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Three cheeseburgers, hold the drive-thru

Among comfort-food aficionados, few things beat a really good cheeseburger. I sampled three locally owned spots that offer friendly service, minimal frills and all the trimmings.

I'm well aware of the interesting things that can be done between two buns with a beef patty, and each of the three spots I tried offer choices far beyond the number of patties and the inclusion of cheese. But I stuck as close as possible to tradition in the quest to better contrast these similar places.

Following rules no one set, I opted for American cheese when asked, fry sauce instead of ranch, and a shake when asked what to drink.

The roundup started close to our stomping grounds, at Barney's Better Burgers, 415 Riverside Ave. There wasn't much in the way of atmosphere, but the restaurant was cozy and the tables were clean.

I took a coworker along because cheeseburgers go better with friends. We work inside all day, so we opted to dig in at the outdoor picnic tables.

We both opted for double cheeseburgers with sides of fries. I added a small shake in the flavor that piqued my interest the most: fresh banana.

The burgers were nicely presented on a red tray under a square of yellow wrap paper and a toothpick keeping it all together. The burger came with two quarter-pound patties, American cheese, mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and a pickle.

The beef patties tasted particularly fresh and were well cooked without being overdone. The pickles, which were placed on the burger, worked nicely with the other toppings' flavors. Fries were freshly prepared and served with what my coworker felt was a "generous" amount of fry sauce.

The banana shake featured chunks of real banana. Some might find the flavor a little subtle, but I thought it was ideal and I'd order it again.

The next stop was Yellow Basket in Central Point. I opted for the double cheeseburger and fries served in its namesake yellow basket. Although they offered more unique shake flavors, I went with a traditional chocolate shake.

The spot had more seating than Barney's, and like Barney's, there's not a lot to look at, but the tables were clean and the staff was friendly and attentive. I didn't even know I wanted a glass of water with my shake until they asked, and it came with the crushed ice that's rarely served in restaurants.

The burger arrived in a yellow half-wrap and featured crisp iceberg lettuce, pickles, onion and tomato dressed in a creamy red sauce. The potatoes weren't steak fries, but they were slightly larger than average, they were fresh and worked great in the basket with the ketchup squeeze bottles.

As a frequent Reader's Choice winner, Jasper's Cafe was not to be overlooked in the search for great burgers in the valley. Their menu promises "Award Winning Burgers With An Attitude," and I felt a little mundane selecting "The Classic" from among more interestingly named choices, such as "Widowmaker" and "Swiss & Wesson."

The burger arrived with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo and mustard with a pickle wedge on the side. The fries were served separately in a trendy silver bucket in white paper. The mustard and lack of pickle on the sandwich made for a little different flavor, and the fries were freshly made.

More presentation points came after I ordered a butterscotch shake. It came in a traditional malt glass instead of styrofoam and was topped with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles.

— Nick Morgan

A double cheeseburger with fries at Yellow Basket in Central Point. - Photo by Nick Morgan