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Mesa Burger Makes Its Way as a Santa Barbara Staple

Mesa Burger Makes Its Way as a Santa Barbara Staple
Photo by Matthew Lee

Matthew Lee
Staff Writer

In the middle of Mesa Verde Plaza lies a modest, homey restaurant called Mesa Burger. Mesa Burger was started by Iron Chef star Cat Cora in 2016 and had high expectations surrounding the young business. I was excited to try this establishment and had a lot of built-up hope for the dishes that would be presented.

Fortunately, I was able to gather up a group of friends to tackle this food review mission together, so we were able to select a multitude of items and judge them. Mesa Burger provides burgers that are not only of high quality, but also filling and cost-effective, which makes this restaurant a definitive “go-to” spot in Santa Barbara despite its infancy.

Accompanied by three friends, I headed to the establishment on Wednesday night and was surprised to find that it was not bursting with people desiring this relatively “hyped up” eatery. The restaurant was filled with enough people that only one or two tables were open, but it was not as hugely popular as I would have expected, although others’ experiences may vary.

Regardless, the four of us decided to try and all get different burgers and share so we could have a lot of variety items from the menu. We were able to do this because the items on the menu were reasonably priced, with the burgers costing around $9–15, most of them being $12 or $13. In the end, we ordered the Funk Zone, Goodland, and Leadbetter burgers, The Pit (more on this later), and a Salted Caramel Chip Shake. However, I did not try the Leadbetter burger.

The Goodland burger was an interesting item. It was clearly a burger made for the barbeque lovers, as it had smoked bacon, barbecue sauce, crispy onion rings, and a sausage in it. This burger was clearly a one-sided phenomenon, created to appeal to meat-lovers and eaters with a strong love for barbecue type of foods. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.

However, the Goodland burger was still a delicious burger to me, with the bacon adding a unique, crisp texture and the sausage in the burger making it feel like a combination of a burger and a sausage. The two things that stood out in negative ways for this burger was the barbecue sauce and the overpowering saltiness of the burger. The barbecue sauce is just not my style, as it leaves a “too sweet” type of bitter taste in my mouth.

In comparison, my favorite normal barbecue sauce is the K.C. Masterpiece Original Barbecue sauce, so this may be just my unpopular opinion. But my second negative point about the saltiness of the burger has to ring true logically. With smoked bacon, a sausage, a seasoned beef patty, and barbecue sauce, anyone would say the Goodland burger is off the charts in terms of the amount of sodium. Despite the negatives, the Goodland was still a solid burger in terms of taste, but I would only recommend getting it if you are into saltiness, barbecue style, or tons of meat.

The Funk Zone is not true to its name. There is no “funk” in this burger. This burger means business, and the type of business is taste, and taste only. Inside the Funk Zone resides bacon, bourbon glazed mushrooms, barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, roasted tomato, and a sunny-side-up fried egg. Although some of the ingredients are identical to the Goodland, the Funk Zone presented a whole new world according to my taste buds.

The Funk Zone incorporated a ton of unique tastes together in a beautiful burger, highlighting the egg, glazed mushrooms, and beef patty. The saltiness from the bacon and barbecue sauce were beautifully balanced by the egg and tomato, with everything else enhancing the presentation of pure flavor in my mouth. It almost reminded of a perfect breakfast of eggs, bacon, and mushrooms, but that flavor was masterfully combined and presented into one food item that can be eaten any time of the day. Clearly, there were no negatives to this burger in my experience and I would highly recommend choosing this one for a first experience at Mesa Burger.

With the burgers came a handful of french fries. These french fries weren’t the best I’ve had, but they also were not the worst. The fries were solid and satisfying, but they were not outstanding in flavor. To compensate for this, Mesa Burger offers a delicious condiment called truffle aioli. As a friend described, the truffle aioli tastes like a fresher sour cream that paints a completely new picture in terms of the fries. Truffle aioli is a great addition to not only the fries, but also the burgers.

The Salted Caramel Chip Shake was a surprisingly noteworthy dessert from Mesa Burger despite the restaurant not advertising great desserts. I do not know why, but the flavor of the shake was not overpoweringly sweet but addicting, as I instinctively kept slurping on the drink and finished it before my burger came out. For eight ounces at the price of $4, the only dispute I have with the Salted Caramel Chip Shake is that its size is too small for the price.

The Pit is underwhelming. It is french fries, cheese, salsa, lettuce, green onions, and a beef patty chopped up into small pieces. Think of it as a plate of Freebirds nachos, but instead of chips and chicken it is fries and burger patty. Everything was cold and bland and there is nothing to like about this item. I was severely disappointed, as the quality of this item did not even come close to the exquisitely crafted burgers of Mesa Burger. I definitely would not recommend ordering “The Pit” at Mesa Burger.

Overall, Mesa Burger stays true to its name by getting its burgers right, but also offers a number of notable desserts as well. However, it seems like this restaurant’s expertise in food is limited to burgers and burgers only, which is not a bad thing necessarily. The burgers are delicious, the restaurant has a good amount of seating, and the prices are very reasonable. Mesa Burger is a new restaurant that has established itself as a reliable and solid eatery in Santa Barbara for burger lovers and foodies alike.

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