Before the weather would become too wet and the sun would set too early, I wanted to drive to Volcano and try a meal at the Volcano Union Inn. (I also don’t remember visiting Volcano before, believe it or not.) We found the Inn’s website and called ahead to order our meal from the small menu of burgers, sandwiches, a few entrees, a couple of specials, and a few desserts. I ordered the Wagon Wheel burger, and my mother ordered The Joaquin Sando, which is the Inn’s grilled cheese sandwich.
My mother called ahead to order, and though she sent our order and her payment information, the connection was cut off before she could finish her call. When she tried again, the line was busy. We decided that the Inn probably received our order and we took the trip east from Jackson on Highway 88 to Pine Grove, and then north to Volcano on Pine Grove-Volcano Road. We easily found parking on the side of Consolation Street (Volcano’s main drag) across from the Inn.
When we arrived, we were surprised to find a full house eating in the covered patio outside. All guests had to arrive through the patio, and there we were greeted by a friendly and masked employee. We told him we had a to-go order to pick up, and he allowed us to go into the bar area. There was one older gentleman sitting at the bar and a family sitting at a table within the bar area.
There was one other couple in front of us who hoped to get a table right away, but when they didn’t, they looked at the menu and then decided to leave. Once my mother got to the bar, she found our meals in cardboard food storage boxes within a plastic bag. She was out in a couple of minutes, and it took us a little longer to drive home on westbound Highway 88 thanks to a slow-moving U-Haul truck.
So, our food was a little cooler than expected when we sat down to eat, but my mother was able to eat her sandwich without having to reheat it. My burger, however, was larger than my mother’s sandwich and it needed about 30 seconds in the microwave.
The Wagon Wheel Burger is a large burger with what looked to be a third-pound beef patty with a large slice of lettuce, two slices of a large tomato, several outer rings of red onion, pickles, sliced mushrooms, and swiss cheese. The menu description for this burger wasn’t completely accurate, because the burger had plenty of mayonnaise instead of mushroom cream sauce. What’s more, the burger came with bacon atop the patty, to my pleasant surprise.
All these ingredients were served between a thick burger bun, and the entire burger was held together with a large toothpick. I was pleasantly surprised to find a large, bread-and-butter pickle spear. The pickle was fine with a soft interior and a crunchy rind.
The burger was so large that I bit into a piece of beef first, and found that it was evenly cooked and flavorful. The flavor of the sliced pickles was easily overwhelmed by the test of the rest of the burger, especially the bacon. The bacon itself was both smoky and salty, but it wasn’t hard to eat and complimented the beef patty well. The mushrooms and cheese provided the needed density.
The lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, however, made the burger so large that I had to take them off the burger so I could fit it in my mouth. I still had some rings of red onion with the burger, and they were crispy and flavorful. The bun didn’t disappoint, either: It was doughy and light, but thick and sturdy enough that it stayed dry and intact in every bite. The bottom bun and patty were equally sized, too.
I ordered a side salad with my meal instead of fries. The salad was in its own, smaller cardboard box within the larger box that held the burger. The minimalist salad included arugula and bits of cucumber along with a separate lidded cup of dressing. The lettuce and cucumber were fresh and crunchy, but otherwise unremarkable.
The menu says the salad comes with sherry vinaigrette dressing, but it didn’t look like any sherry vinaigrette I’ve ever had. The color and texture were creamier, and the taste seemed sweeter to me.
The Joaquin Sando is a deluxe grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough bread. By deluxe, I mean the sandwich comes with swiss, cheddar, and blue cheeses along with tomatoes, bacon, and onions. The sandwich also came with its own large, bread-and-butter pickle spear.
My mother took a bite and immediately proclaimed the sandwich to be good. This was a good sign because my mother doesn’t like blue cheese very much, and she’s reluctant to eat onions. From the look of the sandwich, I could only see cheddar cheese, bacon, and tomato peeking out from the buttered and toasted sourdough slices. She obviously didn’t taste the blue cheese and onion, but if the taste of my burger was any indication, the taste of the tomato and bacon overwhelmed everything else.
My mother ordered fries with her meal instead of the side salad. The fries were of medium thickness and had plenty of breading on them. She said they were just fine and were good enough that she didn’t need to garnish them with ketchup.
My mother said the day after she ate her sandwich, her jaw was sore because the sandwich was very crunchy. Otherwise, she didn’t report any ill effects from her meal, and she also saved some of her fries that were just as good during her next day’s lunch.
The Wagon Wheel Burger is one of the top three burgers I’ve had in the county so far. I kept some of the salad dressing for later, so when I try it again after a few days in the refrigerator, I’ll have to see (and taste) if my initial impressions still hold.
In sum, green light from both of us.
The overall price of our meals was $28.02.
Want to Try Them?
Volcano Union Inn is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but you can eat there or take out on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. On weekends, the Inn is open from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The Inn is located at 21375 Consolation Street in Volcano. You can dine on the covered outdoor patio as well as inside the restaurant. If you prefer to eat indoors, you may have to wait longer to get a table because of limited seating.
You can view the menu online on the Inn website. If you prefer to pick up your food, or if you have any questions, call the Inn at 209-296-7711.
Amador Business Ticker food reviews are adventures in local dining with Editor Eric Butow and his mom.