Restaurant of the Week: Fatburger, Pomona

Fatburger, 11226 4th St. (at Milliken), Rancho Cucamonga

This week’s restaurant certainly isn’t Lela’s. It could have been Pueblita, a Mexican restaurant apparently in Montclair city limits (although it’s in the Upland Business Center) at Arrow Route and Benson Avenue, where I had lunch early this week. I’d heard good things, but I would rate it only as average. If I worked in the neighborhood, I’d eat there, but since getting there meant driving past several better Mexican restaurants, I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to try it.

Instead, I’ll pick a chain operation: Fatburger, in Rancho Cucamonga, across from Ontario Mills.

Fatburger doesn’t make my favorite hamburger. That would probably be Molly’s Charbroiler, a stand on Vine Street a block below Hollywood Boulevard that is a favored stop when I go to the ArcLight. I also like Pie ‘N Burger in Pasadena, which not only makes a fantastic burger but sells you fresh-baked pie afterward.

In the Inland Valley, I’d go for Golden Ox, with three Pomona locations to serve you better. And innumerable small operations make hamburgers far tastier than McDonald’s and its ilk.

But Fatburger, just east down Fourth Street from our office, is a convenient spot, and there’s an attention to quality and freshness that puts it up there with In N Out. Fatburger’s signature item is fat, juicy and cooked to order, and loaded with shredded lettuce.

The skinny fries are pleasantly crispy, the onion rings lightly battered. They even have Cherry Coke in the dispenser. The shakes are a little disappointing and the “fat” fries are mushy for my taste, although friends like them. Fatburger also sells quite good chicken sandwiches and turkey burgers. You can even get a bacon and fried egg sandwich, which I tried once and liked.

The seating is comfortable, moreso than In N Out’s, with actual tables and chairs, plus booths. There’s a nice vibe to the place. One day my food was brought to my table by an employee wearing silk pants, like he was stopping off before hitting the clubs. The jukebox plays great R&B, rock and soul classics. Friday I heard Sly and the Family Stone, the Coasters, the Spinners and Janis Joplin.

This may reflect the clientele. This Fatburger, at least, is popular with the black community. Sometimes half the diners, as well as a majority of the employees, are black. The place opened in October 2005 and feels like it’s made a niche for itself.

If nothing else, it outlasted its next-door neighbor, Mi Tortilla, which closed a few weeks ago.

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