On the corner of 5th and Spring St in the heart of downtown lies the The Alexandria Hotel. Nestled inside its lobby lies The Gorbals, home of the seven onion burger. The rest of the hotel has been converted into microlofts (shamefully small, hotel room sized apts), a bar called The Down and Out, and a few haunted ballrooms. The lobby is lined with photographs of starlets from the golden era of Hollywood that supposedly stayed there. There is something really eerie about being stared at by the ghosts of LA’s past while the present shuffles through the lobby in a drunken stupor. It’s almost as if they’re accusing you of letting the hotel fall into disrepair.
However once you’re through the heavy doors of the Gorbals a warm wave of relaxation takes over. Wooden tables lit by candlelight cover the floor of the small restaurant. The kitchen takes up the entire back wall and you can watch the chefs rush around frantically as they try and fill their orders. As a dessert option you can buy the kitchen a round of beers for $10 and watch them drink. The bar is heavily stocked with creative cocktails, the favorites of the evening being the Desperate Housewife and It’s Bourbon, Honey, exotic wines and local beers. On Thursday nights they have live music and it is not uncommon to have patrons dancing between tables.
The restaurant is owned by Ilan Hall (yes, Mister Top Chef Season 2). Named for the neighborhood in Glasgow, Scotland where his father grew up, the menu is a tribute to his heritage which is half Scottish and half Israeli. As a child of English and Jewish parents myself, I was really excited about this fusion menu. (There aren’t many of us out there. Andrew Garfield is the only other one that I’m aware of. It’s a weird mix. On one side are people who are the Chosen Ones and the other side people who had an empire on which the sun never set. Basically you grow up with two cultures touting the fact that they are the best. It gets confusing.)
Gorbals menu reflects this kind of confusion with glee. There are the sacrilegious bacon wrapped matzo balls, gribenes (chicken skin) sandwiches, Welsh rarebit with a fried egg on top and ridiculously delicious dill fries. I was there, however, for the dry-aged burger with onions seven ways. That’s right, seven kinds of onion, so many kinds that the waiter couldn’t even remember them all. Here’s what I could detect. There were grilled onions, shaved fried onions, onion jam, sautéed onions, and onions in the bun. The burger itself was cooked medium rare and was really tender, but I would have traded two of those onion varieties for some cheese. The seven onion burger felt more like a parlor trick than a signature burger. I mean, who really chooses to eat a burger with seven kinds of onion in their every day existence? Surely three would do or even five. Seven is just eccentric.
PS. They do have a sticky toffee pudding. The first time I had it, I thought about heading into the kitchen to propose to Mr. Hall on the spot, it was so divine. I even thought of what I would say. “Ilan, I know you don’t know me, but I can’t live without this pudding…I mean you! I can’t live without you!” The pudding I had this night had no toffee sauce. That’s like having a chocolate fudge sundae without the chocolate fudge. I don’t know what happened. I’m having a hard time getting over it.