Hype is a powerful thing. As citizens of earth in the present day, we are positively inundated with information, and tend to tune quite a bit of it out. The bits that break through are those that glisten of familiarity; when you hear about something for the sixth time, you google it. This built-in info-filter can be a double-edged sword, because the possibility of a familiar source delivering a mediocre product that people pay attention to while unfamiliar products of higher quality slip past is very real, and unfortunate. (Exhibit A: FM radio). This weeks burger I approached skeptically, due to having heard mixed reviews, and fearing that this very well may be a situation wherein the folks in charge were standing on their names rather than blowing minds with food. I was indeed pleasantly surprised.
Short Order is the joint collaboration of baker/author/restaurateur Nancy Silverton (who owns Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza, which are both positively fantastic restaurants) and the late Amy Pressman, who founded The Old Town Bakery in Pasadena as well as played a vital role in the opening of several other Los Angeles eateries. If you’re up on the LA food scene, you have almost assuredly heard both of these names before. The opening of this restaurant, which is nestled in the corner of the West Hollywood Farmer’s Market on 3rd and Fairfax, got about as much press coverage as the Kennedy assassination. I was tired of hearing about this place months before I ever ate there, and a look at the burger menu revealed a few choices that look fine but certainly do not push any culinary boundaries. So like I said, I figured these two successful chefs had simply picked a popular location, paired it with a popular food, and used their pre-existing local clout to drive traffic. Perhaps that IS what they did, but what is extremely important to note is that they make a damn fine burger.
With the exception of the upstairs bar, which is partially opened, all the dining areas are outside and furnished with rustic-comfort meets modern-design style seating (which appears to have also inspired the restaurant’s decorations, and entire menu). The beer and specialty cocktail lists are small but excellent in their offerings, and the bartender that I spoke with seemed incredibly knowledgeable about the drinks she was serving (you know I’m a total sucker for good service). My meal began by tasting a couple draft beers before settling on a blonde, and feasting on some short order “spuds,” which are chunky cut russet potatoes fried golden and served, in my case, with black truffle aioli (it’s an extra $2.25, but money well spent).
The venue’s namesake dish, the Short Order Burger, seemed an obvious choice for my first time. A course ground but somehow perfectly formed and PERFECTLY seasoned grass fed angus patty came on a brioche bun topped with Morbier cheese, grilled mushrooms, bibb lettuce and “mustardy mayo,” as the menu puts it. Looking at a photo of this burger had me terrified that all I would taste is mustard, because the burger comes absolutely slathered in it and it looks like a sharp tasting stone ground variety. Couldn’t be farther from the truth. The sauce was mild as can be, and helped the total package be delightfully sloppy- pushing the line of unmanageable without ever crossing it. Morbier (possibly my new favorite cheese) melts well, is sharp but mild, and was chewy in a way that really helped the burger’s texture. The mushrooms were seasoned heavily with fresh thyme, which really worked in context. Overall an excellent burger, even for its $12 price tag. I really do wish to know what they use to form the patties though because it looked like a machine had to have been responsible. It was too perfect, and also made me realize as I ate that I despise it when people do not salt a burger as it cooks. This will stand out in my mind as one of the better seasoned patties I’ve eaten since starting this site.
So apparently quality begets hype in this case, and all the talk about short order is warranted. The ladies responsible are certainly recognizable names in the LA food scene, but for once I’m going to hang my jadedness at the door and admit that the reason they get the attention is because they deserve it. The food at Short Order is terrific and I look forward to my next meal there.