By Ron Bechtol
If you had a model train set as a kid, you’ll be thrilled. If you didn’t have one, you can bask in vicarious nostalgia. (This is mostly a guy thing, I know, but surely more than one girl has also fantasized over the miniature world conjured by a hootin’ and puffin’ tin horse.)
There is, of course, more to Cheesy Jane’s than a miniature train circling overhead; there’s also the brightly colored space furnished with diner-style chairs and booths and punctuated by nostalgic neon. And while we’re on a nostalgic journey, there are the milkshakes — malt optional. In my model train days there were three flavors: vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. Cheesy Jane’s trumps tradition by offering 25 varieties, among them Dreamsicle (itself nostalgic) and Mint Chocolate Chip Oreo. I can only testify to the Dark Chocolate Espresso: It was excessive, and excessively good, and there was something almost sinfully satisfying about refilling the classic glass with the portion that remained in the mixing tin.
Continuing down the nostalgia trail, I don’t recall there being “starters” in long-ago burger joints — though there were also neither nachos, chips nor salsa in my neck of the woods. Cheesy Jane’s, however, offers something called Spicy Splinters, and they are worth breaking stride for. The “splinters” consist of onion parts that might have not made the cut for rings and slices of jalapeño, all lightly dusted in cornmeal, fried and served with a ranch dressing that’s thankfully not thickened to a fare-thee-well. Recommended — especially if you’re contemplating standard fries, Sweetie Fries (yes, sweet potato) or Tater Tots (a personal fave) with your classic grilled burger.
Cheesy Jane’s burgers, whether served at the restaurant or from the colorfully painted truck, have been satisfying in the past (the local favorite bean burger is also mine), so on this last occasion I felt the urge to step out of the zone and try something new. Voila! The Southwest Turkey Burger. Be warned (or perhaps encouraged): “Southwest” is taken seriously. The slab of ground turkey is draped in an entire blistered (though not blistering) and peeled chile, the cheese is pepper jack, and the bun is cheddar jalapeño. Oh, yes — there’s also South of the Border Mayo. And the result is remarkably restrained, especially as the turkey itself is low-key. Nostalgia has its place, but it occasionally does need to make way for tomorrow’s traditions.