Wes Avila’s Guerrilla Tacos is universally considered among the best tacos in Los Angeles, if not the world. What happens when Wes decides to do a burger for one night only in a secret location? This is Los Angeles, so nothing should surprise you…
Hi, my name is Freiburger, I’m a triple topping monstrosity made by men who worship hot dogs and sausages as much as burgers. I live in a Dog Haus. You will like me.
A lot can be said of a restaurant when describing the ambiance. At Dog Haus, the extended drum solo of Rush’s Closer to the Heart, playing in the background, is all you need to know. Shiny, ultra skinny flat screens broadcasting all manner of sports? Check. Full Bar? Check. High Caloric Burger Concept menu that you will gladly hit the repeat button for, like your favorite Rush album loaded on your 10 disc trunk mounted cd magazine? Um, Check.
OK this is an hour long and I didn’t watch the whole thing, but the first one is hilarious. The gist is these three guys, with limited amounts of English pronunciation, attempt to eat at “all 10″ L.A. burger chains in one day. The first episode finds them at Jack in the Box, where “Falcon” attempts to order the “most popular combo” and hilarity ensues. You really have to admire their sense of adventure as they pilot their Prius around Santa Monica / Venice attempting their challenge.
Once upon a time, the Geto Boys famously coined a phrase “my mind is playing tricks on me”. Sometimes I wonder if they really meant to say that about a good old fashioned Los Angeles heat wave. Delirium, hallucinations, or even taking a lunch at an unassuming strip mall joint cluttered with promises of wifi, boba and burger combos. But sometimes it is good to get out of the heat and in front of something like this:
The burger is indeed an American icon. While I might have a bone to pick about whether frying, or as it is known in more positive circles of discourse, griddling, is something that would constitute burger sacrilege, I like a place that extols burger values, even if a few of theirs violate one or two of mine.
In this town, notable burgers are being slung in shacks, dives and stands but few are as eye catching as the Great White Hut in Glendale. You cannot roll east down California Ave towards Brand and not gaze at this hole in a parking lot and wonder how it has stood the test of time. Especially recent times with the closures of Irv’s in WeHo or Molly’s on Vine thanks to the real estate powers that be. But lucky for you, my burger minded brood, The Great White Hut has stayed the course for the last 67 years and their work warrants your hard earned Burger Buck.
The search for Bang for your Burger Buck will take you to Gourmet steals, old school diner throwbacks, and those dives that keep you coming back with the simple notion that burgers are fun food, meant to be toyed with or served with toys, for lunch, brunch, dinner or that after school treat around 3pm. B-Man’s Teriyaki & Burgers slides into the latter category, but the stand out teriyaki employed in the sandwich is far from child’s play, and it is not mere coincidence that their locations lie close to the SGV.
B-Man’s is the after school special burger you would have grown up with if you grew up in the massive Asian American enclave that is the San Gabriel Valley. Their menu boasts Burgers, Rice Bowls, Teriyaki plates, Chicken Katsu, and for the high roller crowd there is the Mahi Mahi plate, tipping the Bang scales at just over $11. Egg Rolls and gyoza and chili may scream unauthentic unless you are part of the tribe, an Asian-American reared amongst an array of fellow Asian Americans, embracing each other’s national dishes and recognizing a culinary bond that is larger than any one tradition. I would go so far as to say that if you have grown up as an Asian American in Los Angeles, your palate is at home when dining from nearly every corner of the Asian contient. And since we’re in America, let’s throw in some chili fries while we’re at it.
Sometimes you have to ask yourself this: What would Elvis do?
I’ll grant you it would be difficult to imagine the King of Rock n Roll at a food court in South Los Angeles, but then again Mercado Paloma is not your average food court. Home to Yucatanean specialist Chichen Itza, an Oaxacan fusion restaurant, a vegan Ethiopian eatery, not to mention being the first location for Modern Peruvian pioneer Ricardo Zarate’s Mo Chica, in a way Burger Plaza Grill looks so . . . average, really almost passable compared to the exotic fair that surrounds it. But I imagine Elvis, definitely Fat Elvis, was a burger man of the highest order and you know he could never pass up a Burger that was called King, and frankly if you are looking for some Bang for your Burger Buck, you shouldn’t either.
Not for long. Welcome to Fat Sal’s, the end result of a California dream three longtime pals from the NYC had about bringing the quintessential college kid sandwich, the Rutgers Grease truck hero, to Los Angeles. Three locations and two cites later (now open in Austin and San Diego), Fat Sal’s could challenge Subway’s rebranding of the submarine sandwich from “healthy fast food alternative” to “make your life an alternative to Man v. Food”. But we are here to talk about burgers that have bang, and at $5.75 for a 1/2lb double cheeseburger, you know yours truly needed to come in for a visit.
When you think about it, “restaurant” is kind of a fancy word.
And when you think about burgers back in the day, a “fancy” burger always meant a restaurant burger.
And then along came Father’s Office. And later a recession. Now gastropubs and chef driven burgers are as commonplace as Starbucks and Chipotle. So when I visited The Park for their bargain buster build-a-burger night (starting at $5 with a side), I never thought I would be in for a bit of a burger throwback. The sandwich was presented open faced with every topping on the side; like what you would expect from a lunch meeting with a junior agent at Kate Mantilini circa 1999 or room service later that day at Chateau Marmont. In this day and age of tricked out burgers, plain old gourmet seems almost pedestrian, but with a baseline of $5 a pop, this is definite bang for your burger buck and the burger concept, which may not scream “chef-driven”, is a subtle reminder that bucking current culinary trends, however delicious and effective they might be, can also mean keeping it real – and that’s what Bang is truly all about.
The question is not “should I go to In-N-Out, the question is, when I do go, what should I order? If you want to maximize the bang for your burger buck, Ali Khan is your man. The latest edition of BfyBB tackles what is perhaps SoCal’s greatest contribution to burgerdom…
Sometimes Capitalism gets it right.
In-N-Out: The burger institution of So Cal, bearer of prodigious accolades by legions of loyal fans, a chain that defies the very term. There are also the naysayers, the detractors, those who call it an overhyped, West Coast cult thang. I was once one of them. Coming from a Midwest stacked burger background that peaked with the chain diner Steak N Shake and dipped into the late night dregs with White Castle, my In N Out visits often ended with a false sense of burger fulfillment. Not as cheap as the sliders from the Castle and outclassed in the patty department by Steak N Shake, I wrote In N Out off as a decent but not special chain burger. Then I learned about the secret menu. And then I dined on a double double in a car halfway to San Francisco, in what would become the single greatest road trip meal I have ever had without stepping out of the vehicle. Gradually, my In N Out enlightenment began; by embracing two basic principles that are essential to this burger experience:
1: you must eat it right away
2: you should order it exactly the way you like by taking full advantage of the secret menu
Principle One is fairly obvious. Like McCauley says in Heat: do not hesitate, not for a second. Take that first bite as soon as possible. Why make burgers to order if the customer is gonna let it sit in a bag? If they ask if you will be eating in the car, respond with a hearty “Hell Yes“. If you are dining in house, stake your claim to that table as soon as you get your change. Some meals move like symphonies, In N Out is not one of them. (Continued)