- 2995 Vista Blvd., Sparks, NV, 89434
- Overall User Rating:
- (3 ratings)
- 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Sometimes, you just want a burger.
Nothing fancified, foodie-ized or given a locavore updo. Just something a little greasy, a little messy and a whole lot filling. With something fried playing wingman.
That's where Ernie's All American Burger comes in. The joint — I use that term affectionately — occupies a storefront space and drive-through in a pocket center that also contains a gas station-cum-convenience store.
The setting possesses an offbeat charm wholly preferable, I think, to the Italianesque blandness of D'Andrea Marketplace at once hulking and meandering right across the boulevard.
Take the toast
You could have an Ernie's quarter-pound cheeseburger on a sesame bun, but Texas toast -- thick and buttery -- is the way to go. I skip the grilled onions and have mine in classic style: ketchup, lettuce, tomato and a smattering of pickles.
The burger, hot off the grill, is moist and beefy; its juice anoints my fingers; a pile of napkins quickly disappears.
Corrugated fries, nicely crisp-tender, also disappear quickly. As does a mound of onion rings served in a snack-shack paper boat that seems entirely appropriate to Ernie's.
Breading is properly integrated so the onion doesn't slip from it, thank goodness, on first bite.
Service is order-counter casual at Ernie's. Utensils and condiments are help-yourself. Cooks, fresh from the grill, deliver trays of food in the cheery, golden dining room set with booths and tables and garnished with culinary art.
My companion unwraps a cod sandwich that arrives neatly packaged in kitchen paper. The sandwich is only $5.49 with fries and a large drink; my cheeseburger with fries and drink is an even better deal at $4.99.
The fish offers gentle crispness that's right for a sandwich (snap-crisp texture, on the other hand, is more suited to fish and chips).
Hot cakes, egg sandwiches and breakfast burritos populate Ernie's morning menu. Lunch and dinner include three seeming strays —linguine Alfredo, spaghetti Bolognese and chicken parmesan — from the land of red-check tablecloths and raffia-robed Chianti.
For the sake of inclusiveness, I should tuck into the Alfredo, I think, but there are simply too many temptations issuing from grill and fryer.
Chili cheese fries feature more of those shingled fries, an inky chili and shredded cheese all settled into a deep, rich, meaty, cheesy core.
Chicken strips, generously portioned and with that smidge of grease you want, flaunt their attractions atop a heap of fries filling a round aluminum take-out pan, the same kind that Chinese restaurants use for noodles.
When I've got only fries left, I dredge them in the remains of the chili.
The real Ernie
Ernie's grilled cheese alone is worth a drive from Reno to Sparks.
Texas toast is spread with Ernie's sauce and lined with American cheese, onions and tomato.
The sandwich celebrates essentials — toasty white bread, sliced cheese, yielding crunchiness — while also offering refreshing hits of sweetness from the grilled onions and acidity from the tomatoes.
After a recent visit to the restaurant, I learn there's no Ernie behind Ernie's grilled cheese or Ernie's cheeseburger or Ernie's itself. The name, it turns out, is a play on the last name of Christopher Ernster, a co-owner.
Would it make Ernie's story more colorful if there were a real Ernie, a grizzled short-order veteran, working the grill? Of course. But it hardly matters. In spirit or in fact, Ernie's is just plain good.