By Michael Chin
When I first heard of Peter’s Gourmade, it sounded interesting: I heard tell of the ABC Burger and Greek Fries, some pictures on Facebook, etc. I was intrigued enough, so I did some research. I uncovered three key words that piqued my interest: Former gas station.
These words alone sent shivers going down my spine (in a good way!) and warm fuzzies straight to that muscle going thump-thump in my ribcage. It reminded me of Naglee Park Garage, the restaurant built out of a garage in my old stomping grounds of San Jose. It was a block away from my old college, and was in the same building as my favorite bagel joint in the entire world. Suffice it to say that in my ethos, it’s perfectly normal to associate the smells of good food where one would expect to smell gasoline. It’s a wonder, then, how it took me so long to actually hike out and try Peter’s Gourmade.
I know my bias must seem apparent here, but trust me when I say that my taste buds were not all lost in playful nostalgia at the sight of the restaurant’s taped-off gas station remnants. The whole atmosphere of the place screamed some sort of dystopia that the taste of the food belied. While waiting for our orders, we noticed some of the dated music playing over the speakers and, looking out at the sun creeping downward past Peter’s 6 p.m. dinner hour, a friend ruminated that this must be what post-apocalyptic America would be like.
If Peter’s Gourmade is indeed what the Armageddon holds for us, then we are in for a treat. On the recommendation from pretty much everybody I talked to, I got the ABC Burger. And while it doesn’t seem terribly difficult to screw up a burger with avocado, bacon and cheddar, Peter definitely does the combination justice. The bacon accentuated the savoriness of the patty in the deliciously salty way that only bacon can, and the butteriness of the avocado was not forgotten as a slightly brighter but mellow note in the combination; a potato bun held together all of these components.
Though the low notes were all placed perfectly, I was still aching for something bright and vibrant. Beef, avocado, bacon and cheese all contribute to a very savory burger, but after a while all of these flavors seem to melt together into a salty mess on the palate. Fresh red onion would have done the trick here but was sadly vacant, and even though I really do appreciate the subtlety of caramelized onions, I felt they didn’t really have a place in this burger. My personal suggestion to remedy this on the fly is to make use of the various hot sauces outside the order window (straight Tabasco for me, thanks).
I sprang for the combo (plus $2.75 for shoestring fries and a drink), because this is America and that’s just how we do it. The beverage is obviously essential to tackling this massive portion of food, and though I’ve always been a root beer guy I do give them props for carrying RC Cola and horchata.
The shoestring fries, on the other hand, were unfortunately forgettable. One of my compatriots optioned for the sweet potato fries, which were well worth the extra dollar (plus $3.75 for the combo). The sweet potato fries were much crisper and stayed fresher longer, and though each fry was a bit shorter than your average affair, they were still a much better compliment to the ABC than the dangling, soggy standards left stranded in the bottom of my bag.
Peter’s Gourmade may not be the most beautiful dining setting in Orange County, but its vaguely ramshackle disposition and surprisingly gourmet food options (definitely going to come back to try the lamb chops) give Peter’s Gourmade the kind of personality you don’t see enough of around here. Going to Peter’s is as much about experience as it is food, and I personally find that a stripped-down atmosphere like Peter’s also strip away social pretension. We stood while we ate, but only because there were four of us and our table only sat two. Some of the employees brought out chairs for a different group, but we didn’t feel like bothering them for more seats. We preferred to stand as we ate, if only so we could bend forward as we took larger bites of perfectly-cooked burgers; drops of burger juice and bits of food fell on the floor instead of a tablecloth, and we did not care.