Squeeze Inn restaurant was founded in East Sacramento
Many Sacramentans today are familiar with the popular hamburger restaurant chain, Squeeze Inn. But most of those people are unaware that the first of that eatery’s locations was located right here in East Sacramento.
The history of this business began 32 years ago, when Sacramento natives Ken Noblett of 1449 Arvilla Drive and Shane Dickenson of 1512 55th St. opened the restaurant’s original location at 4087 C St. at Elvas Avenue.
However, on a side note, research for this article revealed that an unassociated restaurant by the same name was established in the capital city long before the 1982 opening of the Squeeze Inn on C Street.
In about 1952, a restaurant by the name of Squeeze Inn – also recognized as Squeeze Inn Lunch in some references – began operating at 1111 North B St.
That restaurant was owned by Julius “Brownie” Brown, who had previously spent about a year as the proprietor of a restaurant at 111 North 12th St.
The Squeeze Inn on North B Street was established next to a trailer park owned by Fannie L. Feeney, and George M. Law’s business, George’s Liquor Store (later renamed George’s Liquors).
By 1955, Brown was still the proprietor of the Squeeze Inn, but he had additionally become the owner of the trailer park, which was renamed Brownie’s Four Acres Trailer Court. Brown ceased operating the trailer park in about 1957.
The Squeeze Inn on North B Street became recognized as Brownie’s Squeeze Inn about a year earlier.
That business closed in 1967, and George’s Liquors remained open for about seven more years.
During an interview with this publication last week, Ruth Noblett, Ken’s widow, was asked if she was aware that a Squeeze Inn restaurant operated in Sacramento prior to 1982.
In response, Ruth said that she was surprised by that news, and she added, “I don’t know anything about that. I know there’s a Squeeze Inn in Truckee, but it’s no relations. (Ken, who graduated from Hiram Johnson High School in 1966) never mentioned (the existence of a pre-1982 Squeeze Inn in Sacramento), so my husband never knew about that either. Of course, he would have been (about) 6 years old (when that restaurant opened). Absolutely, there’s no connection at all.”
But when it comes to the topic of the Squeeze Inn, which was originally located in East Sacramento and later moved to 7918 Fruitridge Road, Ruth is obviously quite knowledge about that topic.
In telling the story of the creation of the Squeeze Inn on C Street, Ruth said, “(Ken) was the assistant director (and herpetologist) of the Sacramento Zoo. He worked for the city for a total of about 15 years. He worked at the zoo for probably the last 10 (years) of that (time). He retired from the zoo and he and his brother (Gary) opened Nobby’s Wooden Nickel café and it was on Arden Way. That was probably in May 1980. And (Ken) couldn’t support his family, so his brother bought him out. (Ken) took that money and he and a friend of his named Shane Dickenson (opened the Squeeze in on C Street in 1982). (Ken) was the cooking guy and (Shane) was the business end of it. Before the summer was over, Ken bought Shane out, and then it was just Ken (as the business’s proprietor).”
Ruth recalled the original Squeeze Inn location, as follows: “The first Squeeze Inn, the one at 4087 C St., it was one of those metal buildings, where you ordered at one window and pick up at the other end. So, there were no stools there. (Ken) built a patio onto it and we had picnic tables out there.”
Oddly, in a prophetic fashion, the restaurant had been named the Squeeze Inn, and a logo with three people sitting closely together on barstools was created prior to the restaurant’s relocation to the small, compact building with a line of barstools on Fruitridge Road.
In confirming that the logo was made for the East Sacramento location, Ruth said, “That is true. (The artist’s) name was Charley. I can’t think of his last name. Anyway, Ken just described what he wanted for a logo and Charley drew it. And Ken was like, ‘Yeah, that’s it.’”
Certainly, the Squeeze Inn’s most notable menu item has always been the Squeezeburger or unofficially, the “squeeze with cheese.”
The Squeezeburger is a visual art piece with mounds of cheddar cheese that is fried to form a crispy, tortilla-shaped ring that extends about 3 inches outside the burger. And inside the burger is a very tender, 1/3-pound, 100 percent beef patty that is smothered with fresh fixings on a sesame seed bun.
And after being asked to speak about the origin of the Squeezeburger’s cheese, Ruth said, “They call it the cheese skirt. Actually, this is what I think is the most interesting part of the story about the Squeeze Inn. When Ken and his older brother, Gary, were kids, there were four children – two boys and two girls – and their mother used to cook cheeseburgers for them. She would use a cast iron skillet and she would cook the hamburger on one side, then she would turn it and she would put a handful of shredded cheese, then she would put the top of the bun, then she would throw water in the skillet and put the lid on it. And so, [Ken and his siblings] grew up eating ‘squeeze with cheese,’ with a cheese skirt.”