Main Street Burgers is a Cut Above

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Main Street Burgers is both the antidote to the classic American meal and its champion. If state and federal governments weren’t so corrupted by money from the meat industry, hamburgers would be illegal.

The fast-food burger is a quadruple threat: to animals, the environment, workers and public health. The cattle are raised in feedlots so crowded and filthy the animals must be administered antibiotics to keep them alive long enough to make it to slaughter. The overuse of these drugs lessens their effective for humans by breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Mountains of manure from feedlots are piled into oceanic, untreated “lagoons” that poison lakes, rivers and the air. Workers for industrial meat processors like Con-Agra and Tyson labor in dangerous and inhumane conditions. Feces contaminated beef sickens and kills thousands of people every year.

Do you want that burger for here or to go?

In spite of these crimes against humanity, the industrial hamburger remains as popular as ever. Americans ate about 9 billion burgers in 2010, an average of about one every two weeks for each person in the country, according to the research firm NPD Group. Burgers aren’t going anywhere.

Los Gatos’ Main Street Burgers has recognized that fact and has opted to serve a better burger. I reviewed Main Street Burgers when it opened, back in 2005. I’m pleased to see the business has thrived and that it even underwent a recent expansion.

I’m also happy that Main Street has upgraded its burgers. When the place first opened, it served Harris Ranch “natural” beef burgers, factory-farmed burgers that made loose claims to being antibiotic-free.

Now, Main Street serves Niman Ranch beef. While Niman Ranch isn’t as good for the environment and public health as pasture-raised, grass-fed beef, it is antibiotic-free and light years better than industrial grade beef that goes into 99.999 percent of the beef Americans wolf down.

The restaurant also gets points for using Diestel turkey, a California company that produces humanely raised, antibiotic-free birds. They also uses wild salmon in their salmon burgers and compostable cups, a great alternative to plastic as long the cups are properly composted and don’t get buried in landfills where they’ll live side by side with their plastic brethren for eternity.

On the downside, Main Street Burgers used to serve Rocky Jr. chicken in its chicken sandwiches, a step above the factory-farmed chicken that dominates the market. The restaurant has since switched to Koch Foods for its chicken, a company that makes no claims about the absence of hormones or antibiotics.

That’s too bad. Customers obviously appreciate the provenance of the burgers. A factory-farmed, feedlot cow is just as bad as a factory-farmed, feedlot chicken.

OK, enough with the food politics. The Main Street Original burger ($5.99, $6.99 with cheese) is the classic burger served on an excellent egg bun with the restaurant’s signature sauce (basically thousand-island island dressing). My favorite is the Nirvana Burger ($9.50), smoked cheddar, house-made bacon-onion jam and mildly spicy Sriracha mayonnaise. So much better than a Big Mac.

If beef isn’t your thing, the wild Alaska burger ($8.99) served with sliced cucumbers and standard toppings on a nine-grain bun is a good choice.

In addition to the restaurant’s expansion, Main Street Burgers has improved its beer and wine and dessert selections. It still serves great milkshakes ($4.50 for small, $6 for large) made with Treat Ice Cream, a San Jose company that’s been around since 1951. Go for the salted caramel. You won’t be sorry.

What has been around that long is the restaurant’s anti-grill,” a quick chill machine that hardens ice cream and anything else you put on it. Main Street uses it to make ice cream sandwiches ($5). Choose a flavor and either a graham cracker or brownie cookie crust.

The wines and beers on tap are a step up. Main Street serves chardonnay and pinot noir from Parducci and Paul Dolan, two green wine producers as well as beer from Trumer Pils, Blue Moon and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. If you want to go in a different direction, there’s Pabst in a 16-ounce can.

At Main Street Burgers, you can enjoy the classic American meal without contributing to our collective demise in the process. A milkshake or glass of good beer or wine makes it go down even better.

Main Street Burger
20 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos
408.354.1881

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