Sunday, October 05, 2008

Topz - Santa Ana

There is a burger joint in Arizona that calls itself the Heart Attack Grill. It is a place where you can get a towering four-stack of meat and cheese dubbed "The Quadruple Bypass". The fries are proudly cooked in “pure lard”, the owner refers to himself as a "Doctor", the waitresses dress like sexy nurses, orders are called "prescriptions", and when you're finished, you are rolled out to your car in a wheelchair. Oh yeah, they also sell cigarettes.

It's all very tongue-in-cheek (their catchphrase: "Taste Worth Dying For") and it's shamelessly targeted towards chest-thumping alpha males. And although I’ve never tasted their food, I admire the humor and the honesty –- here’s a restaurant that not only acknowledges that burgers and fries aren’t healthy, they have a litle fun with it.

But in doing so, it actually (even if somewhat inadvertently) credits their customers for being smart, rational people who are responsible for their own choices. No one who walks in there is under any illusion that what they’re about to consume is good for them.

Which brings me to Topz; a recent entrant in the O.C. dining scene with already outpost in Orange, and a new one in Santa Ana. They go in the opposite direction, billing themselves as the "Healthier Burger Grill" and proclaiming that theirs is a "guilt-free" experience compared to the "other guys".

But before I go into how the burgers taste, let's first do the numbers. Herewith are the nutrional facts for their base model of burger (with everything), which was easily procured from Topz's own website:

1/4 lb. Black Angus Burger
Weight: 301 g
Calories: 507
Calories from fat: 230
Total Fat: 25 g

And for comparison, here are the nutrional facts from you-know-who:

Big Mac®
Weight: 214 g
Calories: 540
Calories from fat: 260
Total Fat: 29 g

Quarter Pounder®
Weight: 169 g
Calories: 410
Calories from fat: 170
Total Fat: 19 g

From an initial glance, it seems that while it contains less fat than a Big Mac, you'd ingest more fat eating a Topz's burger than if you downed a Quarter Pounder.

Though to be fair, you must account for the fact that the Quarter Pounder is almost half the weight of a Topz burger. So, if you calculate what percentage of its weight is fat, the Topz burger does come out ahead. Of its reported total weight, their burger is 8.3% fat. The Big Mac is 13.6% fat. The Quarter Pounder, 11.2%.

So which is it? Is it really "healthier" or isn't it? Well, I'll leave it up for you to decide.

Frankly, I'm indifferent. Truth is, if the Heart Attack Grill were open next door, I'd be reviewing it, not Topz.

But with that said, Topz's burger wasn't as bad as I had heard, though perhaps it's because I was expecting a lot worse after reading reviews by fellow bloggers Kat from Gluttonista and Dan Garion of Eat in OC.

While it was decently tasty, the burger I had could've done better with a white bread bun instead of whole wheat (which had the mouth feel of sawdust). All in all, it's still better than a McDonald's sandwich.

However, I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'd buy it again. It's been a week since I had it, and the only really memorable thing about it was the price: The 1/4 lb. Black Angus Burger cost me $4.60 (before tax).

Topz's Aero Fries ($1.80), on the other hand, were memorable for the wrong reasons. As the name subtly suggests, it's baked, not fried. In fact, Topz is proud to proclaim that they own no deep fryers.

Because of it, the fries suffer from a personal axiom of mine that states:

"An incremental increase in nutrition will result in an exponential decrease in flavor."

The Aero Fries were more stiff than crispy, with its dryness accounting for its texture. And while most were slightly crunchy, some were limp, and all had the same presence on the palate as a Baked Lays -- my mouth was never fooled into thinking that it was eating a French fry.

Anyone like me, who orders their In-N-Out fries "well-done" -- where the potatoes are practically wicked of all moisture and replaced with an oily crunch -- will be similarly disappointed.

However, it must be noted that the Aero Fries were dramatically lower in fat compared to McDonald's.

Aero Fries
Weight: 158 g
Calories: 380
Calories from fat: 120
Total Fat: 14 g

McDonald's Fries
Weight: 154 g
Calories: 500
Calories from fat: 220
Total Fat: 25 g

But I know what you're thinking. What would fries cooked in "pure lard" register? And more importantly, how great would it taste?

(714) 979-0999
2 Hutton Centre Dr
Santa Ana, CA 92707

The Retreat - Costa Mesa


At 9:15 AM, Blogger Bill said...

I love burgers.
I'm with you on the Heart Attack Grill I would be there in a blink of an eye.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Constance said...

Topaz advertising is bogus. Shame on anyone gullible enough to believe it, but... Any good hamburger is fattenning.

Who cares, it makes it yummy...

My favorite burgers are from Cheesecake Factory, the Classic 12 oz. grade A beef.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

eh, if I'm in for eating a hamburger, I am certainly not counting calories.
My fave non-grilled burgs are still good ol In&Outs

At 10:37 AM, Blogger DanGarion said...

Heh, Topz is expanding! Maybe they should push the turkey and veggie ones more since I guess those are more healthy...

At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To answer your question: Potatoes fried in pure lard are delicious. I'll be posting on them in greater detail soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger digkv said...

Thanks elmo for an awesome post, it was most enjoyable. Gotta say that lard fries sounds delicious but I wonder how it stands up to the taste of Crow Bar's duck fat fries. Also, is it wrong that I enjoy a Big Mac or a double cheeseburger from McDonald's ever so often? I find their processed, bastardized ingredients to be irresistibly delicious sometimes, perhaps it's those tiny chopped onions or Mac Sauce.

At 6:26 PM, Blogger Shari said...

The first time I ate at Topz in Orange, it had just opened. I pretty much was given a hockey puck on a bun (that hard and small) and swore I wouldn't go back. But, I kept seeing that it was getting busier and busier. So last week I took my mom there. You think I don't like her, huh? It was lunch time and after what seemed like 1/2 hour we were served. The angus burger looked like yours in the picture and was decent in taste. The thing I liked the most from the whole thing was the garlic ketsup. But I won't go back. My review was the same as yours.

At 7:37 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Heart Attack Grill would do killer business here! Pun intended.

Annie and christoofat,

So right. When you have a burger, you have to concede heart-healthiness.

I have so many favorites (not necessarily in this order):
"The Old School" at The Counter
"The Royal Robin Burger" at Red Robin
"Animal Style with Onion" at In-N-Out
"Baby Fat with Egg" at Fatburger


This Topz, in Santa Ana, seems to be doing pretty well too. Though if it's any indication of what people really want for lunch, most order the regular burgers...and sometimes they add cheese and bacon! I guess "healthier" is a relative term.


"Eyes peeled"...nice!


Fries in duck fat vs. fries in pork fat...hmm that's a taste test I'd love to judge. But, I'm as guilty as anyone when in comes to McDonald's. My vice is their soft serve cones. And their Egg McMuffins. And their fries. And if I'm in Hawaii, their Haupia Pie and Local Breakfasts! And I do love those little bits of onion on their burgers. To quote Harold and Kumar, "they're like little flavor crystals".


I think it would be a better burger if it cost a buck. Then all of its claims to be healthy is moot, and it just becomes a cheap/honest lunch. I think Kat from Gluttonista said it best when she mentioned that she ended up eating less because she didn't like the in a sense she *WAS* eating "healthier".

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Bill said...

I heard grill and raw onions in an In n Out burger is really good. I haven't tried it.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

And more importantly, how great would it taste?

Exactly. ;) I eat fries very rarely because, like you, I enjoy them well done. Crispy. And too few people really make them how I like them, so I refrain rather than have mediocre ones. I'm sure I would hate the ones at Topz.

As for the burger... well, it's basically no better nutritionally than the Big Mac so what's the point? Good on you for trying it out, but I think I'll stay away.

And I have no favorite burgers except for my own. ;) Really, I never used to like burgers because I could never find them juuuust to my liking (meat flavor or toppings). So now I make killer ones (beef or bison) at home.

At 9:37 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


It IS! Animal Style gives you grilled onions and pickles. But then when you add fresh onion on top of that: Shazam!


Yeah! Exactly. The numbers just don't justify it as really all that different from other burgers nutritionally...and what's more, the other number (the price) just adds to the problem.

And I'm so with you on the fries. Also if it's not fried, it can't be called that.

At 8:03 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Who cares about all the health aspects of this burger? Or any burger for that matter?! It would be like writing about driving a Ferrari and having most of your write up about all the dangers of driving fast, comparing the various speed limits of various cities, and the dangers of going above the speed limit.

I am glad you did write a few sentences about the taste of the burger and such. Because of you, iI will avoid this place. Thanks for the description of the food.

At 8:19 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


What if the makers of the Ferrari started marketing their cars as the safest cars. That they're safer than Volvos, but they still go really, really fast like Lamborghinis.

It's like they're saying: "Ferraris: You can go as fast as you want, and if you just happen to crash, you will never die!"

Shouldn't the reviewers at Car and Driver, or perhaps Consumer Reports, try to refute or verify those claims?

That's what I am: The Car and Driver Consumer Report.

My verdict: This Ferrari is just as expensive as a Lamborghini. It's just as safe as a Lotus. It drives like a Ford.

At 9:30 AM, Blogger DanGarion said...

Hey Ferraris don't drive like Fords, let's not get crazy here!

At 10:13 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I wouldn't know: I own a Honda! HAHA!

Okay. Somewhere in here, I lost the analogy.

At 3:16 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

I would eat a Ferrari personally. I would make out with a Ferrari. I dont care how dangerous it is. I would have babies with a Ferrari.

But I digress......

At 11:13 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

I think we all digressed a bit. But hey, it's all in the name of fun!

At 11:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, you're the "Man", Elmo. I was just thinking about Topz and hoped you wrote about it...yup! You sure did!

Thanks for the worthy, entertaining and nutritionally informative read. But maybe I'll stick to my 4x4 burger at In N Out and their lovely, artery clogging "animal style" fries. I can't go healthy when it comes to a burger, just cant!

Besides, I CAN'T STAND burgers on whole wheat buns...yuck! What a waste of good, fatty meat!

At 10:17 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Yes. If there's anything that wheat bun shouldn't be used for, it's a hamburger. In fact, I think wheat buns ate good for nothing. Wheat bread is one thing, wheat bun is something else.

At 4:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow. that's a FINE looking burger.. I heard about Topz... next time in OC...

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

you should try the counter in irvine.. there burgers are sooo darn juicy!

At 9:09 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


They may look fine, but they're just okay. Check out The Counter as Pauline suggests.

Here's a review of mine for The Counter.


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