U-Mini is Less Burger For Less Money w/ Less Stomach Ache
If there was a scale created for restaurant inevitability, U-Mini would probably rank towards the top. It was clearly only a matter of time before Umami Burger would attempt to turn their hugely popular mini-chain of sit down burger restaurants into something a bit more fast-food’ish. The idea was as unavoidable as the post Umami Burger stomach ache- that pain in your about-to-explode gut that would normally be considered a deal breaker if the damn burger didn’t taste so good going down.
Something cheaper and quicker would be nice. Something to compete with Five Guys, In N Out Burger, or (insert feigned surprise here) New York’s Shake Shack. And U-Mini, the fast food tech-heavy burger place that just opened in Westwood by the owners of Umami is pretty much just that. It’s literally just a smaller, quicker, streamlined version of Umami Burger. In other words, if you’re not a fan of Umami Burger to begin with, don’t bother. This place probably won’t change your mind.
But Umami fans will find a lot to like about U-Mini, especially those of us whose days are dictated by lunch. Not only is it almost half the price of a lunch at a regular Umami Burger, the burger is a bit smaller by an ounce or two- meaning that patented Umami stomach ache is mercifully smaller as well.
Don’t bother walking up to the counter when you first arrive at U-Mini, it’s pretty much there just to keep you from wandering back into the kitchen. Instead make your way to one of the iPads attached to each of the walls next to both entrances. In the future, all fast food restaurants will probably be run by machines, and our robot overlords will not take cash. (Translation: U-Mini only accepts credit cards.)
There are plenty of people around to help you navigate the ordering iPad, but once the Westwood lunch crowd gets used to the machines (and they install receipts printers), I’d imagine the staff will be less hands on. The menu is super small- but eventually they are talking about having U-Mini test out special burgers before they hit the menu at Umami. Right now there are 3 burgers, plus a “Mushroom Burger” for the vegetarians, all $5 to $6. You can get plain fries or UmamiFries (dusted with parmesan, tomato, mushroom, herbs) for just under $3. And there are fountain sodas, and milk shakes.
Following the 800 Degrees model, everything feels a bit cheaper than it needs to be, but prices are likely to go up a little if the concept proves to be successful. One thing is for sure, though. That crazy-ass movie theater style robot soda machine at 800 Degrees is clearly more trouble than it’s worth. U-Mini was sporting two old fashioned sugar water dispensers (plus a separate container of iced green tea.)
The house burger is the “Dads Burger”, which features grilled onions, bread and butter pickles, and cheddar cheese.
Need a cool contrast in your burger that only “healthy” things provide? There is the LTA, which adds lettuce, tomato, and avocado to your American cheese and grilled onions topped burger. And if all that’s too fancy, there is a classic “Vintage Burger” which has lettuce, tomato, minced onion, mustard, ketchup and house cheddar.
The burgers themselves have a great smash burger crust, and that familiar Umami sheen; the part juice, part grease combo that leaves the paper wrapping pretty drenched. But damn does it taste good going down, and the transition from restaurant to fast food joint didn’t change the fact that they still have one of the best burger grinds in all of L.A.
Word is they’ve done a ton of R&D on their fries, but I’m not sure if that’s paid off quite yet. And the portions are a bit small for the price, but this being L.A. I think most people will be grateful. And in the end, the overall price for a burger and fries of this quality is completely reasonable… as is the mild, post lunch stomach ache.
The + (What somebody who likes this place this would say)
- I love Umami Burger, but I wish the portions were smaller and it was half the price
- iPad ordering is so much fun!
- I’m all about a thick grind on my burgers, and Umami’s is top notch
- Finally, an Umami Burger you could eat at every day. Well, maybe not everyday. But more than once every few months.
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place will say)
- I don’t care how much smaller the burger is, I just don’t like Umami Burger
- Burgers are way too greasy
- I hate the fact that you can’t specify how you want your smash burger cooked. They all come out medium.
- The fries are nothing special… but I wish there were more of them for the price!
- What, no parmesan crisp!? The toppings are my favorite part of Umami Burger, and these combos leave a lot to be desired.
U-Mini, 1131 Westwood Blvd