149 South Indian Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Bar: Beer and wine
You’re eight years old, maybe nine. It’s the height of summer—say, early July? You’ve settled comfortably into your vacation, and your dreaded return to school is not yet on the radar. You can’t really tell the days apart; they blend together into an undifferentiated mass of weekdays and weekends and friends and sunburns and beach days and day trips and sun-warmed pools. You bask in the delicious swelter of the long summer days. You feel invincible, ageless.
On one of those days, a day quite literally like every other early July day, your parents take you to a cookout at a friend’s house. You walk into your friend’s backyard, grass brushing against the sides of your feet left bare by your sandals. You hear laughter and beer cans opening. You smell freshly-cut grass soaked in lemonade spills and sprinkler spray, the delicate cloud of sweet summer sweat, chlorinated water, and—above all—the smell of smoke, charcoal, and crackling grilled meat.
Hold that picture for a moment.
Diana Diamico started a restaurant based on that kind of picture. Two decades ago, she set up shop in a sixty year-old building on the main drag in Palm Springs. It used to be a Greyhound Bus depot. Her goal was to recreate a burger that her mother used to sling way back when at a burger stand on the boardwalk in Venice Beach. That burger, so firmly rooted in Diamico’s memories of childhood, “became the foundation of knowing the difference between mediocrity and the best.” It also became the foundation stone of her business.
Diamico’s burger, then, is a nod to the past, to a time when things felt—were?—simpler. Maybe that’s an excessively romantic way to think about a burger (especially if you’re one of those cynical millennial types), but nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It affects not only what we like, but also—not least in the case of Diamico—what we do. Tyler’s is a business built on memories. It’s also been held that you can’t get a better burger in Palm Springs. Well, Kelsey and I were out there for the long weekend, so we went to give it a try.
The Order: Cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger
The Price: $8 (cheeseburger), $9.50 (bacon cheeseburger)
It might seem odd that I’m reviewing two burgers at once—and it’s true; usually I don’t do that. But these two offerings weren’t different enough to merit separate reviews. If you’re like me, your instincts would guide you towards ordering the bacon cheeseburger, because bacon. Now, while it’s hard to say that ordering the bacon cheeseburger is flat out misguided (especially if you’re into that sort of thing), I can’t endorse it. To my mind, the bacon is more of a distraction than a complement here—albeit a delicious, delicious distraction (especially if you’re into that sort of thing). But that isn’t an indictment of the bacon cheeseburger so much as it is a veneration of the standard cheeseburger. I think the order is the regular cheeseburger with American cheese and grilled onions. Hold the tomato for bonus points (I had it on the bacon cheeseburger, and it didn’t add much).
Go back to that picture in your head. You’re at the barbecue and you’re handed a hastily arranged burger. The garnishes are simple: an oozing sheet of American cheeese, crisp lettuce, bright pickles, succulent tomato, maybe some sweet, charmingly flaccid rings of grilled onion. The sauces are conventional, unfussy: ketchup, yellow mustard, and a thin glaze of mayonnaise mixing into some unnamed but familiar metacondiment the color of a sunset.
Tyler’s has done a pretty good job of recreating that burger. It’s not necessarily this burger that’s memorable. It’s that it evokes really fond memories. If you’re like me, this burger will around feelings of nostalgia in you. It’s the taste of a summer barbecue. It’s the taste of being told to wait a half hour before swimming. The patty is substantial – seven ounces at least. Were I to complain that it was a touch overcooked, that would only be a matter of taste. The outside of the patty is deliciously crackled by the flat top, the inside juicy and savory enough. The sponge bun is the stuff of In-N-Out dreams, but slightly thicker. That’s okay, given the thickness and heft of the patty.
The toppings are all solid, but the cheese is the standout. It completely covers the patty in a thick, dripping sheet. Swiss is an option, but I can’t imagine it topping the American I chose. I’ll readily stipulate that American is perhaps the most sophomoric of all the cheeses, but my gracious, it was indulgent, rich, and creamy. And for as unfussy an expression as this burger is, it was the ideal complement. The grilled onions were a fabulous addition too, sweet and grill-burnt. They sank into the quicksand-like cheese until the two almost infused one another. Stellar stuff.
As I ate the cheeseburger (which, to bring it full circle, probably deserves the mantle of best burger in Palm Springs), I glanced over to the bar and saw a family sitting together, presumably on a Memorial Day vacation. Their young son couldn’t have been older than ten. He was holding his cheeseburger aloft when I looked, to eat a hanging disc of pickle. He had ketchup on his face. His hands were a mess. His too-big blue t-shirt had escaped stains for the moment, but I found myself doubting that would last as I watched him attack his burger with the gleeful abandon that summer engenders in everyone of that age. And as I bit back into my own burger with the neat and proper sobriety of adulthood, that age felt a little closer.
Flavor: 9.50 / 10.00
Freshness/Quality: 8.60 / 10.00
Value: 9.40 / 10.00
Efficiency: 8.00 / 10.00
Creativity/Style: 7.00 / 10.00
Bun: 9.00 / 10.00
Patty: 8.90 / 10.00
Toppings: 8.80 / 10.00
Sauce: 8.00 / 10.00
Balance: 9.50 / 10.00
Total: 86.70 / 100.00