The only thing I like more than a corny play on words is a slightly naughty play on words, so the rough-and-tumble food truck in the parking lot at Planet X behind Chilkoot Charlie's had already won me over with its catchphrase: "Everyone loves a Quickie."
As a joke, it's cheap yet satisfying, which is an apt metaphor for the food. And when you're flipping burgers out of a van in Spenard, a little audacity is a fine thing. It helps if you're flipping some of this city's best burgers and -- no need to skip ahead -- they are.
My daughters and I stopped by to grab a short-order picnic on a recent sunny weekday. The chef (and chief bottle-washer, as far as I could tell) was friendly, funny and efficient. My 9-year-old ordered a "Smile Kids Meal" ($6) with a plain cheeseburger. My 14-year-old ordered a double-double Quickie burger ($7) with bacon (an additional $2). I ordered the Big Alaska off of the specialty menu ($9). According to the menu, Quickie burgers feature ¼ pound patties and specialty burgers boast 1/3-pound burgers. So size-wise, our order was like the three bears.
Fries and tots rounded out our order. We grabbed our greasy paper bags and headed to a park to enjoy our spoils.
The Smile Kids Meal is Quickie Burger's version of a Happy Meal, and we were all disproportionately enchanted by it. A cheeseburger, french fries, juice box and toy are packed into a smiley-faced lunch sack. I feel firmly that all meals should come with a toy (my daughter's was a mini-Frisbee, which she gave to one of her stuffed animals). I was further enchanted by the price.
Trying her simple cheeseburger was a good way to taste the basic building blocks of their burgers unmasked by all of the usual fixings. It's a well-cooked, flavorful patty -- generously sized but not so thick that you end up with a mealy interior (I know a lot of people like a rare burger but I'm not one of them). But it's the house-made, Hawaiian-style bun that is the Quickie burger signature -- smooth, pliant and sweet.
The double-double was a big step up the size ladder. Stuffed with fresh tomato, onions and lettuce, this sandwich is a two-hand, three-napkin sandwich. The added bacon is a must -- creating the perfect salty, smoky foil to the sweet bun. My daughter -- a burger lover -- adored this burger but couldn't finish it.
My burger was even more of a behemoth. Described as an Alaska-styled Big Mac, it was everything good about the chain burger (special sauce) without the bad (cardboard patty, insipid bun). It's an elevated version -- elevated and on steroids. If the double-double is a two-hand, three-napkin affair, then the Big Alaska is a two-hand, stuff-napkins-into-your-collar kind of burger. Next time, I'll add bacon and extra pickles to provide a little salty, vinegary balance against the sweetness of the meat and burger sauce. That said, I fought valiantly to finish this delicious creation. I fought and lost. I challenge anyone to start and finish it without requiring a nap afterward.
Now for the bad news: the sides. The french fries ($2) were, to be kind, lackluster. Good fries should be salted straight out of the fryer when the salt has a chance to cling. These are served with a couple of salt packets, which were insufficient to the task when we settled down to eat them 15 minutes after pickup. In fact, french fries aren't really an ideal to-go food to begin with. Cold fries? Meh. The tots ($2) were even worse -- they had a strange, earthy taste -- as if the oil had turned.
Here's the thing. I don't need french fries. These burgers could literally be "all that and a bag of chips." Or scoop of potato salad. Or coleslaw. Just make it good.
The following week I took my husband for lunch -- I called ahead so I could pick up my order with no waiting. I ordered the Philly and my husband ordered the Bacon My Blues Away burger (Bob Belcher would be proud). My Philly ($9) was fine on a big, doughy bun with lots of sliced beef, but it wasn't remarkable. Swiss cheese is a sort of bland choice and the onions were so finely diced that they didn't add any bite to the sandwich. The whole sandwich was OK but lacked impact.
Which cannot be said for the Bacon My Blues Away burger ($8). This is an assertive burger. Fried blue cheese, sharp cheddar and layers of bacon all combine to create an unusually flavorful burger experience. Also, like the other specialty burgers, it was giant -- only inspiring minor resentment from my husband as I abandoned my Philly and stole bites from his order. "For research purposes," I said.
There are a lot of good reasons to spend time in Spenard. Add Quickie Burger to the growing list. After all, everyone loves a Quickie.
Location: 27th Avenue in the Planet X parking lot
Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; closed Mondays
Alaska Dispatch Publishing