Dec. 20 2013 06:53 PM

Let's embrace brown, canned chili as its own unique thing

fork photo
Yeah, the Hockey Burger is kinda gross-looking.
Photo by Jenny Montgomery

Sometimes "good enough" is exactly what hits the spot. When it comes to food, I'm not a fan of extolling the mediocre. But I'll readily admit that there are those times when you're not worried about eating the latest and greatest, but just need something tasty and served with a smile. This is the time of the year I don't need more stress and complication. Really, I just want a hamburger.

Chili Coast Burgers is in a rundown block of businesses in east Vista (1330 E. Vista Way), a hole-in-the-wall next to a battered Jazzercise building, which is fitting because you'll need to strap on your French-cut leotard and leg warmers after a meal at Chili Coast—this is a greasy burger joint for those times when nothing but Freedom Fries and burgers will do.

The Chili Coast staff has that we-sponsor-Little-League friendliness typical of tiny neighborhood joints. These burgers are solid workhorses; they aren't going to inspire breathless raves or unseat flashier (and tastier) San Diego burger faves. They're hot, well-seasoned and topped with all the expected fixings. And though they may not make anyone's "best of" list, I'd rather give my money to a tiny business that serves me with a smile than dudes with 'tudes who are put out by my patronage (looking at you, Rocky's). This is a place that serves its community by flipping burgers and frying onion rings.

Not feeling bloated enough after a holiday season filled with buttery cookies and brown-liquor-spiked nog? Then by all means, order the Hockey Burger, aka "Obesity Crisis on a Bun." It's a burger with cheese, and chili, and then a bunch of halved, grilled hotdogs. It's ridiculous—and truly unappetizing to look at. But my husband and I joyfully devoured it, denying the self-loathing that would come later as we numbed our holiday stress with meat and more meat.

The chili that tops things is that brown, pasty stuff that's never come out of any crock pot yet seems to exist as its own thing, much like a Jack in the Box taco is foul by any taco rubric yet naughtily addictive in its own, bizarre way. I like chili paste on my greasy hole-in-the-wall burgers. I didn't come here for sophistication.

And though my thoughts on the burgers might be a bit qualified, I unabashedly loved the onion rings. These bad boys were a tangled mess of glorious calories. The batter was very light and crispy, and the onions cut on the thinner side. I hate biting into an onion ring and coming away with the whole onion in my teeth, leaving a crumbling shell of batter to fall apart in your fingers. The crunchy coating and onion were fried together in delicious, salty symbiosis. 

Chili Coast Burgers is a dependable neighborhood joint. Keep it in your back pocket for those times you're wandering up north looking for a friendly place to chow down. 

Thanks for reading North Fork this year. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good bite!

Write to and Follow Jenny on Twitter @jennymontyinsd.


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