Golden Wheel is one of those spots that is almost a local institution. It’s been there on Fairview Avenue, just West of Five Mile Road in Boise, for as long as I can remember. Over the years my family has gone there on many occasions, but believe it or not I’ve had very little of the food they serve.
My family, like all good Americans (and especially all good Idahoans), love French fries. When we’re out shopping or running errands, Golden Wheel is a frequent stop. When you want good, old-fashioned, golden-fried, artery-clogging, blood pressure-raising crinkle cut fries, this is a reliable place to get them. I also have a weakness for places that serve their sodas with crushed ice, which I actually find superior to the cubed variety for pretty much everything except making martinis. However, my luck with their other menu items has not been as consistent. Back in my high school days, I got rather ill after having a fish sandwich from Golden Wheel. Then a few years ago, I had a grilled cheese sandwich from them that was so greasy I felt as though an oil slick was floating at the top of my stomach for hours afterward. After that, I resolved to only go the fries and soda route from there on in.
But then one day a sign appeared, indicating that the place was under new management. One of the first things I did was try the fries under the new regime, which were thankfully as good as ever. I’m sure they’re probably of the frozen variety, in fact they’d almost have to be for that level of consistency, but I was just happy they hadn’t changed. Fast forward to a couple of months ago, and a banner proclaiming new sweet potato fries had arrived was placed in front of the establishment. I’ve gone over my love of sweet potato fries in detail before, so there’s no need to cover that ground again, but suffice to say that while I love them, I’m much pickier about them than I am most fries. I decided that perhaps I should try them, and maybe an entrée as well since I hadn’t done so under the new management. And the next time I was in the area at lunch time, that’s exactly what I did.
|Golden Wheel’s menu (sorry for the lack of detail, but you get the general idea…)|
The menu doesn’t seem to have changed much over the years, which leads me to believe the new owners either have a history with the place or respected the long-time customers enough not to rock the boat. I decided to get a “Deluxe Burger”, and of course the aforementioned sweet potato fries.
|Stereotypical sweet potato fries|
|Golden Wheel’s Deluxe Burger…|
I made it through about half of my fries before losing interest and turning to the burger. This just wasn’t my day. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve gotten a little spoiled by the number of burger options available these days, but this was the last thing I was expecting. If you put the word “deluxe” in the name of your burger, I expect some heft: lots of meat, cheese, veggies spilling out the sides, a wide variety of toppings and/or condiments…something. This burger was oddly reminiscent of the kind we used to get in the school cafeteria.
|…not so deluxe after all.|
My guess is that that patty is another former freezer tenant, mold-pressed and pre-portioned. I’ll admit that the tomato was one of the better ones I’ve had on a burger recently, I mean just look at it, but it was by far the most impressive thing about the burger. A couple of pickle slices, a sprinkling of shredded lettuce and a smear of “special sauce” (which I’m pretty sure doubles as their fry sauce) and there you have it. I’d be willing to bet money that pretty much everything on that sandwich came out of a can, box, jar or plastic bag in more or less the same state it appears above. Now just to be clear here, I’m not saying it was terrible or anything. For a fast food burger, it was actually pretty decent. But you can get fast food burgers that are as good or better for less money, and for a little more money you can get some damn good ones.
I don’t use a rating scale. I don’t rank eateries with stars, or thumbs up or down, in fact what it almost always boils down to is one simple question: would I return? In this case, the answer is yes. I’ll definitely be back, but next time and every other time moving forward, I’ll be going back to “the usual”.