A good cheese burger, chocolate shake and fries; you can’t get a meal more American than that.
There are two, what I’ll call, old-fashioned dive burger joints in Livermore. There is Ben’s Burgers, which I wrote about back in June; and there is John’s Char-Burgers, which just happens to be #29 of my Great Livermore Restaurant Challenge adventure where I’m on my way to eat at every restaurant in Livermore.
There are other old-fashioned style burger places in town like Nation’s, Foster’s Freeze and maybe you can count In-N-Out as well. But those places are chains that lack that wonderful dive aspect that make dives so great. John’s, located on the edge of downtown on Old First Street, is one of those places. You can tell you’re at the right place by the old brick facade and large faded sign.
Take a step inside and it feels like you stepped back in time. You’ll think you walked into the Brady Bunch era with their yellow laminate countertops and orange vinyl booths. Everything from their napkin holders to the coffee machine is just as it was long ago. I don’t know how long, but they that color yellow has been out of style for at least two-to-three generations.
Whenever I go to a new place to eat, my friend’s words run through my mind, “When you go out to eat, go with what they’re good at!”
At John’s the choice is obvious. Here’s what my wife and I ordered:
- 1/4 lb Char Burger with Cheese ($5.30)
- 1/3 lb Super Burger with Cheese ($5.95)
- Small Order of Fries ($2.45)
- Large Chocolate Shake ($4.75)
- Water ($0.00)
With tax, our total bill came to $20.11 which is a bit on the expensive side. Ordering the exact same thing at Ben’s Burgers will run $14.55 including tax. That’s pretty significant difference. But is the price worth it? Let’s find out…
One of my pet peeves with hamburgers is hard tasteless tomatoes and white (or yellow) lettuce. When my John’s burger was placed in front of me, I was happily surprised. Fresh green lettuce, a ripe red juicy tomato, and a cut of a beautiful red onion was layered between a juicy burger and its bun. I was in heaven!
The small order of fries is no small fry either (ha!), definitely enough for the two of us. They were served unsalted and piping hot right out of the fryer.
I’m a complete sucker for a good shake and my chocolate shake was no exception. I do have to be careful as too much shake can put me out of commission.
Now that I’ve been to both burger dives in Livermore, which one do I like best? Well, it depends. Both get 4 out of 5 Yelp stars for good reason.
At Ben’s you get a great meal and a superb bang for your buck. It’s a much cheaper meal especially if you’re ordering for a bunch of people. But they are a little off the beaten path over on Rincon Avenue at Pine Street.
John’s is more expensive, but you get better produce. Personally I’d give their burger the edge. They also have a better location as they are right on the edge of downtown, a block away from the Livermore Cinemas.
Differences aside, you really can’t go wrong at either place. That’s what makes Livermore such a great place to live; we have so many great places to eat in town. If you’re looking for a great old-fashioned hamburger I highly recommend John’s Char-Burgers.
What do you think about John’s? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.