Every year, when the Reader publishes a burger issue, a good chunk of San Diego’s population only seems to care about one thing: was Rocky’s Crown Pub included?
3235 Old Highway 395, Fallbrook
This year, the Crown Point mainstay was not. The resulting kicking back was no surprise. “You people are high. Rocky's is still the best,” said one commenter. Some offered profanities, while others abused the rules of punctuation to express their dissatisfaction. There was a “Rocky’s Forever!!!!!” and a “Nothing but Rocky's!!!!!!!!!!” Another commenter managed to get the point across with only one exclamation, suggesting, “Sacrilege!”
First of all, while it’s easy to interpret a feature on 40 burger spots as a list of the region’s best 40 burgers, that’s not how we wrote it. Making that annual list would be boring to write and more boring to read, because — if the Rocky purists are to be believed — we would have to highlight the same 30 burgers year after year, with maybe ten flash-in-the-pans rotating in and out. Meanwhile, access to ground beef is fairly universal, and I can personally attest there are at least a hundred good burgers being made in San Diego on a regular basis. A burger issue becomes more interesting for everyone if we find new ones that could be added to any subjective best-of list.
Meaning, we didn’t exclude Rocky’s to make a point about its burgers, or because we somehow missed it these nearly 40 years. We’re a bunch of food writers in San Diego; of course we’ve eaten burgers at Rocky’s. So has everyone. That’s the point.
Someone once told me you can spot the best year of a person’s life by looking at the way they dress. A guy who pops his shirt collars had a great 1980s. Someone living in plaid flannels may have peaked in the 1990s. And so on. Likewise, all these people who insist Rocky’s offers the best burger in San Diego, hands down, no questions asked — I suspect they had their best burger times at least a good 15 or 20 years ago. Because if all these Rocky’s fanboys went out for some blind taste-testing right now, I promise there are better burgers being made. But sure, if you go back in time, then yes, conventional wisdom suggested Rocky’s made the best burger in San Diego, 30 years ago.
But did it?
Another lone commenter presented a much calmer argument about a favorite burger spot missing from the 2019 issue, simply stating: “Nessy Burgers in Fallbrook.”
Now here’s a spot not all of us have tried, despite the fact Nessy Burgers is currently celebrating its 30th year in business. I blame the location. The 15 freeway adjacent burger shack in Fallbrook started out in a trailer, and though it’s moved from its original location and grown into a permanent structure on Old Highway 395, it apparently still serves the same, seasoned, half-pound patties, a chuck and sirloin blend. The Nessy Burger comes with American cheese, standard. At $7.95 it’s roughly the same price and composition of a Rocky’s half pound cheeseburger: lettuce, tomato, and onions, though Rocky’s goes pickle and mayo versus Nessy’s thousand island.
I might have to drive a little farther to get the Nessy burger, but here’s the thing, Rocky’s fans: I like the beef and bun better. Or should I say, better!!!! Which makes Nessy’s the better burger. Which makes Rocky’s not the absolute best burger in San Diego, no questions asked. All these years. Can you imagine?