King’s Row.

Happy accidents. How cool are they? Can you imagine being the first person to accidentally heat your dried corn until it exploded, or spill a bit of rennet in your warm milk and watch it thicken? Even the non-world-altering ones are terrific; like finding an un-cashed check that is bigger than anything you ever thought you’d forget about, or getting rained out of an outdoor adventure only to have a more awesome time with Netflix and a snuggle buddy. I love them, and to me, today’s burger was a happy accident.

King’s Row is a Gastropub in Pasadena that not only had I never visited before this week, I had never heard of it. Since this blog’s inception, there has been a spreadsheet separated by Hood, listing all the places that deserve my time, money, thoughts, and subsequent metabolic strain. Molly and I both visit it regularly to add new spots as we hear of them or they occur to us, as well as to shop for each week’s culinary quest. (If you have a recommendation, holler: hoodburger@gmail.com). I was supposed to review Father’s Office this week, which, if you haven’t heard is very frequently mentioned among the L.A. burger scene’s fan favorites. I have only been once since moving to California, to the location in Culver City, at which the hostess was SUCH a bitch I can hardly remember what the food tasted like. I’m a sucker for good service, and equally appalled when it is terrible. I digress. The Santa Monica (and original) Father’s Office was on the agenda but I was in Pasadena pumpkin shopping and just didn’t have time for the drive. So- I consulted the list. “King’s Row,” started back at me from my phone. Though I recall those two words residing in the Pasadena column since the beginning of this blog, I have never heard anyone talk about this place. I Google it, and come to find a very bland and uninformative website. $5 happy hour burger with no description. Not looking good. I call Molly. Me: “Hey so is this a place that you want to cover, because I didn’t add it to our list… No? …You’ve never heard of it either? Huh. …Random suggestion from a forgotten friend. Alright well I’m going. Let’s hope it doesn’t suck.”

I map to this place and park across the street from where my phone tells me it is without ever actually laying eyes on the building. Upon walking up and looking at addresses, I determine that I should be right there but all I see is a watch repair shop and an ice cream parlor. Above the single inset door that separates those 2 stores is a very simple and plain sign that says “King’s Row.” I walked right under it. The door opens to a long and dimly but beautifully lit corridor with loads of naked hanging bulbs each emiting the tiniest bit of light. The hall opens up into a huge nouveau-rustic pub, complete with an entire ceiling of skylight. Two moderately sized indoor rooms connect to a large outdoor patio, which on this day was packed. Unless you happen into the alley that the patio faces, you could walk right past King’s Row a thousand times without ever knowing it was there. Within seconds of seating ourselves a friendly waiter appeared out of thin air to let us know that we order from the bar, and that happy hour was upon us. Thanks dude. Now take me to your burger.

The part of the menu that I was able to access from my phone was only the happy hour menu (because I am a dummy and not because their website is inferior as it turns out), and featured nibbles such as cod cakes, wings, and grilled cheese. You can imagine my complete elation when I discovered that they also have a more formal burger than the mini $5 one (3 of them actually), and it is made from 21 day aged ground rib eye (as they all are). Be still my hard-working heart. I had the self-titled “Dry Aged Rib Eye Burger” in that it appeared to be the basic version. This burger featured an 8oz. (guessing) ground rib eye patty, seasoned to absolute perfection. There truly is no substitute for quality meat. This patty is adorned with St. Agur Bleu and White Cheddar cheeses, duck fat caramelized onions, arugula, lemon-garlic aioli on a ‘house bun.’ This burger was nearly perfect. The flavor of the meat was staggeringly delicious due to the aging, and strong enough that the loudness of the cheeses did not totally overpower. The onions were mild and rich, the aioli uniquely bright and surprisingly salty. The bun was like a rosemary dinner roll, and by being a little on the dry side constitutes the singular reason I can’t give the burger a 10.0. It stayed together as I ate it, each bite was as delightful as the one it succeeded, and the fries that come with it were almost as brag-worthy.  At $14 I expect a pretty fine meal, and King’s Row delivered in every measurable way.

I am definitely going back to this restaurant. Look at the whole menu. Based on the care given to the construction of the burger, I can imagine that every dish these folks serve is something to celebrate. The entire patio was alive with happy people drinking, laughing and merrily gorging on beautiful food. You could enjoy just going here and having a cocktail. Yet again, I find myself attracted to a place where grown ups go, and yet again, the joy of food outweighs the pains of aging. I hope to be so lucky as to stumble into a few more similarly incredible finds while this burger quest continues.

-Geoff Sawyer

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