Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Breadbar -- Los Angeles, CA

10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067
310 277 3770

In anticipation of the upcoming Brothers Day holiday, Fat Bruce Lee and I decided to beat the massive crowds and celebrate early with a traditional cheeseburger lunch. Nothing says "Bro" like a burger and fries followed up with fist bumps. Breadbar was on the slate for a re-review. On our previous visit, the quality ingredients were eclipsed by poor preparation. However, every time that we have encountered a Breadbar bun, it has been spectacular. We ordered a couple of the Angus Beef Burgers ($14.75) and settled in to wait.  Our meals arrived in about 10 minutes. This was a VERY different outcome than our previous, disappointing visit.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The burger patties were 8 ounces of Sirloin ground to medium in-house. The beef came from Newport meats. The beef was better than I remembered with beef, blood, and mineral notes from the sirloin. It was a little too oily, but it was also quite juicy and very tender.  The beef was a solid win.

The Seasoning: The exterior was dusted with exactly the right amount of a savory/peppery blend.

The Sear: The sear appeared to come from a very hot grill, and the sear came with a little char. The sear was rich, deep, and added a satisfying crunch. The mild char added a subtle hint of carbon, which was welcome.

The Preparation: Breadbar really nailed the preparation. The burger was cooked to a bloody Med-Rare with that excellent sear. The large patties were loosely formed so that they were firm yet toothsome.

The Cheese: This was an aged Vermont White Cheddar, and it was darn good. The Cheddar's mineral flavors served to boost those notes in the beef, and the umami flavor worked its way through the entire bite. The savoriness of the cheese perfectly balanced out the peppery notes from the seasoning.

The Bun: Hooray for Breadbar buns! We have never encountered a bad burger bun that was sourced from Breadbar. The buns were delivered from Breadbar's El Segundo bakery. The seeded burger bun was properly toasted, moist, springy, tender, just chewy enough, and mildly sweet. Breadbar really does produce the ideal burger bun.

The Meat to Bun Ratio: Dead on.

The Fries: We made the mistake of deviating and getting the Parmesan potato wedges. These were fine, but these were not fries. From what we could see at other tables, the shoe string fries were golden brown.

The Value: $14.75 was a little costly for a cheeseburger. We had the good fortune of being able to walk to this location, so we did not incur a bunch of other costs, so the price was not egregious. A better value for a better burger can be found at MIRU 8691 or Wolfgang's Steakhouse. That said, Breadbar produced the best burger in Century City.

On this visit, we found Breadbar's cheeseburger to be vastly better than it was previously. The quality was surprisingly high for a restaurant in a mall--even an upscale mall like Westfield Century City.

Burger Review : Breadbar produced a fantastic bun and a very good burger. If you had given up on them, now is the time to give them another try. The 2011 version of the burger was far superior to the 2010 version.

Rating...4 Bites

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Burger King


Several months ago, a PR company, reached out to us to announce the launch of the BK Stuffed Steakhouse Burger. We'd been meaning to get around to this one, but we figured that we were in no rush...we figured that if it was awful, the public would vote with their dollars, and it would be discontinued. Since, it was still on menus since mid-January of this year, we decided to give it a shot.  Happy Meal had demanded food that came with a toy, so we killed two birds with one stone. I believe that all Burger King locations now carry this particular burger. The combo....BK Stuffed Steakhouse Burger, fries, and a drink was $5.99, and it was ready in about 4 minutes. I entered  into this with low expectations, and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The beef was flavorful and beefy. I assumed that this was fast food trickery, but it tasted fine. Keep in mind that this burger patty was blended with bits of jalapeño and Cheddar cheese. The beef was on the dry side, but the cheese and pepper bits moistened it up enough to be passable. The beef was a little oily but OK.

The Seasoning: In the BK Stuffed Steakhouse Burger, the cheese and jalapeño were the primary flavors, so the burger was well-seasoned. The burger patty had a hefty amount of pepper and cheese mixed throughout. The pepper's hotness was mild enough to appeal to a broad audience--not children, though. The burger was a little salty, and I assumed that this was how it was processed by Burger King. I got the chipotle mayo on the side, but I confess to dipping a bite into it. It was tasty. If you get this, I would ask them to go easy on it, because it was strongly flavored, and it might overwhelm the burger.

The Sear: Yes, there was a sear and even a little char. They really did use a flame broiler, and it really did improve the texture and flavor of the burger.

The Preparation: The beef was a medium grind, and it had been processed to the point of being a little rubbery. It was not unbearably chewy--it was what I expected of fast food beef, but a little less blatant.  The (6 ounce?) burger patty was broiled and grilled to Well Done.

The Cheese: Burger King claimed. "Juicy 100-percent beef infused with bits of jalapeño and Cheddar makes for an experience you can see and taste in every bite."  I don't dispute that there was Cheddar in there, but I would have expected it to melt away during  the cooking process. It did not--there were pieces of cheese peppered throughout the burger, and they tasted a little like Velveta...not that there's anything wrong with that.

The Bun: The bun was a moist, fresh, corn meal dusted, burger bun. It was toasted gently. The bun was not especially sweet, and it generally disappeared into the stronger flavors of the dish. The bun was fine.

The Meat to Bun Ratio: The ratio worked. The bun provided some moisture.

The Fries: Happy Meal attacked my fries. They were great. The Burger King fries were golden, crisp, and salty.

The Value: The value was fine. It was a big burger, a good portion of fries, and a large beverage.

I walked in a skeptic...I truly anticipated trying to choke down a vile burger. What I had, instead, was burger that was just fine. I wouldn't go out of my way to get one of these, except for the sheer novelty of getting something not awful from a fast food place. Still, I would not attempt to dissuade anyone from going to Burger King for a BK Stuffed Steakhouse.

Burger Review : The BK Stuffed Steakhouse was just fine.

Rating...3 Bites

Friday, March 25, 2011

MIRU 8691 -- Beverly Hills, CA

9162 West Olympic Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 777-8378
MIRU 8691 CLT Burger

On this visit to MIRU 8691, Fat Bruce Lee, ChiBurger, and I brought a small army to the small, fusion restaurant tucked away in a strip mall on Olympic. We had been talking up the best burger, which nobody knew about in Los Angeles, around the world headquarters for several months.  We finally organized a field trip to demonstrate to the minions that Chef Miru Jung turned out some of the best burgers that we have had the good fortune to sample. Notably, the burgers were actually BETTER on this visit. Like Umami Burger, these burgers were no joke in terms of quality, consistency, and the culinary talent behind them.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Chef Jung. Miru Jung is a great American story. He started his career as a dishwasher at the age of 17, and he saved over the years until he could buy a restaurant of his own.  It was not just the burgers that were fantastic at MIRU 8691--we tried a number of other things this time.  The Calvin Fries (not pictured) were loaded curly fries with spicy tuna...amazing.  The rolls that came out of the kitchen were superb, as well.  Chef Jung employed his serious chops as a sushi chef to build the base, and then he bumped up the flavors and textures. It takes a visit to MIRU 8691 to fully appreciate deep frying as an art.

Another notable quality at MIRU 8691 was the deep attention to flavor. Every dish contained subtle twists of flavor combinations. The Sriracha ketchup and the aioli with sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce (?) were prime examples of this in action. There was an understated, confident harmony of flavors in each bite where no component held the stage for longer than was appropriate.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The Kobe beef was a medium grind of Chuck. On this, our second visit, the beef flavor was strong and prominent, and the aging came through to round out the flavor profile. The bite was nearly buttery in its tenderness, and it was perfectly juicy without being greasy. This was one of the few cases where Chuck was equal to premium cuts of beef. Susan Feniger pulled this off at Street, and Chef Jung's Kobe Chuck was every bit as good as a complicated premium blend. 

The Sear: The grilled sear that we enjoyed on our previous visit was still strong and full of texture.

The Seasoning: The light dusting of seasoning on the exterior of the thick patties worked its way through the bite and perfectly suffused each bite with a gentle savoriness.

The Preparation: As was the case of our previous visit, the burgers took about 20 minutes to arrive. Sometimes it takes a while to deliver something beautiful. MIRU 8691 easily delivered the best presentation of a burger that we had ever seen. Great care was taken in plating each dish.

The 7 ounce patties were formed to order and with gentle pressure so that they were remarkably tender. This was a nice contrast to the booming beef flavors. The beef was slowly brought to a temperature between Med-Rare and Medium. This melted enough of the collagen to generate that strong flavor, but it retained the creamy mouth-feel associated with lower degrees of doneness.

The Cheese: We have NEVER experienced such an exacting and masterful level of culinary expertise with regard to cheese on a burger. To create that lush, thick blanket, which was draped like a fondant over the patty, Chef Jung melted Cheddar, Mozzarella, Parmesan, and Monterrey Jack cheeses into a kelp broth. This yielded something well beyond mere cheese. The kelp broth added a quiet depth of umami flavor and creaminess to the savory cheese blend, which served to showcase the tender Kobe beef's texture without being chewy enough to blur it. The Parmesan further tricked out the cheese to add savory and funky notes.

The Bun: The bun was barely sweet and crisply toasted. The tender, moist bun was just the right delivery vehicle to get all of that cheese and beef where it belonged (my face). The bun was otherwise invisible to the palate--this was appropriate, since there was plenty going on in terms of flavor and texture.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: Perfect.

The Fries: As they were on the previous visit...these were well-seasoned, spiral-cut, battered, crispy, golden-brown coils of deliciousness. The fries retained their crispness well after we had finished our burgers, and it was a challenge to stop eating them.

The Toppings: The galbi beef was terrific, and the grilled pineapple was a huge winner.

The Value: The value at MIRU 8691 was spectacular. $12 for a brilliantly prepared burger and tremendous fries. Keep in mind that the meal includes an amuse bouche trio of seaweed salad, a slice of yam roll, and edamame with aioli, and a cup of flavorful miso soup. You can't afford not to eat there.  The trio pictured below is from a subsequent visit.

Chef Miru Jung--one of the most under-appreciated chefs in LA. Take your friends there for instant cred. This is an undiscovered gem of culinary excellence. It is truly difficult to find this level of talent, care, and precision in terms of flavor and technique for such a reasonable price.  Interestingly and refreshingly, over the course of the few months since our last visit, the burger had evolved from a really good burger to a great burger. In terms of value, this was on par with Umami Burger. In terms of flavor..yes, the MIRU8691 burgers were as good as Umami Burger. With topping, the MIRU8691 burgers won out, because of the stunning complexity and harmony of flavors. The OG Burger was a masterpiece.
A MIRU8691 amuse bouche

P.S. Try the Green Tea Shake...nice.

Burger Review : We were impressed the last time, but this time we were blown away. One member of our party pronounced this the best burger that he had ever tried. Chef Jung was fearless without being smug.

Rating...5 Bites

Then, shortly after we returned to our headquarters...this happened, which was AWESOME!!!!

MIRU8691 OG Burger..the OG stood for "Oh, GAW|D"

MIRU 8691 Galbi Burger

Green Tea Ice Cream Shake

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Shack -- Santa Monica, CA

2518 Wilshire Boulevard 
Santa Monica, CA 90403-4616

Check The Shack off of the list of burgers to try in Los Angeles. I had been searching for new places to try, and The Shack popped up on ChowHound. Sure why not...The Shack. Also, their website made the following claim: "The Shack offers some of the best burgers in town, as well as a pretty mean, authentic Philly cheese steak!"

The Shack was a little Philly-centric sports bar on Wilshire where people from Philadelphia could congregate without fear of persecution...after all Philadelphia has historically served as ground zero for almost every disease epidemic in the United States...Yellow Fever, Typhus, Smallpox, H1N1, Legionnaire's Disease, Scarlet Fever, Cholera, etc...I am not making this up. Philadelphia is also the only urban center in this country where people still, and with alarming frequency, contract both cholera and polio...I may have made that part up. We arrived at about noon on Tuesday, and we were the only customers there...not a great sign.  The claim to fame at The Shack was a burger with a butterflied Louisiana hotlink on top. We ordered a couple of plain cheeseburgers with the hotlink on the side, $8.45 each.  Our food arrived in about 15 minutes.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The wee, 4 ounce, burger patties at The Shack were composed of Chuck. The beef was greasy, but it did have a nice funk to it. It was only mildly beefy. Aside from the blatant oiliness of the patties, the beef was OK. We tried the burgers with the hotlinks, too. That was a greasier mess. Also, the mild beef was overwhelmed by the spicy sausage. It was pointless.

The Seasoning: This was barely discernible. It added nothing to the dish.

The Sear: The patties were brutalized on a gas grill, so there was a sear, but this came at the expense of moisture and texture.

The Preparation: Someone in that kitchen appeared to have it out for our burger patties. They grilled them to an oily, chewy Well-Done. We did request Medium-Well, but the patties were so thin, that it would have been a challenge not to cook them too hard. The patties were irregular, so they appeared to have been formed in-house, but these cheeseburgers were so uninteresting that it seemed a waste of time to get more details from the wait staff.

The Cheese: The American cheese was the only good thing about the burger. The cheese was just savory enough to compensate for the under-seasoned patty.

The Bun: The was an un-seeded, semi-dry, egg bun. The bun was a little on the sweet side, but mostly this spongy bun was too dry for the wispy, over-cooked burger patty. I would have preferred that the bun been better toasted, but in this case (dry bun) that would have probably caused it to catch on fire.  What actually happened, and this can be seen in the photos, is that the bun was wiped across a dirty griddle...gross.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: There was way too much bun. Even after removing the bottom bun, there was too much bun. The burger patties were tiny, and the over-cooking caused the to shrink and dry out to the point where they couldn't tolerate much bun at all.

The Fries/Rings: The fries and rings were surprisingly good. They were both perfectly seasoned and browned. The fries and rings were nearly out of place compared to the quality of our cheeseburgers.

The Value: The value at The Shack was very poor. It was just over $30 for a couple of very small burgers, a half order of fries, a half order of rings, and two beverages.

Philadelphia has always been a source of national shame, and The Shack made it clear that Philly-style cheeseburgers were a major contributor to why, as a country, we collectively feel that way. Note that Philly's West Bar and Grill turned out one of the worst burgers on record. Philly, the St. Louis of the East Coast.

Burger Review : Pass on the cheeseburgers...maybe the cheese steaks are good.

Rating...2 Bites This was a grudging 2.5 until we both stood up to leave and felt stomach pangs from all of the grease that we had ingested.

Umami Burger's Tsunami Relief Effort -- Los Angeles, CA

The following is a public Service Announcement for Umami Burger's upcoming event to benefit the Japan Earthquake & Pacific Tsunami Fund:

On Tuesday March 29th, for every burger sold at any of our five locations, Umami Burger will donate one dollar to the American Red Cross to benefit the Japan Earthquake & Pacific Tsunami Fund.  You can participate at any of our five locations by indulging in our Japanese inspired umami-rich burgers. Join us in supporting the cause.

For additional information or to make a donation of your own please check out link on the Umami Burger Facebook page.

Umami Restaurant Group

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dino's Chicken and Burgers

2575 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90006

to give excessive or undue praise
to behave like a fanboy or paid spokesperson
a website where people lavish praise on mediocre burgers

Dear Yelpers....please STOP raving about average burgers. I don't know what it has been about Yelpers and burgers from ethnic neighborhoods, but perfectly average burgers from neighborhoods, which weren't predominantly Caucasian, have consistently received a 40% lift in reports of their quality.  In truth, Dino's Chicken and Burgers, Olympic Burger, Capitol Burger, and Olympian Burger were all dumps that served very average to below-average burgers. All these joints got rave reviews on Yelp.

Fat Bruce Lee, ChiBurger, and I dutifully made our way to K-Town to sample Yelp-darling Dino's Chicken and Burgers.  The "burgers" part of the signage should have been in a pale gray, 8 point font--Dino's forte was grilled chicken and fries. There were two lines, ten-deep, of people coming for that chicken. It was piled deep on the grill. They were cooking fries in three fryers, 6 baskets at a time. They moved some tonnage over at Dino's.

We ordered a couple of 1/4 pound cheeseburgers, two orders of fries, and two beverages--that was $9.40...not bad. Our meals were up in 6 minutes. ChiBurger went rogue and ordered the chicken. ChiBurger made the right call, as always.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef:  This was garden-variety Chuck. It was vaguely beefy, but it did have a nice funk from aging.  It was neither greasy nor juicy. The beef was OK in these cheeseburgers.

The Seasoning:  The burger patties were barely seasoned, and that may have been the remnant chicken seasoning from the griddle. I would have preferred a much larger dose of seasoning to punch up the mild beef.

The Sear: The patties were VERY THIN, so very little sear was developed during the cooking process.

The Preparation: The burger patties were cooked on a properly hot griddle. The beef was probably formed into patties on-site that morning. The grind was medium, and the tender patties were not over-manipulated while being formed.

The Cheese: The Cheese was a savory, gooey American. The cheese added the right amount of moisture to the dryish burger patties.

The Bun: The bun was a moist, barely sweet, seeded hamburger bun.  The bun was lightly toasted on the griddle. While the bun was not fantastic, there was nothing wrong with it.  The bun was OK, but it should have been toasted longer to develop some crunch.

The Meat To Bun Ratio:  The bun slightly overpowered the thin patty and cheese.

The Fries: Dino's Chicken and Burgers did not par-cook their fries, so these peel-on sticks were very similar to what we have come to accept from In-N-Out Burger. These fries were a little better than their cousin in terms of potato flavor, but they were very much in need of seasoning. They were cooked to a perfect golden brown, and they served up a ton of them in an order.

The Value: We paid was less than 5 bucks for a cheeseburger, fries, and a drink at Dino's Chicken and Burgers. The value was good.

Burger Review : Average, OK, and fine.  Dino's Chicken and Burgers charged a great price for OK burgers. Damn, though--that chicken was spectacular.

Rating...3 Bites

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Olympic Burger -- Los Angeles, CA

1001 S Vermont Ave # 108
Los Angeles, CA 90006-2770

Every review that we had seen for Olympic Burger had been nothing short of spectacular. Fat Bruce Lee and I had no choice but to roll and regulate to insure that all was right, and that a mediocre burger wasn't getting foisted off on the citizens of LA. You'll thank us...

Olympic Burger was a hole in wall, which was tucked away in a strip mall at the corner of Vermont and Olympic in K-town.  The whole place was about as big as the average living room and probably sat about 12 people. We were the only patrons that were dining in--not a great sign. One of the draws of this place was its arcade video games and the fact that they served Orange Bang. Those are two things that we did not care about.  We ordered a couple of single cheeseburgers (1/4 pound for $2.50 each) fries, and a couple of drinks. Fat Bruce Lee also ordered some chicken nuggets, because being fat does not happen by accident.  We were all in for about 14 bucks.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef:  It was hard to say. I'd guess that it was Chuck, but it was mighty bland--really nondescript. The beef wasn't bad, it was just not doing anything in the dish. It added zero flavor. It was, however, surprisingly tender. I fully expected the thin patties to be rubbery, but they were not.

The Seasoning: It was uneven. Some bites were devoid of flavor, and some had way too much salt.

The Sear: The was no sear. The thin patties cooked way too fast to develop a sear or any color whatsoever.

The Preparation: They griddled the burger patties on a hot flat-top to a juicy Well-Done. The burger meat was not over-manipulated. I would guess that the uniform patties came in frozen from a supplier, but that would only be a guess. The cheeseburgers were so uninteresting that we really didn't bother to find out much about them.  Besides, my Korean is lousy, so trying to determine the origin of the ingredients seemed like a waste of time.

The Cheese: They put a slice of American cheese under the patty. I don't care for this method of preparation--I would have preferred that the cheese be draped over the burger patty, but it didn't matter. The cheese was too mild to contribute any substantial flavors.

The Bun: The bun as a big, floppy, generic, seeded, and barely toasted burger bun. It was neutral, a little dry, and adequate.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: The bun was too large for a single cheeseburger.

The Fries: WEAK. The fries were food service, generic, crinkle cuts, which were not cooked long enough. They were not crisp or tasty.

The Value: The value was good--slightly below average burgers for a slightly below average price.

The cheeseburger at Olympic Burger tasted like a burger one would get at a hole in wall, which was tucked away in a strip mall at the corner of Vermont and Olympic in K-town. Oh, the chicken nuggets were horrific...rubbery and fishy.

Burger Review : This was not something that we would try again--it wasn't awful, it just wasn't good.

Rating...2 Bites  The fries took this one down a little. 2.5 bites without the lousy fries.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Olympian Burgers -- Los Angeles, CA

2701 South Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90007-2226
place page 

Lately, the good contributors of Yelp, Citysearch, and Urbanspoon had all been giving Olympian Burger consistently high marks. Happy Meal and I made the trek to learn what all of the fuss was about. I have learned to take Yelp reviews (and their ilk) with a grain of salt, but the number, tone, and recentness of these positive reviews swayed me to expect greatness from this cheeseburger. Greatness was not what was delivered.

The parking was free in the strip mall where Olympian Burgers was located.  We ordered a couple of single 1/4 pound) cheese burgers at the front counter and waited for them to call our number. The cost for two cheeseburgers, a beverage, and an order of fries was about $8.50. In about 10 minutes, our meals were ready.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef:  This was the bottom of the barrel. The beef was pre-ground, pre-formed, probably previously frozen, bland, rubbery, tasteless, dry, chewy, bloodless Chuck. The 1/4 pound patties were beef in name only, because they tasted of nothing.

The Seasoning: There was no seasoning.

The Sear: Olympian Burgers mercilessly immolated the burger patties over a very hot grill to the point where there was a sear, but this vaporized any of the juices in the beef leaving behind only chewy blandness. There was also a mild char to the patties. This char was the only flavor that the beef contributed, so it was unpleasant.

The Preparation: The burger patties had been processed/handled to the point where they were completely rubbery--think rawhide chew toy. The thin, broad patties were cooked so hard that they became lenses, and would have been more suitable for Frisbee golf than for human consumption. The burgers were pressed to rid them of any moisture that the cooking process did not remove. This was a mixed blessing, since the vulcanization process also rendered out most of the fat, excess calories were kept to a minimum. Well-Done was a euphemism for the degree to which our burgers were cooked.

The Cheese: A single slice of American cheese did all that it could to contribute flavor and moisture to a dish, which was devoid of both. The cheese failed and died without a sound in its lonely struggle.

The Bun: Blah! The bun was a big, stale, over-toasted, seeded hamburger bun. It was dry and tasteless. It served to reinforce the joyless dryness that the kitchen of Olympian Burgers sought to inflict on its patrons.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: Not that it mattered, but the bun dominated the beef.

The Fries: The fries were pretty good. They were cooked in a hot, fresh oil. They were golden, properly seasoned, and well-crisped.

The Value: Even though we spent less that $9.00 to feed 2 people, the value was poor, because the quality of the ingredients and preparation was so low.

Don't believe everything that you read...unless you read it here. The only things Olympian about the cheeseburgers at Olympian Burgers were the flame that they were cooked over, the discuses (disci?) that were served in lieu of burger patties, and the Herculean effort required to choke down those palate dessication machines.

Burger Review : Not only no, but Hell NO!  Olympian Burgers was where bad beef and stale buns went to be punished.  We give this place the finger.

Rating...2 Bites  We were ridiculously hungry and managed to choke down these lousy, dry discs of bleakness, or Olympian Burgers would have received a 1 Bite rating.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Baby's Badass Burgers -- Los Angeles, CA


This review should have been posted from an ER or a weight loss clinic. Baby's Badass Burgers was the second food truck burger sampled/reviewed in two days, and Fat Bruce Lee and I could just barely stand the numbness in our left arms after finishing a second round of 1/2 pound, food truck monsters. Baby's Badass Burgers had recently received a top-ten rating from LAist.com as one of the best burgers in Los Angeles. It was up to us to find out if these burgers were worthy of such high marks. We ordered a couple of All American Girl burgers--plain (1/2 pound for $9) and fries ($2). After a 10 minute wait, our burgers were ready.

The hook of the Baby's Badass Burgers truck was super hot girls serving up burgers....sort of a classed-up, rolling Hooters with heels in lieu of white sneakers. This was not really the case in practice, and the male staff equaled the female staff in number. Fortunately, we were not there to rate their appearance...only the food.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: They used an 80:20 Chuck. This satisfying Chuck was beefy, juicy, and only a little greasy. We noted no pesky connective tissue, and the beef tasted mildly of aging.

The Seasoning: Baby's Badass Burgers dusted the patties with a savory/peppery blend, which lingered on the palate just long enough to be noticed but not strongly enough to draw focus from the flavorful beef.
The Sear: Kaboom! They applied a crunchy, dark, even, and delicious sear to the burgers. The crunch of the sear perfectly complemented the crunch from the toasted bun to provide a nice range of textures. The sear brought out the beefiness and savory flavors of these cheeseburgers.

The Preparation: They had the Chuck ground to medium coarse, and the thick, 8 ounce patties were gently formed. The burgers were firm enough to provide substance, but they were not chewy. The burgers were griddled to a juicy Med/Med-Well on a very hot griddle.

The Cheese: Baby's Badass Burgers melted a thick slice of American cheese on our burgers. The cheese was perfectly gooey and just salty enough to enhance the flavor of the burgers.

The Bun: This was a crisply toasted, seeded, standard, fresh, moist, burger bun. It closely resembled the Sarah Lee buns employed by Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The bun was a winner.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This was spot on.

The Fries: The curly fries ($2.00) were delicious. They were crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. They were seasoned with something resembling a Lawry's Seasoning Salt, which was just right. I got the sauce for my burger on the side, and this made a perfect dipping sauce for the fries.

The Value: It was $11.50 for a big cheeseburger, fries, and no beverage. The burger was good, but it was just Chuck, so the price was a little on the high side. The value was below average on this burger. Still, it was more than I wanted to eat. I only got through 2/3rds of my burger and half of my fries before I gave in. Fat Bruce Lee polished off his burger and fries and headed over to the ice cream sandwich truck and continued on his culinary journey. Seriously, keep your hands and feet away from his mouth.

The ingredients in the cheeseburgers at Baby's Badass Burgers were superior in every way to the cheeseburgers that we ordered from the Grill 'em All truck on the previous day. The beef was flavorful; the patties were properly seasoned; the cheese was delicious and gooey; the buns were not overpowering in their sweetness. The level of skill in preparation was equal (superb) in both cases. Baby's Badass Burgers served up darn good cheeseburgers. They were a little pricey for Chuck. Still, if you're hungry, and you're in the neighborhood, we recommend a stop at this food truck over a stop at the Grill 'em All truck.

Burger Review : Baby's Badass Burgers skillfully prepared darn good cheeseburgers. These were not  Top Ten list burgers by our statndards, but they were very, very tasty. Also, this truck was West-side friendly and listed regular visits to Santa Monica on its website.

Rating...4 Bites

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Grill 'em All Truck -- Los Angeles, CA


Grill 'em All truck -- Hannah Montana Burger
The Grill 'em All truck had recently won the Great Food Truck Race. Fat Bruce Lee and I had been meaning to try their much-hyped burgers for quite some time. On this particular day, the burger truck was serving lunch a convenient 8 blocks from our world headquarters. Naturally, we drove there--lucky thing--there was no seating, so we rushed the burgers back for dissection and analysis in our state-of-the-art culinary lab. Note: If you don't want to wait in line for a LONG time, show up 20 minutes before the truck opens, and be the first in line. Fat Bruce Lee did not get fat by accident, so he ordered The Behemoth--a bacon cheeseburger between 2 full-sized grilled cheese sandwiches (Texas Toast).  I ordered the Hannah Montana (plain cheeseburger) and a Molly Hatchet (fennel sausage gravy, maple syrup, and bacon toppings on burger patty). They were precooking burger patties, so our burgers were ready in less than 5 minutes.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The 7 ounce patties were 80:20 Chuck, which was surprisingly bland, considering the fact that Grill 'em All promoted the beef supplier on their website. They sourced that beef from Rocker Brothers Meat and Provisions, but this tasted just like generic, characterless, Costco beef.  There was no blood, no aging, no beefiness, just a mouthful of...blah. It was also greasy as hell. Like Apple Pan, the cooking smells that emanated from the kitchen were far better than the flavor of the final product.

The Seasoning: I noticed a big box of sea salt on the shelf, but almost none of that made it onto the burgers--the burgers were sorely lacking in seasoning. The bland beef really needed a hit of salt and pepper to develop some sort of flavor on the palate.

The Sear: Boom! They got a fierce sear onto the burgers. The sear was crisp, dark, even, and it had a hint of char--it was the best thing about the dish. Sadly, the beef was so insipid and under-seasoned that the sear only provided texture, and it did not serve to enhance the flavors of the dish.

The Preparation: The beef was ground at a medium-coarse setting, and the burgers were cooked to a moist but overly greasy Medium/Medium Rare. Grill 'em All cooked the burgers on a ferociously hot gas griddle. The beef was not overworked in the least, so the texture was perfect and tender, and this allowed the coarseness of the grind to shine through. Had they used a flavorful cut of beef, this would have truly been an excellent touch.

The Cheese: The American Cheese on the Hannah Montana was perfectly melted. Sadly, any savory notes from the cheese were dominated by the cloying sweetness of the bun.

The Bun: The bun was moist, chewy, beautifully-toasted with butter, but WAY TOO SWEET. The sweetness and the butter overwhelmed the bite.  The unseeded, brioche-style bun came from Wheatland Baking, and I hope to never encounter one of these sweet as a doughnut buns again unless it is covered in frosting and served as a cake. On the subject of sweetness...in the case of the Molly Hatchet, the sweetness of the bun coupled with the maple syrup overwhelmed the savory and umami flavors that I expected from the bacon, beef, and the sausage gravy. They managed to wreck sausage gravy AND bacon--in some states, that would have been a hanging offense.

The Meat to Bun Ratio: The ratio was perfect, but the flavors were so off that this was a moot point.

The Value:  6 bucks for the Hannah Montana and 9 bucks for the Molly Hatchet. Neither burger was good enough to finish. The portions were generous and filling, though. The value was fine.

Finally, a burger that even Fat Bruce Lee could not finish. Based on our experience, we suggest that you not wait in line for a bland gut bomb from the Grill 'em All truck...it was not worth it.  Maybe they would have been better had we been drunk, but we were pretty drunk by the noon opening, and we didn't care for the burgers. We understand that this review will be wildly unpopular with the 15,000 plus Twitter followers that Grill 'Em All has amassed, but we call 'em like we eat 'em. We did pass the burgers around to our enormously talented staff to try, and the overwhelming consensus was that these were sub-par burgers.

Grill 'em All truck -- Molly Hatchet Burger
It was the ingredients, and not the skill of the staff, that caused this burger to fail. The burgers were prepared expertly. It was the tasteless beef, the lack of seasoning, and the overly sweet bun that dragged this burger into the "Do Not Want" range. The same cooking techniques with suitable ingredients would have resulted in a huge win.

Burger Review : The shtick and promise of the Grill 'em All truck was metal, but these sweet, bland burgers tasted more like a Creed/Nickelback collaboration than Metallica.

Rating...2 Bites

Grill 'em All truck -- Behemoth Burger

Sunday, March 6, 2011

STREET -- Los Angeles, CA

742 North Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038-3415
(323) 203-0500

I noticed that LAist had rated the burger at Susan Feniger's STREET as one of the best in LA. I had just tried another restaurant guided by Chef Feniger's hand, Border Grill in Santa Monica. Chef Feniger achieved some notoriety on Top Chef, and has established herself in LA with both Border Grill and Cuidad. The food at Border Grill was fantastic, and I had similar hopes for STREET. Note: if you want to go to STREET, make reservations well in advance. I called 5 days in advance, and I could only wrangle an 8:30 PM seating. Upon arrival, I noted a collection of hungry patrons waiting to be seated, and this crowd spilled out onto the sidewalk, as well. STREET was certainly not wanting for customers. My party was seated as quickly as possible by an attentive staff on a jammed night.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: This was a shockingly good Chuck. It was a lean, 100% Angus, wet-aged beef, which was surprisingly juicy, bloody, and beefy. Street did something with the humble Chuck, which elevated it to the level of a blend of premium cuts of beef. The funk of the aging really popped, and this was wet-aged beef, which is a less expensive process, and it generally results in a less flavorful product. There was a little more connective tissue than I cared for, but the wonderful flavors of the beef more than made up for that minor nit.

The Seasoning: We had two burgers--one was light on the seasoning with just a hint of pepper and dash of salt. The other was far heavier on the pepper, so that this spice lingered on the tongue throughout the entire bite. The evenness of the seasoning was notable. It appeared that they micro-ground their spices to achieve such an even distribution. I do this at home with a mortar and pestle, and it makes a huge difference.  The seasoning was a positive note. Chef Feniger insisted that we try one of the cheeseburgers her way, and she personally delivered it. This one one came with the yuzu/kosho mayo and veggies as part of the assemblage. The tricked out mayo was good, but it introduced a fruitiness to the dish, which I found discordant with the otherwise perfectly balanced flavors in the dish. The extra sauce and vegetation made the burger far wetter than I would have liked. Still, that glorious beef carried the dish and made its presence known throughout the bite. The mayo did serve to temper the chewiness of the burger, but only a little. Aside from a little tomato, I don't appreciate fruits on my burgers. I think that yuzu spread would have been fantastic on a crispy chicken sandwich.
That's a tasty sear

The Sear: HELL YEAH!  They nailed the sear. It was crisp, savory, and very satisfying. The sear provided a really nice counterpoint to the warm but very rare center of the burger patty. The sear was replicated on both burgers...kudos to the kitchen at STREET for getting that right on such a busy night.

The Preparation: The beef came pre-ground (medium coarse) from the supplier, and something went wrong either on the supplier's end or during the prep process. Unfortunately, in spite of perfect flavors, cooking temperature, and sear, the burgers came out a little rubbery. This was likely due to a combination of leanness and over-manipulation of the beef during the seasoning and patty forming process. The chewiness was bit of a distraction, because it collided with an otherwise delightful cheeseburger.  When this was brought to Chef Feniger's attention, she made a note to address this with the prep staff. I don't imagine that this will be an issue in the future.The hefty, thick patties were perfectly seared on a wickedly hot griddle.

The Cheese: This was an Aged White Vermont Cheddar, and by itself it was quite nice. However, that poor Cheddar never stood a chance against the powerful beefiness and funk of the burger meat. The cheese went unnoticed. Frankly, the cheese was not needed. The beef and seasoning carried the dish without needing to draw savory and umami notes from the cheese.

The Bun: This was a really solid brioche from Ca'd'Oro Bakery in Santa Monica. The bun was lightly toasted on the griddle. The interior of the bun was flaky an light enough to resemble a croissant, while the crust was resilient enough to provide toothsomeness and a barrier against the copious juices flowing from the burger. The bun was quite neutral, and this was fine since this dish was carried by the beef, and all of the other ingredients were along for the ride.

The Meat To Bun Ration: Dead on!

Sides: The house-made pickles were subtle and just right.  The tomatoes and lettuce were perfectly fresh, which indicated a tremendous amount of care was taken at Street...when a restaurant is careful with their selection of produce, then this bodes well for the kitchen's output. Wolfgang's Steakhouse was careful and meticulous, and Comme Ça was not.  Wolfgang's Steakhouse was fantastic and Comme Ça....not so much.   While the dish did not come with fries, they were not missed. The Shrimp Stuffed Shitake Mushrooms really hit the spot as an appetizer, and the fries were not notable in their absence.

The Value: It was 12 buck Chuck, but damn...it was totally worth it. I have never experienced Chuck elevated to this level of complexity and fullness of flavor.

STREET delivered a nearly perfect burger. The sole shortcoming was that the texture was too chewy. This threw an otherwise fantastic burger out of balance. I predict that once this issue is cleared up, this will become one of our "go-to" burgers in LA. The staff was on top of their game, too.

Burger Review : STREET delivered a perfect burger in terms of flavor. Chef Feniger and crew performed a near miracle with a humble cut of beef. Go there, and go there SOON.  Get the mayo on the side, and use it as a dipping sauce.

Rating...4 Bites  This would have been a 5 Bites rating had it not been for the chewiness of the beef.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Top Ten Best Burgers in LA

Galbi Burger at MIRU8691

We'd been at this for a year and half in LA, and while we had 40+ burgers left to try, we had already reviewed 100 in So Cal. We felt that it was time to publish a Top 10 List of our favorite burgers in LA. 

We judged the burgers on Beef, Seasoning, Sear, Preparation, Cheese, Bun, Meat to Bun Ratio, Fries/Sides, and Value.  

#10  JNJ Burger Shack  JNJ Burger Shack served one of the best burgers that we have tried in Los Angeles.  The value was remarkable, and the quality was strong. At JNJ Burger Shack, the care for the food really shines through.  No shame on coming in 10th, JNJ Burger Shack--we will be coming back for more soon.

#9  Smashburger OK, Smashburger was in Del Mar, but they are expanding, and it was a damn fine cheeseburger. Their goal is to be every town's favorite burger, and we like their chances.

#8  Hinano  This burger boasted an epic sear and tremendous seasoning. This was a delicious an honest cheeseburger. Update: 30MAY11 The quality fell off at Hinano. The prices went up, the beef was of lower quality, and the once great sear was no more.

#7  Five Guy Burgers and Fries  They were totally deserving of Zagat's Best Fast Food Burger for 2010  If you haven't tried one, do so. Do so soon.

#6  The Six  (How convenient--but only a happy coincidence) The Six made ground Chuck sing and dance.  A funky, flavorful, and well-prepared cheeseburger was delivered by The Six.

Here's where it got tricky...the next 5 burgers were all fantastic in their own rights...we heartily recommend that you try all of these beef and cheese masterpieces.

#5  The Golden State Cafe  Close to being a truly marvelous burger..prepared with care and skill but just short of the mark.

#4  Bouchon  A pricey but almost magnificent burger was enjoyed at Bouchon. The flavor was marvelous, but the lack of sear and the grind of the beef held this burger back from achieving complete excellence.

#3   Go Burger  Go Burger served up a darn good burger. We would have The Classic burger again, and we highly recommend it anyone that is in the neighborhood. We will be returning to try the Prime STEAKHOUSE Burger.

#2 This was a tie between the following two:

Miru 8691 and the most recent review...This was about as good as Chuck could get--it was Kobe Chuck, after all. MIRU 8691 delivered a spot on interpretation of the cheeseburger with great precision and a little improvisation. Also, a damn good price for Kobe beef--the value really put this one over the top. To replicate our burger experience, order the Kobe Burger Med-Rare with everything on the side (except the cheese). This cheeseburger was a subtle delight, and Chef Jung did something magical with the cheese.


Wolfgang's Steakhouse  This was one of the best cheeseburgers that we have tried in Los Angeles. The burger delivered powerful, honest flavors with precise attention to preparation. Keep in mind that we've also had off visits to Wolfgang's Steakhouse, so be sure to check that Chef Gonzales is in the kitchen.  Ask the kitchen to cook your burger Med-Rare, and have them sear it on the hottest part of the grill to generate a crunchy sear.  This cheeseburger was a tribute to steakhouse burgers and set the bar in that arena.

#1  Umami Burger  Yes, it's that good. The themes that ran through Umami Santa Monica were consistency, precision, and intensely satisfying flavors.  They truly shamed almost every other burger that we have tried in Los Angeles by executing everything perfectly. This was an exemplary case of quality ingredients prepared with great care. If you have not tried Umami Burger, do it soon, because you NEED to try the best burger in Los Angeles / the Best Burger in America. 

The OG Burger at MIRU8691
NOTE: On 10MAY11 we resampled the burgers at MIRU8691, and we have concluded that the burgers at MIRU8691 have surpassed Umami Burger in terms of quality, preparation, and flavor. MIRU8691 is currently the #1 Burger in LA....Fat Bruce Lee thinks it's the the best in the US, and he is probably right.

We have a HUGE backlog of burgers to work through, still.  LA is a big place, and we are lucky that we a seemingly endless number of burger places to try.  We probably missed your favorite, but we would be pleased to sample it and report back to you.  You can reach us at TheBurgerBusters@gmail.com  Or you can enter a comment below.

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