A flat bacon avocado cheeseburger and boring zucchini fries
  • A flat bacon avocado cheeseburger and boring zucchini fries
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Money Pit

1360 E. Mission Road, San Marcos

Drive-thru burger joints hold a distinct place in Southern California lore, but this being the 21st Century, the only burger I’m willing to eat in my car anymore starts and ends with the word “double.”

Then I heard about this place in San Marcos, the Money Pit, where the chief complaint among customers is how long the drive-thru takes. Since I was in the area, I figured I would find out for myself how well their on-the-go burger holds up. Since I wasn’t in a hurry, I parked and checked out the restaurant’s interior.

Drive-thru customers might never realize the Money Pit has an interesting interior.

Drive-thru customers might never realize the Money Pit has an interesting interior.

Phone booth, stoplight, and kitschy posters

Phone booth, stoplight, and kitschy posters

The dining room is clean and comfortable, with plenty of colorful décor — movie posters, kitschy mid-century marketing materials, and quite a few used license plates.

A basic hamburger goes for $1.98. I ordered one with bacon, avocado, and cheese for a mere $3.75. That’s remarkable in 2015. Even my side of zucchini fries cost $3.20. But let’s examine that for a moment: a pile of sliced, breaded, and fried zucchini costs nearly as much as a ground beef patty, avocado, and bacon on a bun with cheese. That’s actually a bit disconcerting.

When the burger arrived, the mystery was solved. For one, that’s American cheese, which does occasionally work but doesn’t add value to this burger. For another, the avocado wasn’t creamy in texture and had a little bit of a burnt flavor to it. The patty itself was thin and dry.

The zucchini fries came with a huge side of ranch dressing, which I soon realized was the only thing giving the partially crispy fried veggies any flavor. Obviously, zucchini’s not anybody’s favorite anything, but some seasoned breading and a good dipping sauce should make it worth three bucks.

I wanted to love this place — it’s clearly trying — but the quality of food tells me the Money Pit would have been better off with bare walls and better ingredients.

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