FAIRFIELD — Anyone who’s had a burger from Dave’s in the past 49 years knows what it tastes like today.
Dave’s Giant Hamburgers has been at its North Texas Street location for 49 years and still uses the same kind of meat, buns and cheese as it did when it opened. Even the grill is original.
“When you buy a burger here, you know it’s super fresh and it’s Kraft cheese,” said Lesa Gonzalez, daughter of the original owner, Dave Heim. “When people come back and are hitting the town, they have to hit Dave’s.”
Gonzalez now runs the burger joint after her dad died six years ago. Recently, her mother Carol couldn’t handle the day-to-day operation, so Gonzalez jumped in. Gonzalez is no stranger to the place as she has helped out on and off since she started making milkshakes in the eighth grade.
Heim had never owned a restaurant before walking away from his accountant job in San Francisco to open the small burger shack that backs up to Armijo High School. She said he hated accounting and loved big, juicy burgers like Nation’s.
That led to him taking over the business from another owner and renaming it. At one point, the sign read “Heimburgers,” but was eventually taken down due to confusion by customers.
It wasn’t long before he started picking up business and bonding with the customers. His orange Chevy truck became a landmark, parked outside while he flipped burgers.
“He lived here,” Gonzalez said. “When you saw the truck around town, everybody knew it was Dave driving by.”
Much of the 1950s-themed decor still looks as it did years ago. The checkerboard floors, bar stools and turquoise paint speak of a diner from the past. As for that paint, apparently Heim was notorious for finding a bargain. When it came to painting, a buddy turned him on to some cheap paint. He agreed and slapped a coat on.
“My dad was color blind, in his defense,” she said with a laugh. “He got a good deal. The good deal was mixing all of the paint colors together.”
As the reputation grew, so did the stories behind one of the things that set Dave’s apart from nearly every burger joint. Dave’s does not sell french fries. While there are many stories behind the reason, Gonzalez said it comes down to money. It was more work than they were worth after buying the fryer, keeping it up, buying the grease and selling the fries for a small profit.
“He had a million jokes about that,” she said. “People that like the burger get it. We don’t need the fries.”
Patrons must settle for a bag of chips or chili as a side dish. Gonzalez said some people will walk out when they realize there are no fries.
“They leave. It happens. But we’re not here to make them happy,” she said. “We know it’s a new person when someone orders fries.”
One regular who doesn’t mind is Taylor Torrence, who has been eating there since he was in first grade.
“With how good the burgers are, I don’t need them,” the 18-year-old said of fries. “I know most of the workers here, too. It’s a nice environment.”
Serving him that cheeseburger was Kelly Paulson, Gonzalez’s daughter. The 24-year-old worked with her grandfather when he used to bring her home from school. At one point, she was recruited to work the grill.
“I think he didn’t want to pick me up, so he said, ‘Put an apron on,’ ” Paulson said.
It’s unclear if she will one day run the business, but for now she’s happy to carry on the tradition.
“I was born into the legacy,” she said. “I’m always going to be here to help.”
Reach Danny Bernardini at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dbernardinidr.
Dave’s Giant Hamburgers
Address: 1055 N. Texas St., Fairfield
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday