Every day thus far this week, our collective compulsion here at Hood Burger has been to begin each Burger week post by acknowledging the impressive row of hungry food fans, meandering its way out the door and around the building, while no doubt providing a forum for innumerable conversations on beautiful burger possibilities. Well this day shall be no different, for upon my arrival on Thursday evening I personally saw more humans congregated in a relatively civilized fashion on the Oinkster’s grounds than ever before in my time on this Earth. This line (as they all have) began inside at the counter, backed out the door, and down the sidewalk all the way to the back of the building, but for the first time it did not stop there. People spilled from where the sidewalk ends into the parking lot, around the fabled truck whose presence assured that the wait would be worth it, and up a neighboring street. Absolutely unbelievable. Grill ‘Em All is one of LA’s more lauded food trucks, offering a menu of 8 particularly creative burgers, fries and mega-tots (known as h-100’s, hand rolled tater tots filled with cheddar jack cheese), and often an additional limited run special burger. They also bear the added charm of somehow insisting that heavy metal music is an inextricable part of their identity. I knew these boys had a pretty dedicated following, but I would never have wagered that their draw would be quite like this. Perhaps that is because before last night, I had never tasted their wares.
For the first 3 days, The Oinkster has conjured up one burger based shout-out per day to a well recognized burger of a fellow purveyor, but the boys of Grill ‘Em All did no such thing with their day. Rather, they offered 3 burgers that maintain real estate on the truck’s regular menu, and one unbelievable GEA/Oinkster collaboration made especially for the occasion. Lest my dedication be doubted whatsoever, I ate all 4. Not entirely mind you, but I made a pretty valiant effort. There was really no other way to do it, which you would understand had you been there. To write a full review of each of the 4 would be excessive, but I will say that they are all worth trying should you get the chance. Big thanks to my dining cohort and fellow blogger/burger nerd Teri Fisher, who if you don’t know takes the most beautiful photos of food that you have ever seen.
As much as I would like to explore each burger at length, and probably will eventually, I’ll keep the first three quick. Each was delicious, and served on a lightly toasted brioche bun. There were no wrong answers, but definitely a clear hierarchy, listed in ascending order:
Hannah Montana: American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup. Simple, and delectable.
Waste ‘Em All: Green chilies, pepper jack, and beer soaked onions. The peppers had a little kick, but much more flavor than spice, making the overall taste extremely robust. This one is not only a joy to eat, but I think is a colab with Virgina Thrash Metal band Municipal Waste, which if true is totally awesome.
Blue Cheer (shown above): Blue Cheese, Cranberry Gastrique, Munchos (the potato chip). This was the clear standout of the trio of Grill ‘Em All regular menu offerings. The sharpness of the blue cheese was perfectly balanced by the sweetness of cranberry, and in every bite they seemed to cancel each other out just in time for the finish to be fresh rare beef. With Munchos added for additional salt and texture, the Blue Cheer lacks nothing, despite only claiming 3 toppings. This burger was stellar, and my recommendation by a large margin if you ever hit the truck.
This brings us to the real showpiece, designed by both parties to really make a mark on Burger Week: The ULTI-MEATUM!
Where to start. So much meat. So many verbose flavors. The Ulti-meatum begins as do the other 3, with a rare grilled beef patty on brioche. On top of that patty, lies a heap of the Oinkster’s house cured pastrami, and Swiss cheese. Under the patty, one finds a bed of blue cheese cole slaw, topped with an equally healthy heap of the Oinkster’s Carolina style pulled pork (which, as an NC native I feel fully qualified to say is a particularly respectable homage unto itself), and “Himalayan Ketchup” which is actually a blend of garlic aoli, ketchup, pop rocks(?!?!) and red food dye, to ensure this thing looks as crazy as it actually is. Don’t even bother trying to deduce how these guys came up with this combination, just hear me now: It worked. Obviously the Ulti-meatum is very dense and rich, but one should expect as much based purely on the title. The pastrami was as much present as complimentary, and the ketchup appears and sounds much more intimidating than it actually was, playing the part of perfect spreadable element despite a rather shocking appearance. Every time my teeth hit a cool crisp bit of cabbage from the slaw the bite turned to perfect- each was its own little oasis in a vast meat desert. All told the Ulti-meatum was certainly a memorable culinary happening, and one of the more boastful burgers I have ever eaten.
I’m left with little to say after the first 4 days besides The Oinkster is still batting 1000. They really know how to make a fine burger, and apparently also know just the right folks to conscript when it’s time for a sidekick. Grill on, bros.