On January 13, my mother and I were in the mood for burgers, so we took advantage of the good weather to drive up to Pioneer and pick up lunch at Pioneer Burger, which is at the corner of Highways 88 and 26 in Pioneer. I ordered from the photos of the menu posted on the Pioneer Burger Facebook page.

When I arrived and parked in front of the small building, there was a take-out window in front but no one inside that I could see. When I went inside the building to see if anyone was there, someone had come out behind the counter and asked me to pick up my food at the window.

Our lunches were ready in a large paper bag on the inside counter next to the window, and once I paid the cheerful person who helped me (perhaps one of the owners) told me that I qualified to get a free large drink. I purchased a Dr. Pepper for my mother and left with the drink and bag of food pleasantly surprised.

I ordered a patty melt and my mother ordered a cheeseburger. We also ordered a side of onion rings to share. Once I traveled back down Highway 88 and returned home, we found our burgers wrapped in paper and the onion rings on top of the burger in a standard cardboard tray that holds French fries or onion rings.

My Meal

I decided to order the patty melt because it had something I haven’t seen before: sliced mushrooms. The mushrooms and diced grilled onions were between the bottom slice of sourdough bread and the quarter-pound beef patty. Cheese that looked like Monterey jack, as well as thousand island dressing, sat between the top slice of bread and the patty.

Pioneer Burger Patty Melt

Having sliced mushrooms and onions made for a bit of a messy meal as both vegetables dropped out of the sandwich and onto my dinner plate as I ate. The pile of vegetables also made the bottom slice of toasted sourdough bread soggy, but though the bread was soft it never disintegrated. The top slice was toasted well enough that it stayed firm as I worked my way through the burger.

The mushrooms, onions, and the thousand island dressing dominated the taste of the burger, so I had to pick off a couple of small chunks of the patty to taste it. The meat didn’t have any seasoning, but I easily tasted a bit of gristle in each chunk. The cheese itself only added some weight to the burger.

Mom’s Meal

My mother hadn’t had a cheeseburger in a long time, so she wanted to see how well it stacked up against other burgers she’s eaten—including veggie burgers she makes for dinner from time to time. The cheeseburger comes with a quarter-pound beef patty, lettuce, American cheese, pickles, thousand island dressing, and sliced onions in between a dusted Kaiser bun.

Pioneer Burger Cheeseburger

My mother took her first bite of the cheeseburger and all the sliced onions came tumbling out of the burger. She looked at the onions in surprise, said she never had that happen to her before, and put the burger down so she could get a fork and eat the onions separately.

A couple of bites later, the large lettuce leaf came out of the burger. She responded to this by saying that the lettuce may not have escaped if she had cut the burger in half before she ate. Then she put the leaf back in the burger and continued eating, and the leaf stayed put as she worked her way through the burger.

The bottom of the Kaiser bun had the same problem as the patty melt: The bottom got soggier as she ate the burger. As with my patty melt, the bottom of her burger didn’t disintegrate before she finished eating it.

After my mother and I divvied up the onion rings and I bit into my first piece, I discovered a taste in the breading that I didn’t expect: maple syrup. The taste was a nice surprise and the breading was crispy and fried properly, though it easily became detached from the white onions within. The onions themselves were crisp but otherwise unremarkable.

Pioneer Burger Onion Rings

The Verdict

My mother said that the hamburger buns she buys from Raley’s are much sturdier than the buns used by Pioneer Burger. She added that it wasn’t the best burger she’s eaten in the county.

Though I couldn’t compare with my slices of sourdough bread on the patty melt, I wondered later if flipping the burger over with the sturdier side on the bottom would give me a better eating experience. But the mushrooms made the patty melt memorable.

So, we bring out a flashing green light. We caution that the bread on the burgers may not meet your expectations, but overall our burgers were good but not great. And the onion rings get a special mention for the maple syrup flavor in the breading.

The price for our burgers and onion rings was a little over $23.

Want to Try Them?

Pioneer Burger is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. They’re located at 22536 Highway 88 in Pioneer, which is on the south side of Highway 88 at the intersection with Highway 26.

If you want to order, you can view the menu and any specials on the Pioneer Burger Facebook page. Pioneer Burger only offers take-out service as of this writing, and when you’re ready to order, call them at 209-295-8826.

Amador Business Ticker food reviews are adventures in local dining with Editor Eric Butow and his mom.