Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Counter -- Century City, CA

Westfield Century City
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067

It had been a little over a year since our last visit to The Counter, and the newest one had just opened a few blocks from TheBurgerBusters world headquarters. Fat Bruce Lee, Chi Burger, Special Guest, and I reluctantly made our way there with the hope that this location would serve up a more palatable burger than the Santa Monica location. We arrived just before the lunch rush, and the restaurant was only about 1/2 full. We sat at the counter, and ordered our burgers via the "build you own burger" method. I ordered my cheeseburger Medium, since the counter person at The Counter could tell me nothing about the cuts of beef in the burger other than what I could read on the menu. This was not a great sign when I stopped to consider that The Counter only served burgers, and the staff couldn't tell me about the components of the only thing on the menu.

Then, we waited, and waited, and waited. After about 15 minutes a couple of plates of lukewarm fries arrived. Then we waited some more. 

This was puzzling, since no less that 4 manager types were milling about the front of the house, and one would have expected one or more of them to be A) running food out of the kitchen, and/or B) raising hell in the kitchen and expediting food orders. About 15 minutes after that, my lukewarm burger arrived on a dirty plate. I held onto my burger as I waited for a clean plate to come back. This took several minutes, which left me wondering why it was so difficult to locate a clean plate in a restaurant. The new plate had food crusted on the underside, but I sort of knew the score at that point. I counted myself lucky to have a plate that was clean on one side.  In addition, we ordered as a group, but Fat Bruce Lee's meal (salad) arrived within 5 minutes. This was very poor form on the part of the kitchen and the front of house staff.

Yes, this location had only opened a week ago, but since they were charging full price, it was fair to expect full service and full sanitation. Service kinks should have been worked out well in advance. This was one of many The Counter locations, so it was not like they were breaking new ground.

The Burger Breakdown... 
  The Beef: The burger meat at The Counter was a proprietary blend of 100% natural, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free Angus from Meyer Natural Angus. I guessed that The Counter took delivery of their beef in pre-ground form, because it would have been difficult to explain the rubbery texture otherwise. The grind was on the fine side, which didn't help the mouth feel. The beef was neither juicy not dry--it was neutral in that regard. The flavor of the beef patty was relatively neutral, as well. It was mildly beefy, and that was it. There was no trace of funk or mineral flavors fin the "proprietary blend." It was very likely that Chuck was the dominant player in the patties at The Counter.  If the burger had been served warm enough, it would have been average.

The Seasoning: The exterior of the mild burger patty was barely dusted with seasoning. This was unfortunate, because a little salt and pepper would have gone a long way.

The Sear: *sigh* There was no sear. The burger patty was cooked on a too cool grill, and it only received nominal grill marks. It was tough to forgive a 30-minute order to plate time frame.

The Preparation: It was impossible to tell what was going on in the kitchen of The Counter, but I was pretty sure that it wasn't cranking out excellent burgers. The rubbery beef was most likely ground by the supplier and delivered as pre-formed patties. The uniformity of the patties and the lack of interesting flavors and texture suggested that this beef had been fully mechanically processed and then shipped. The gas grill was clearly far too cool for the task of cooking burgers. On the plus side, I ordered Medium, and they nailed that. The lukewarm temperature and rubbery texture of my burger suggested that the burgers were cooked in advance and assembled at a leisurely pace.

The Cheese: The Counter offered 12 cheese choices, and I went with American. The cheese was melted properly, and it was otherwise just fine.

The Bun: The bun was also lukewarm upon arrival, and the lack of crispness in the competent looking toasted surface suggested that the buns were being toasted ahead of time and then set aside on a cool shelf to be used when the burgers were ready. Otherwise, the standard, unseeded, neutral buns were fine.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This was fine.

The Fries: The fries arrived crisp and properly seasoned. The fries also arrived lukewarm. The peel-off, shoestring fries would have been fine had they been served at the proper temperature.

The Toppings: I ordered a bunch of things on the side:
a) Tomato Slice: fresh and juicy.
b) Hard-boiled Egg: lukewarm (yikes) and mealy. I think these showed up in the Sysco Foods truck. 
c) Sliced Black Olives: lukewarm and bland.
d) Dill Pickle Slices: fine.

The Value:  A year ago, a really bad 1/3 pound burger at The Counter in Santa Monica, CA was about $7. A year later, in 2011, the same 1/3-pound cheese burger went for $8.95...amazing. Last year, The Counter comped my burger, because they made a mess out of the preparation. I took three bites and gave up. 9 bucks would have been steep for a good cheeseburger without fries. Considering that a stingy single order of fries was about $2 more, the value was poor at The Counter.

Burger Review : I have tried The Counter 3 times, and the burgers have been inedible on the most recent 2 of those occasions. If you suffer from sensitive teeth, and biting into hot or cold foods is an issue, then The Counter would be a safe choice.

Rating...3 Bites  (2.5 rounded up. This would have been a 3 Bites cheeseburger if the food had been served hot, in a timely fashion, and on clean plates.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ercolés -- Manhattan Beach, CA

1101 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Whenever I have asked anyone from the Manhattan Beach, CA area about burgers, the name Ercolés has always come up pretty quickly. Happy Meal was on a play date on this particular Saturday afternoon, and that meant that I could finally try a burger at the 21 and over only establishment.

Metered parking was convenient and close by. Seating was ample inside the small, dim space. Ercolés had been established in 1927, and it looked like very little had changed since opening day aside from the addition of a bunch of flat screen TVs on the wall, which were showing various football games. Ercolés only served the burgers between certain hours during the day and on select evenings, so call ahead. When I walked in, I was impressed at the sheer size of the patties already sizzling on the tiny gas grill.

The protocol at Ercolés was to order at the bar, pay (cash only), find a seat, and wait for your burger to show up. My cheeseburger arrived in about 10 minutes.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The burger meat at Ercolés came from Manhattan Meats, which was located next door.....seriously, it was the actual next door to the North.  I popped in to speak with the staff at Manhattan Meats. They informed me that the Ercolés burgers were Chuck with a 15% fat content.  The beef was delivered (walked next door) pre-ground and formed into thick, 8-9 ounce patties. The grind was medium-fine. The burger patty was quite good. It was pornographically juicy. It was strongly beefy, and a firm note of iron was imparted from the ancient cooking grate upon which the burgers were grilled. The patties were loosely formed, and this created a pleasant and yielding mouth feel.

The Seasoning: A salty seasoning blend was liberally applied to the burger patties as they cooked. The seasoning was spot on, and the salt enhanced the beefy flavor of the thick patty without masking any of the flavors.

The Sear: The sear on my burger was nominal. The grill could have been 20 degrees hotter. The patty picked up some good color, but it was lacking in crunch. That was the trade off from the low fat and high moisture content. It was worth it, because the burger at Ercolés was fantastically juicy.

The Preparation: I ordered Medium, and a Medium burger was what showed up. My burger had deep indentations on the surface, which indicated that it might have been pressed on the grill, but it was so juicy that  even if they leaned on it, it was still good.

The Cheese: The cheeseburgers at Ercolés came with a single slice of nicely melted American cheese. On any future visits, I intend on ordering my cheeseburger with two slices. The cheese was nearly lost in the massive beef patty. I am not faulting Ercolés for delivering a great burger value. The bites where the cheese came through were splendid.

The Bun: The standard, seeded, burger buns were moist fresh, and perfectly generic. The un-toasted bun just barely contained the juices from my burger. The bun was invisible in the bite, but it did manage to keep my fingers dry. The interior of the bun was saturated by the third bite.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This was one of those rare cases where the meat DOMINATED the bread.

The Fries: There were no fries.

The Toppings: The massive dill pickle spear was crunchy, and it had a refreshing clove flavor. The thick tomato slices were ripe, juicy, and very flavorful. They must have provided 1/4 pound of fresh Iceberg lettuce, too. The veg at Ercolés was surprisingly good, and there was a ton of it.

The Value: The value was spectacular for an Ercolés cheeseburger. It was a mere $6.25 for a 9-ounce, juicy monster with delicious, fresh veg.

As I was departing Ercolés, I noted that the guy from the butcher shop next door was sitting in a booth waiting for a burger. I think that said it all.

Burger Review : A darn good and amazingly juicy burger for an excellent price.

Rating...4 Bites

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pelican Grill at The Resort at Pelican Hill -- Newport Coast, CA

The Resort at Pelican Hill
22701 Pelican Hill Road South
Newport Coast, CA 92657

Fat Bruce Lee had been prodding me to go and try the burger at Pelican Hill for some time. I finally had a meeting in that part of the world, so Pelican Hill it was. Parking was a breeze--it was either self parking and a 100 foot walk or the free valet service. The Pelican Grill was the more casual of the dining venues at the resort. I arrived in jeans and a polo shirt, and I did not catch the side eye from anyone.

We ordered a couple of the Prime Sirloin Beef Hamburgers with aged Cheddar and fries at $17 each. Our meals arrived about 15 minutes later.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The meats at Pelican Grill came from K & M Meat Company, in the LA area. The beef in the 8-ounce Pelican Grill burgers was a blend of Chuck and wet-aged Sirloin. The beef was ground in-house to a medium-fine grind.  The fat content was hovering around 25%, so it was a little oilier that I would have liked. The flavor was solid. The burger was moderately beefy, and it carried some nice iron and steak notes. There was a mild scent of funk from the aging, but this did not translate into the bite. The fine-ish grind worked in this case. The Sirloin was hearty and firm enough to provide just the right amount of resistance without being crumbly. The beef was a winner. It checked most of the boxes and came in well above average.

The Seasoning: The Pelican Grill kitchen applied a thorough and even amount of salt to the exterior of the thick burger patties. The salt was spot on, and it served to perfectly enhance the steak and beef flavors.

The Sear: The sear on our burgers was pretty decent for a gas grill. The sear looked good, but it didn't really contribute much by way of texture. The burger was firm enough that the sear didn't noticeably amp that up.

The Preparation: The8-ounce burgers at Pelican Grill were hand-formed into firm patties during morning prep. The burgers were turned three times, yet they remained very juicy. I requested Med-Rare, and my burger arrived a perfect Med-Rare. My companion's burger arrived a perfect Medium, as requested.

The Cheese: The aged Cheddar that I went with was fine. There were a couple of other choices, but Cheddar was the most smooth melting of the lot. The Cheddar was fairly mild, and its flavor was all but lost in the seasoning and steak notes. The cheese did lend a pleasant creaminess to the bite, and that served to balance out the firm beef.

The Bun: The bun at Pelican Grill was a mild and sweet brioche from OC Baking Company. This was a darn fine brioche. The kitchen had the decency not to oil the top. The bun was fresh, lightly toasted, and delicately sweet. It was refined without being fussy or crumbly. The bun yielded perfectly in the mouth, but it was sturdy enough to contain the thick, juicy burger patty.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: Perfect.

The Fries: The fries arrived frozen and pre-cut at Pelican Grill. They were properly crisped in fresh canola oil, and they were nicely seasoned. The fries were not spectacular, and they did not have a strong earthy flavor. They were perfectly adequate and very nicely prepared.

The Toppings: The Butter Lettuce was fresh and firm as was the tomato slice.

The Value: This was a $17 burger. Pelican Grill was at a resort/golf course, so we were paying resort/golf club prices. $17 for a burger and fries was steep, but the quality of flavor and preparation was strong enough that I was not full of regret after paying the check. I was a little surprised that a cheeseburger, which was touted as a Prime Sirloin Beef Hamburger was predominantly composed of Chuck. The value was a little below average but not poor.

The Pelican Grill at The Resort at Pelican Hill served up a pricey but darn fine burger. It would be difficult to make the argument to make that drive, but if you are already in the area, then that cheeseburger is a solid choice.

Burger Review : A very good and skillfully prepared cheeseburger was enjoyed at Pelican Grill. This was the best cheeseburger that we have had in Orange County, CA.

Rating...4 Bites

Friday, September 16, 2011

Stout -- Los Angeles, CA

1544 North Cahuenga Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Stout was long overdue for a visit by TheBurgerBusters, and we finally managed to right that wrong. Fat Bruce Lee (actually on a diet), myself, and The Marinater met up for lunch. Parking was a massive hassle, and we ended up shelling out 6 bucks to valet the car in the lot directly in front of the restaurant. Stout had a burger-heavy menu, but the staff was light on burger knowledge, and that did not bode well. Stout had only pre-set burger selections, but they did allow us to order the burgers minus the toppings that we wished to skip.

 I ordered The Imperialist, which was the closest thing to a plain cheeseburger that I could find. I asked them to put the mustard relish, ketchup, and roasted tomatoes on the side. I ordered my burger Medium. after about a  ten-minute wait, Fat Bruce Lee's burger was perfect, but the other two burgers arrived cooked to Well Done.

At Stout, re-fires went to the back of the line. A ruined order led to a ruined dining experience. Fat Bruce Lee finished his meal well before the second attempt at the other two burgers arrived at our table. Meanwhile, numerous other tables that were seated after ours received their orders. This was sloppy and inconsiderate of the restaurant. On the second attempt, the burgers came out a lukewarm and mushy Rare, but we simply did not have the additional time to let the kitchen try yet again to cook a competent burger. Our server didn't seem to care that the burgers were a flop and that we pushed them away after trying half.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The beef at Stout was a very greasy blend of Brisket and Chuck (huh?) from Newport Meats. I guessed that the fat content was close to 30% based on the oiliness of the bite and the stomach pangs that followed the meal. The under-cooked beef was bland, watery tasting, and mushy. The burger had no trace of aging or minerals. The claim was this was a 7-ounce patty, but that was probably overstated...the burger patty at Stout felt like it was 6 ounces at best. 6 ounces, 7 ounces--who cares--it was miserably bland and terribly greasy.

The Seasoning: There was none. The bland beef was completely unseasoned.

The Sear: The sear on the burgers at Stout was oddly impressive. Naturally, the sear on the over-cooked first attempt was superior than what we saw on the under-cooked version. Still, in both cases, the kitchen applied a solid sear to the patties. This was for naught, however. The sear only provided texture enhancement. The bland flavor was not improved.

The Preparation: It was a mystery to me why Stout chose to serve a burger comprised solely of two of the blandest cuts of beef. The beef was ground in-house, and it was formed into loose patties during morning prep. The burgers were cooked on an appropriately hot flat-top. Sadly, the kitchen staff appeared to be picking the moment to stop cooking the burgers by using some sort of random number generator. Out of five burgers that made it to our table, only one was properly cooked. The lack of seasoning was also an issue. They seasoned the fries, so I was able to deduce that they weren't out of salt.

The Cheese: Stout offered a number of cheese choices. The Imperialist came with Aged Cheddar. The Cheddar was completely useless. It tasted of absolutely nothing. It was only barely melted over my nearly raw burger, and it was punishingly bland.

First try at Medium
Second try at Medium
The Bun: The bun at Stout managed to be the star of the show. That was because the bun had actual flavor. The source was a mystery to the staff, so I can't properly acknowledge the purveyor. That said, the brioche was soft, fresh, moist, sweet, and tender. It was also the only thing that we could taste when eating our burgers. This phenomenon was also noted by the minions back at the world headquarters after we brought the uneaten portions of our burgers back for second and third opinions.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This was fine in terms of texture.

The Toppings: The roasted tomato slices were lukewarm and unappealing. Fat Bruce Lee had his burger without a bun. Instead it was served on a bed of leathery arugula. He described this as trying to eat a tree.

The Fries: The fries at Stout were terrific. We tried both the sweet potato and standard fries. Both were cut in-house, and the standard fries were peel-on. The fries were nicely seasoned and properly crisped.

The Value: It was 10 bucks for a tasteless, incompetently prepared, and small burger. It was 4 bucks for decent fries at Stout. The value was exceedingly weak.

When we tried Stout, it was during the lunch hour on a Friday, and it was less than 50% full. That should have been an indication of what to expect.

Burger Review : A bland, greasy, over-priced, badly prepared burger was not enjoyed at Stout.

Rating...2 Bites

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Local Peasant -- Sherman Oaks, CA

14058 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

Let me start with...holy cow, there is a decent burger in the Valley! At least there was at the time of this review.

I had been hearing good things from numerous folks about the recently opened (10 months ago) The Local Peasant. My UrbanDig Editor and Fat Bruce Lee were among those that had extolled the virtues of the cheeseburger at this establishment. Happy Meal and I made our way from civilization all the way to the San Fernando Valley in a reasonable amount of time for a Saturday evening. We opted for the $4 valet parking rather than hunting down the rare open metered parking on Ventura Blvd. Happy Meal and I were quickly seated, and we ordered a couple of The Classic Burgers and a side of fries. After about 17 minutes, our meals arrived.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The Local Peasant was not screwing around when it came to the beef in the burgers. They were using a blend of Filet, Short Rib, and Skirt Steak from Rocker Brothers Meat and Provisions.  All that said, the beef was excellent. It was thoroughly beefy with a firm and sustained not of iron. It had just enough funk, and that was mostly to the nose. The flavor was all ground steak. The texture was predictably firm and just chewy enough. The fat content was about 5% higher than it needed to be. I pegged it at about 25%, and that was a little too much for this burger. It seemed like fat for the sake of fat. The burger was juicy enough and flavorful enough to carry off the standard 20% fat content without skipping a beat in terms of flavor or moisture.

The Seasoning: Salt and pepper only. That was all that it needed. The seasoning was liberally applied but not in a heavy-handed fashion. The salt and pepper served to further showcase the premium cuts of beef in the burger.

The Sear: Hooray! The Local Peasant seared the burger in cast iron skillets. The sear was dark, deep, crisp, and flavorful without being burnt. The sear was simply superb.

The Preparation: The beef arrived pre-ground and blended from Rocker Brothers Meats and Provisions. I did speak with one of the co-owners, Karl Makinen, and he indicated that the kitchen really wanted to bring the beef grinding and blending in-house. The patties were hand-formed into thick 8-ounce patties during morning prep. The burgers were cooked on intensely hot cast iron skillets. The use of cast iron to sear the burgers was a very thoughtful touch and surprisingly rare. The Brindle Room in NYC prepared their burgers in a similar fashion, and it just worked. Cast iron is what I use to sear ALL of my proteins when I cook at home. My burger came out a perfect Med-Rare, and Happy Meal had his Medium. The kitchen nailed both cooking temperatures.

The Cheese: We both ordered our Classic Burgers with a slice of Cheddar. The cheese was competent, but completely superfluous. It added an element of creaminess, but it was otherwise invisible to the palate. The burger was complete enough to stand on its own.

The Bun: The buns at The Local Peasant were sourced from L.A. Baking Company. The moist, fresh brioche buns were almost completely neutral. The bun served only to deliver the quality ground meat from the plate to the palate. That was fine. The meat was so good, that it would have been pointless to draw focus from it with a bun. The bun was lightly toasted, and it gracefully gave up its life absorbing the copious juices and fats from the burger.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This was spot on.

The Fries: The fries were cut in-house. The Local Peasant served a thick-cut, peel-off fry. The fries were thoroughly brined and par-cooked. They were perfectly seasoned, and they came out very hot. So hot, that we couldn't really get to them until about the midway point of the meal. The thick fries were crisp on the outside and uniformly creamy on the inside. No fries were left uneaten.

The Toppings: The Roma tomato slices were ripe, juicy, and flavorful. The Iceberg lettuce looked just fine.

Dessert: We had the good fortune of sampling the flourless, chocolate cake. This was a delight. It arrived very hot and nearly molten in the center. It was topped with vanilla ice cream and dusted with powdered sugar. The plate was drizzled with caramel. No cake went to waste at our table.

The Value: The Local Peasant's The Classic Burger went for 10 bucks, and fries were 3 bucks extra. While the value was not exceptional, the ingredients were thoughtfully selected and prepared. The value was average, and the burgers were delicious.

Burger Review : The Local Peasant...finally, a truly good burger in the Valley.

Rating...5 Bites (rounded up from 4.5 Bites)

The Six -- Revisited -- Los Angeles, CA

10668 W Pico Blvd
Los AngelesCA 90064

The Six was one of the LA burger spots, which I had highlighted on my UrbanDig Burger Tour.  FreshBooks had booked the large table at The Six, and they had invited a group of customers to come down for burgers. FreshBooks was kind enough to invite me along to discuss the burger. Even though it was noon on a Saturday, it was a cinch to find metered parking on that stretch of Pico Blvd. On my previous visit, the server had been utterly clueless about the burger. On this occasion, I had the good fortune of Kacie helping our table. She was knowledgeable about the burger at The Six, and she expressed a genuine passion for burgers in general. Also, there was a new chef on the scene. The Six had hired chef Sean Mindrum, most recently from Mustards in Napa and also with Patina "San Francisco" as executive chefto oversee the planned expansion of The Six to both Studio City, CA and Venice, CA.This from the menu..."At The Six, we use sustainable, locally sourced products. We make slow food as fast as we can."

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The beef was a secret/bespoke blend, which arrived pre-ground from Premier Meat Company. This was the same purveyor, which supplied Sauce On Hampton (hooray) and Rustic Canyon (boo) with their burger meats in Los Angeles. They also did the beef for both LBS: A Burger Joint and Holsteins in Las Vegas. The blend tasted like an 80:20 blend of equal parts Chuck and Sirloin. The beef was juicy, and this was fortunate, since it was a little over-cooked to Med-Well. In spite of that, the bite was moist. The flavor was exceptional. Beef and mineral flavors dominated, and a mild note of aging was briefly sustained on the palate. The grind was medium to medium-coarse, so the bite was firm, and the grain and texture of the Sirloin was showcased. The beef was a little better than I remembered, and that was refreshing.

The Seasoning: The exterior of the patty was perfectly salted as it seared.

The Sear: The sear was as solid as it was on the previous visit. The sear was even, deep, and lent a satisfying firmness and crunch to the dish. The sear came at the price of a slightly over-cooked burger, but this trade-off was worth it. 

The Preparation: The Six hand-formed the 8-ounce patties during morning prep. The burger meat was handled with moderate pressure, and it was not over-manipulated. The burgers were cooked on a properly hot flat top.

The Cheese: The Cheddar, which I ordered in lieu of the Bleu, was mild. It added a nice creaminess to bring the dish together, but its flavor was lost in the beef. A thick slice of American would have worked here, but the burger at The Six was good enough not to require a slice of melted cheese to round out the flavor profile.

The Bun: The Six served their burger on a buttery and mild brioche bun from Ca' d'Oro. The brioche was moist, yeasty, fresh, barely sweet, and while it was high-domed, it compressed perfectly when bitten. The butter in the dough served as a competent barrier to staunch the river of juices running from the moist beef. Look, it's hard to go wrong with a brioche from Ca' d'Oro...they just get it.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: Perfect.

The Fries: I passed on the 6 buck fries on this visit to The Six. Other members of the group seemed to enjoy their fries.

The Toppings: The Butter Leaf Lettuce was fresh and sweet, and the tomato slice was perfectly ripened and juicy.

The Value: The Signature Six Burger Six was 11 bucks. This included red onion/onion rings but no fries. The quality of the beef was high, and the burger certainly was filling without the fries. The value was average at The Six.

The Six seemed to have upped its game. The new chef brought some enthusiasm and a boost of talent. If Kacie was an indication of the level of professionalism and energy of the rest of the front-of-house team, then The Six was well on its way to consistently serving one of the best burgers in Los Angeles. The burger at The Six was very nearly perfect. Everyone that tried the burger at my table was impressed. A couple of folks indicated that this was the best burger that they had ever eaten (they were from Toronto). I took half of my cheeseburger back home to Happy Meal, and he was impressed. He had just eaten, but he tore into The Six burger like he was starving.

The Six Signature Burger Fully Dressed
Burger Review : A delicious burger with an excellent sear. One of the best in Los Angeles.

Rating...5 Bites

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

BOMBURGER -- Huntington Beach, CA

200 Main Street
Huntington Beach CA 92648

Happy Meal and I were in Huntington Beach to use our coupon for some discounted time in/on a Scoot Coupe...good, dorky fun. Happy Meal spotted BOMBURGER as we were tooling around the streets of Huntington Beach. Parking in Huntington Beach on a weekend can be a hassle, but we found parking for a buck in the garage around the corner. None of the staff appeared to be older than 18, so I dispensed with the usual attempts to discover the sources of the various ingredients. We ordered a sampling of burgers and fries at the counter and waited about 7 minutes for our number to be called.  

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The beef at BOMBURGER tasted like Chuck with a 20% fat content. The flavor from the 4-ounce patty was nicely beefy. There was no trace of aging, and no mineral notes were present. The burger patty was juicy without being greasy. The texture was firm but not chewy. All told, the beef was just fine.

The Seasoning: The exterior of the thin, uniformly-shaped patties were seasoned with a pepper-heavy blend of salt and pepper. The pepper was very satisfying, in this case. It added a welcome dimension to the competent, but not exciting, beef.

The Sear: BOMBURGER nailed a nice sear on the flat-top. The burgers were turned a single time while cooking, and this allowed the thin patties to develop a proper sear.

The Preparation: It seemed safe to assume that BOMBURGER received the burger patties preformed. The patties were very uniform, and they had a machined appearance to them. They were cooked on a blisteringly hot griddle, and the burgers were competently cooked to a juicy Well-Done. The seasoning was also appropriate. The preparation was just right.

The Cheese: The sole cheese choice at BOMBURGER was American, and this was just fine. The American cheese was properly melted, and it served to bind the dish in terms of texture and flavor. American cheese = WIN.

The Bun: The buns were standard, unseeded, hamburger buns. The bread was moist, fresh, moderately sweet, and just a little yeasty. Most importantly, the buns were toasted to a firm crunch, and this crunch carried through the entire dish. The contrast in texture was most welcome. 

The Fries: The fries undoubtedly arrived frozen, but they were competently cooked in a neutral and  properly hot oil. The fries were crisp and perfectly seasoned.

The Toppings: The lettuce was a reasonably crisp and fresh, but bland, Iceberg lettuce. The tomato slice was unforgivably under-ripe. Pass.

The Value: A single cheeseburger at BOMBURGER was $3.99, and the combo (cheeseburger, drink, and fries) was $6.49. The burgers were small, but so were the prices. The value was average.

BOMBURGER served up burgers which neither bombed nor were "the bomb." The burgers at BOMBURGER were just fine. They were superior to In 'N' Out and TK's, and they were not quite as good at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. 

Burger Review : BOMBURGER served up a fine cheeseburger at a fair price.

Rating...3 Bites

TheBurgerBusters on UrbanDig

Link to article.

Check it out--TheBurgerBusters were featured in an article on UrbanDig.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Arsenal -- Los Angeles, CA

12010 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064

The Arsenal had long been on my list of burgers to try on the West Side. I invited the Los Angeles Editor of UrbanDig, Danielle Lehman, along to sample what had been reviewed elsewhere as a promising burger. The Arsenal was not open for lunch, so dinner it was. Valet parking was only 4 bucks, and that was a lot easier than finding parking on that stretch of Pico.  On the evening that I went, The Arsenal appeared to be under-staffed, and the resultant service was slow. Our server had about 15 tables in her section. I ordered the All-American Burger with a side of Poutine Fries and a salad. The burger arrived about 15 minutes later.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef.: The Arsenal used Harris Ranch Chuck. Harris Ranch was about as cruelty fee as it got when it came to corn-finished, feed lot beef. The beef arrived pre-ground at a medium setting at The Arsenal's kitchen. The fat content was about 20%, and the burger was not greasy in the least. The burger patty presented a beefy flavor, and aside from a mild hint of carbon flavor, that was the full extent of the flavors brought to bear by the burger portion of the cheeseburger. There was no aged funk, no minerality, and no blood. The burger patty was over-cooked, so it was also on the dry side. The beef was competent in the way that most fast-food burgers are competent. The bite was firm and not chewy.

The Seasoning: The exterior of the burger patty was lightly salted as it cooked.

The Sear: The Arsenal grilled the burger patty, and it picked up some unimpressive grill marks. I hoped that the trade-off for over-cooking my burger would have been a thorough sear, but that was not the case. The charred flavor appeared to have been the result of the peppering of carbon flecks, which were transferred to my burger from a messy grill.

The Preparation: The 8-ounce patties were hand-formed during day prep. The pre-ground Chuck did arrive with some gristle, but this was not an overwhelming amount. The burgers were cooked on a not-hot-enough gas grill. The burgers were flipped three times during the cooking process, and this contributed to the dryness of the beef. A burger should only be flipped once on a hot grill or griddle. I ordered Medium, and my burger arrived cooked to a dried-out Med-Well.

The Cheese: The shredded Cheddar, which topped my burger for an extra $1.00, was sharp and creamy. Sadly, that cheese was deposited in a cold pile atop my burger patty. The cheese only melted after I let the burger sit for about 5 minutes with the top bun in place to retain the heat rising from the patty. The result was a lukewarm burger with semi-melted cheese. Topping a burger with cold cheese seemed lazy and careless. Meh.

The Bun: The bun at The Arsenal was a flat, unseeded, un-toasted, cool, dryish, standard, burger bun. It was mild, not sweet, and moderately yeasty. Mostly it was a little dry. The bun was not toasted so it provided no crunch, and it further served to wick away the much-needed heat rising from the over-cooked patty.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This would have been fine in the event that the beef and bun had not both been dried out.

The Sides: The waffle-cut fries were delivered frozen and par-cooked, but they were properly cooked and crisped by the kitchen. HOWEVER, the gravy, which covered the Poutine Fries, was clearly from a can or dry package mix. This gravy was of the same quality that one might expect at an elementary school cafeteria or a frozen TV dinner. The Horseradish Cheddar appeared to have been replaced with a tame, shredded Mozzarella . The Poutine Fries were disappointing. The side salad was a wild green blend, but it was wilted, limp, and well past its prime. I did not bother with the salad.

The Toppings: The tomato slice was deceptively red, since the texture was decidedly mealy. The iceberg lettuce was pallid and bland.

The Value: The All-American Burger at The Arsenal was $10.00--$11.00 with a pile of cold, unmelted Cheddar tossed on top. The flavor of the beef was average, but the poor quality of the preparation, the wilted salad, and the mealy tomato had me leaving hungry after dropping $11.00 on a cheeseburger and $4.00 on parking. The value was quite poor at The Arsenal.

The Arsenal did not serve up a cheeseburger for which I would return. The service was friendly but slow. The burger was relatively bland, and the ingredients were stale and mishandled. The burger was over-cooked. The bun was cool and untoasted. Finally, the addition of cold, unmelted cheese, caused the dish to be lukewarm.

Burger Review : Pass. The Taco Bell down the street served better and more competently prepared meals.

Rating...2 Bites

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