Two decades ago, the last Gino's, in Pasadena, closed — leaving the hungry faithful in search of another burger to replace their beloved Gino's Giant.
That is, until former Baltimore Colt Gino Marchetti helped bring back the franchise, starting with a location in King of Prussia last year. In August, Gino's Burgers & Chicken debuted in Towson, and longtime fans lined up for a taste of nostalgia.
Gino's, it turns out, is still better than most fast food on the market. While it's far from perfect, Gino's still has plenty of hometown burger joint charm.
The inside of Gino's is set up like so many new fast food concepts: You walk in and order on the left and then you wait for your food to be made and given to you. Gino's has seating for takeout orders, but also a dining area. Place an order, and you'll get a number which you can take to a table; a server delivers the food. It's refreshing to see at a fast food joint.
After ordering and finding a seat, we were brought our milkshakes first. Made with Edy's ice cream, these shakes had a clean flavor and came in two sizes. The half-size chocolate cherry shake ($2.49) was well-mixed and delivered on flavor. The oversized straw seems ridiculous at first, but when you get a quake (a milkshake with candy in it) you understand why the straw is so wide.
The full-size Heath bar quake ($3.99) made use of the super wide straw with chunks of candy mixed in throughout the vanilla shake. As a dessert it would have been good, but as something to drink with a meal, it was too sweet.
Our food was delivered to our table soon after we ordered. The Gino's Giant ($5.89) was a double cheese burger with American cheese, lettuce, pickles and secret sauce. Though a little bland, it was still better than most fast food burgers. In fact, the soft steamed bun is better than any fast food joint out there.
My burger was served with onion rings made from real onions — not onion-flavored batter. They had to be dipped in ketchup to tone down the saltiness, but when put on the Gino's Giant they counteracted the blandness of the burger and accented the secret sauce.
The Ameche's Powerhouse ($6.89) was a triple cheese burger that we added toppings to. All burgers at Gino's can be customized with 13 free toppings — another area where Gino's shines. The bacon, grilled onion, tomato and provolone we ordered for the Ameche made the burger.
Gino's serves chicken as well. Even though it is only strips of chicken, they are made from real cuts of chicken breast, not machine processed stuff. The Gino's Buffalo Chicken sandwich ($4.59) was made up of three chicken strips that had been covered in a buffalo sauce and topped with lettuce and bleu cheese dressing. It was not a great sandwich. The chicken was dry and there was barely any bleu cheese on it. It had potential — the overall flavor wasn't bad — but it was just poorly executed.
The three piece chicken dinner ($7.99) suffered from the same overcooking as the sandwich. Three chicken strips came with a roll, fries and three dipping sauces (you can choose up to nine). The fries, — real, hand-cut fries — were a welcome sight. Of the three sauces, the pedal sauce, an onion flavored dip, was the best. It matched well with the breading on the chicken strips and was a nice change of pace from the barbecue and honey mustard sauces also provided.
Gino serves no formal desserts, but if one wanted something sweet, the quakes would fill in nicely.
For a fast food restaurant, Gino's is better than most of the bigger names in the industry. If you're in Towson and need something to eat on the go, try Gino's. Two decades was way too long to wait.
Gino's Burgers & Chicken
Back-story: After a 20-year absence from the Baltimore area, Gino's Burgers & Chicken is back and serving a higher quality of fast food than the norm.
Parking: Gino's has its own parking lot.
Signature dish: The Gino Giant, a double cheese burger, was better than what you'll find at most fast food joints.
Where: 8600 LaSalle Rd. Towson
Contact: 410-583-0000, ginosgiant.com
Open: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, Discover
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