Cassidy's—fuuuuuck. My favorite Cassidy's story happened about seven years ago, when a girl I was courting and I somehow ended up there after a nice dinner. The atmosphere was raucous, of course, and I didn't do too badly on the pool tables against some bro pool shark. But after that date, she never talked to me again—I mean, never. Didn't respond to my calls or emails. Everything had been going well until I cracked a joke about the San Onofre nuclear-power plant—I can't even remember it anymore, except it wasn't a good one and after telling it, she reacted as though I had a 1-inch manhood.
Not everything was bad about that night. We did share a cheeseburger, the one thing that makes me return to Cassidy's (and she, also, I later found out). Nothing against that corner of wonderful insanity, mind you—Cassidy's is everything a beachtown bar should be, from a shelf full of Jägermeister and televisions tuned to every sporting event airing in the contiguous 48 states at any given moment to a clientele that ranges from beach bunny to surfer bum, Newport Coasters desperately trying to seem down wit' it to inlanders who always seem a bit too loud, desperate to start something. But I basically block Balboa out of my life for the summer months, and the rest of the year becomes a blur—until I get that yen for the Cassidy's cheeseburger.
Oh, crunchy, fatty bliss: a perfectly toasted bun, a patty as thick as your thumb, with large pickles and a smear of secret sauce adding necessary tartness, the Cheddar melting so it resembles plastic but tastes almost silken. The kitchen does add a bit too much lettuce, but the resultant crunch reminds you why lettuce is a part of the hamburger equation in the first place—every bite unleashes freshness, adds texture, becomes as refreshing as a wet napkin on your face during a muggy day. There's no need for fries—a massive bag of Have'a Corn Chips, spiked with the tangy house barbecue sauce, will do. And there's no real need for the rest of the joint's limited menu—it's good, but this is the best dive-bar burger in Orange County by far.
If you don't want to deal with the Cassidy's masses, it's best to go during lunch, when the bar is dead, when Bloody Marys are de rigeur and the tourists are still asleep. And it's best to be absolutely wasted from the night before. Sit at the bar—the bartender understands. Let that cheeseburger soak up the previous night and fuel you for another night of loving this wonderful, insane corner.
This column appeared in print as “Best Dive-Bar Burger In OC.”