Swell as hell.
Surfside Burger Shack (445 Fifth St., Eureka) looks more or less the same — like a colorful, well-used surfboard with a few dings in it. Walking in off the street, you might not guess it's under new ownership. After a deep inhale, you might just think the place is back on its game after a year or so in decline.
The new owners have stepped up Surfside's grassfed beef game with fresh rather than frozen meat but stuck to the basics of the shop. The Southwestern Swell ($8.95) comes with the usual avocado, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo, along with a controlled burn of pepper jack cheese melted over grilled pickled jalapeño slices. Before you freak out because you can't see any avocado, attempt some surfer chill and look under the patty for a mashed schmear — the only reasonable solution to the dilemma of sliding slices. The heat is mellow enough that you can return to work without changing your shirt. For $2, add a split serving of slightly dark hand-cut fries and onion rings, which are as much of a draw as the burger. Fresh fries with skins on, after all, taste not just like fries, but potatoes rendered crisp. The hand-dipped onion rings are puffy, crunchy life preservers, just as you would hope. It's no wonder — look upon the serious fellow at the fryer, dropping in one heavy circle at a time and not looking away for a moment. You have our admiration, sir.
And finally, in a world gone mad, reason has prevailed in this one corner: There are at last milkshakes ($5), tall and thick enough to demand a little work for that first sip. Get thee behind me, secret Starbuck's menu of ridiculous frozen concoctions. I will have a milkshake. In chocolate, vanilla or strawberry.