CENTERVILLE — Many people here in the Salt Lake Valley look at me with surprise when I say I miss living in Ogden, but I'm sticking to that.

Ogden has personality, beautiful mountains and parks, a vibrant university, and it's a nice size. It has a culture all its own, which of course (this being a column about food, after all) includes a healthy crop of homegrown restaurants.

One of those, the venerable Jake's Over the Top, has expanded from its original six-table location near Weber State University to locations across the United States and to several other countries, including (of all places) India. But as we discovered when we dropped by the Centerville Jake's for a quick weekend dinner, many of the attractions of that original little shack remain.

Many of the newer Jake's locations are combined with Taco Maker and/or Mayan Jamma Juice restaurants, as all three brands are part of Taco Maker Inc. But we wanted charbroiled burgers and gut-busting shakes, so we stuck with the Jake's side of the menu.

I started our meal by ordering the wrong thing. That is to say, I saw a picture of the Big Jake burger and assumed that was the much more modestly sized double cheeseburger advertised on a poster as part of a $3.99 combo. Possibly the word "big" in the title should have been a tip-off.

Anyway, when it arrived I realized I'd ordered a half-pound behemoth, two monster patties of seared beef welded together with plenty of cheese and topped with four big slices of bacon and the usual fixings. So I did the only thing I could do: asked my husband to trade me for his single-patty hickory-bacon barbecue burger.

Being a nice guy, he did — not that it was much of a hardship for him. Jake's turns out a highly superior burger, beautifully seared outside and with a strong beefy taste and texture. The buns are kaiser rolls, the veggie toppings are chilled and fresh, and the whole burger has that extra savor that good quality brings to any dish.

I think I got the better deal, though, because the bacon barbecue burger is one artery-clogging bite of heaven. The bacon at Jake's is both thick-cut and plentiful, with more than enough strips to generously cover the patty. Rather than ketchup, the burger's bottom bun is spread with dark, zippy Bullseye barbecue sauce.

The kids were delighted with their meals, primarily because they arrived at the table in cardboard powder-blue Thunderbirds (did I mention there's a soft-pedaled '50s theme going?), and secondarily because of the decent chicken tenders they had to eat. With our meals we all had orders of Jake's tasty skin-on fries.

But there's no way a trip to Jake's would be complete without sampling one of the shakes that give the place its name. "Over the Top" refers to the fact that these "avalanches" stick up at least two inches above the top of the cup in a column of creamy goodness. Unless you are a person of truly unnatural appetites, a mini or even a junior size will more than fill you up.

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As with many shake places, flavor choices are legion and generally produced with natural, high-quality mix-ins. We enjoyed the mint Oreo, chocolate banana and M&M varieties, trading them back and forth across the table.

Avalanche shakes $2.19-$4.29, sandwiches and chicken 99 cents-$4.19, combos $3,99-$6.29.

Rating: ***

Where: 343 N. 800 West, Centerville (with 10 other Utah locations)

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

Sunday, noon-8 p.m.

Payment: Major credit cards accepted

Phone: 295-2448


Wheelchair access: Easy

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: