirely new scene for the cheeseburger. A place that suits a wingtip or loafer better than those no-longer-white running shoes you own, but is fine for jeans. A place where a conversation can be held without the crunching of peanut shells on the floor or the intermittent uproar in favor of the local team. So enjoy your company, savor the burger massif and have a couple fries before your friends begin to sneak a few.
Photo by Linda Hubbard Gulker