Late last year, a significant moment in burger history occurred. Las Vegas became the first place in the world where you could dine on two of the country’s best fast-food burgers, when Shake Shack began selling its Shackburger down the street from In-N-Out’s Double-Double. The unique honor was short-lived; a scant six months later, Austin, Texas also had both esteemed burger purveyors.
But leave it to Vegas to eclipse its high-water mark. Last month, the Habit Charburger arrived in our Valley, resulting in a veritable holy trinity of fast-food burgerdom.
If you haven’t spent much time in Southern California, you might not be familiar with the Habit Burger Grill. Founded in Santa Barbara in 1969, the chain has grown to over 100 locations (with 15 planned for the Vegas area) and has a cult following of its own. It offers the standard trappings of a fast-food joint with an airy atmosphere and upbeat music to complement its variety of burger options. But the complimentary pepper bar—pepperoncini for everyone!—and strawberry limeade are almost worth a visit on their own. The Habit is just a little different than other places you’re used to.
At its first local restaurant in the bright Hughes Center strip mall on Flamingo, the Habit is about more than just burgers. Other sandwiches include chicken ($6) and a line-caught albacore tuna filet ($7), but most interesting is the tri-tip ($7), a specialty from the California Central Coast. Served with either barbecue or teriyaki sauce on your choice of bread, it’s an interesting sidebar to typical fast-food fare, even if the meat can be a tad chewy at times.
In a survey of fast-food restaurants from across the country, Consumer Reports chose the Charburger ($3.15) as the country’s best. While Shake Shack wasn’t on that list, local stalwarts In-N-Out, Five Guys and Smashburger made the cut, so that’s solid competition. Simply adorned with mayo, pickle, tomato, shredded lettuce and caramelized onions on a toasted sesame seed bun—cheese costs an extra 55 cents—the Charburger is all about that char; the thin patty’s exterior is smoky but not overwhelming. I prefer the double ($4.15), because if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing twice.
You might want yours Santa Barbara-style ($6), gilded with cheese and avocado and layered between slices of grilled sourdough. I think the extra attention is unnecessary and prefer the standard burger, but it’s a nice alternative—and if the avocado makes the sandwich seem healthy and therefore justifies the addition of textbook French fries ($2) or well-seasoned onion rings ($2.35), it’s a win-win.
Having eaten at all of the contenders, I’m not certain I’m ready to let Consumer Reports make my ultimate dining decisions. But I could certainly make a habit of the Habit, and you might want to, too.
The Habit Burger Grill 365 Hughes Center Drive #110, 702-838-0593. Sunday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m.