Archive for 'Burgers'

The Smashburger “Favorites” Menu is For Idiots

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The popular Colorado burger chain Smashburger has invaded Los Angeles, generating the requisite amount of excitement from this burger obsessed city.  And while there are some who may have enjoyed a BBQ, bacon and cheddar burger on a trip to Denver, the chain is mostly foreign to these parts.  So when a new location popped up in my home neighborhood of Culver City (on Venice and Overland) I entered with a completely open mind, and a hungry stomach.

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When your walk in, your eye is naturally drawn to the “Our Favorites” menu, which contains what one would assume are the most popular or recommended menu items.  But here’s the thing. The first two items on that menu (the “Classic Smashburger” and the “All American Bacon Cheeseburger”) are for total idiots. After two visits and some serious menu studying, I believe I have discovered some pretty large menu loopholes. Now, mind you, I’m not saying Smashburger is bad.  On the contrary, it’s actually pretty great. They get a great crust on the burgers by (you guessed it) smashing them on the griddle and their menu features the kind of toppings that have made Five Guys and Fatburger so popular.  But I’ve checked and double checked the numbers, run the stats through various ordering models and come to the conclusion that ordering one of those two burgers might be the dumbest move at Smashburger (despite being recommended as a “favorite” by the menu.)

Here’s why.

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Oleego by Park’s BBQ is the Early Standout in New Fig at 7th Food Court

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There are few things in life better than a great food court, especially here in L.A. where co-workers’ taste can range from “fat IT guy who will eat anything” to “fat IT Guy who doesn’t eat meat or gluten”.  In other words, finding a place that is suitable to all of your friends is damn near impossible in this city, which makes food courts the best.  Everybody gets what they want, everybody is happy.  Plus, there is never a shortage of (my personal favorite) shitty Chinese food.  What I’m saying is, I love food courts. And chances are you love them too- unless, of course, you’re some kind of communist.

So when I heard that DTLA’s new food court inside Fig at 7th had opened I was pretty excited.  Food courts have been getting progressively better over the past few years, either by incubating interesting new gourmet concepts (like Century City) or bringing in delicious transplants from ethnic neighborhoods (like the Fox Hills Mall).  Fig + 7th seems to be doing a little bit of both.  But deciding what I wanted to eat proved a little bit easier than I expected.

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U-Mini is Less Burger For Less Money w/ Less Stomach Ache

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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.

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Short Order Finally Launches Lunch Specials

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If you were one of those people (read: cheap bastards like me) who found the menu at Short Order, the Nancy Silverton backed burger concept in The Original Farmer’s Market, to be way too expensive for a casual lunch- a reprieve has finally arrived.  Short Order has announced the launch of lunch specials.  Now $14 will get you a grass fed cheeseburger with a side order of house fries or their signature spuds, plus a soda.  For $3 more you can get a beer instead, $7 more will get you a cocktail (the special is also offered during happy hour.)   It still doesn’t exactly feel cheap, but at that price it’s a lot easier to swallow than it was when the same lunch would cost you $18+.   And, I’m down with any deal that forces me to order those spuds.

Short Order, 6333 W 3rd St. 323-761-7970

L.A.’s 5 Most Genius Hamburger Toppings

I was once told that when attempting to judge the greatness of a hamburger the only acceptable toppings are cheese and maybe ketchup.  Being a fat man who loves throwing shit on top of stuff or stuffing stuff in other shit, I kind of scoffed.  But since then I’ve come to appreciate the burger in its most simple form.  Lettuce and tomato is rabbit food.  Bacon is so 2009.  And a runny fried egg?!  Actually, don’t fuck with the fried egg.  A fried egg makes everything better.  And so does grilled onions, and onion rings, and blue cheese.  Even pastrami. Oh, who am I kidding, I love burgers with tons of stuff on them.  And while at one time topping a burger with any one of those things might have been unique, now burger chefs have to get a little bit crazier with their ideas to really get noticed. Here are my 5 favorite, most crazily genius, individual burger toppings in Los Angeles…

KETCHUP LEATHER – PLAN CHECK

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Pay no attention to the stuff on top, the real genius is underneath.

Did you seriously think that the chef who helped to build Umami Burger would open a restaurant in West L.A. specializing in hamburgers, and *not* have some crazy trick up his sleeve? It looks like a fruit roll up. It feels like a fruit roll up. But it tastes like ketchup, and as you eat the thing the gooey sweetness starts to melt into the burger.  It’s almost like the chef came up with this while working at UB, and thought “hmmm… I think I’m going to keep this one for myself.” Genius. Will it cause Heinz apologists to suddenly embrace the idea of house made ketchups?  Probably not.  But fruit roll up enthusiasts now have a burger topping to get super excited about. 1800 Sawtelle Boulevard. 310-288-6500

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Shaka Shack is Surprisingly Good (And their Veggie Burger is Downright Great)

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I don’t know if it’s because I moved here from New York, but I had to do a double take the first time I read about Shaka Shack- a new burger joint that just opened on Ocean Park Blvd. in Santa Monica.  Change one letter and you’ve got, arguably, the most popular burger place in New York City.  A chain that has not only expanded to Miami, Washington DC and Dubai, but was also big enough to get one star in the New York Times yesterday. What were these Shaka Shack people thinking!?  Could this be west coast payback for the overt In N Out Burger rip off that opened in Manhattan two years ago?  And how did they expect to get away with this? At least McDowell’s was owned by a guy with the last name McDowell.

The answer?  Shaka Shack is nothing like the Shake Shack.  It’s a tiki bar’esque, surfer themed hangout, with a beach bum owner who could argue that he had never heard of the New York chain and you just might believe them (even though his ex wife used to work for Wolfgang Puck and they appeared  on the NBC show Chopping block together).

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My (Short) Order at Hole in the Wall Burger Joint

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I wanted to go to Short Order. I really did. How could I not?  First off, it’s a burger joint party conceived by the queen of Mozza.  Secondly, I have always wanted to find a decent lunch in the “Original Farmer’s Market” and this seems to be the best shot.  And thirdly… did I mention it’s burgers made by Nancy Silverton? Who wouldn’t be excited for this? Answer: nobody. And then I saw the prices.  Burgers $11-14. $4 fries. $6 shakes.  Not outrageous by any stretch, but not a Midtown Lunch.  I’m sure eventually I’ll cave, just like I did for Mozza To Go (I do love a good patty melt), but not this week.  So, with burgers on the brain (thanks for that blogosphere!) I decided to burger it up in West L.A. at a place I’ve been meaning to try for almost a year now: Hole in the Wall Burger Joint.

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