I’ve long had this assumption that if a place is passionate about their beer, that they should be passionate about their burgers. There is no reason why these two things should correlate, but in my head it should be true. Just like a place with good wine should have a fantastic cheese plate or a place with good sake should have amazing sushi. It’s hard to unravel why these two things should be true, but for some reason I feel that burgers and beer should be on par. Now obviously in reality there are glaring exceptions to this rule, case in point Golden Road Brewery has a terrible burger. For some reason their passion for beer does not extend to their hamburgers. I mean, and nor should it really. Just because a place is great at brewing beer does not mean that they should be good at cooking meat. The two skills have nothing to do with each other…and yet…I feel that they should. Maybe it’s just a weird hang up of mine.
Be that as it may, I’ve brought that hang up with me to City Tavern in Culver City. The place is devoted to beer, so much so that there are booths where you can pull your own pint (very dangerous territory) and their beer list is longer than my arm (not an exaggeration). So naturally, when I heard they had burgers on the menu, I had to go see for myself. The Tavern is on Culver Blvd wedged between the Kirk Douglas Theater and a truly mediocre sushi place. The insides are warm and inviting. The entire place is warm woods, brick walls, and cast iron stools with an impressive wall of wine and kegs lining the hallways. It is the perfect place to sit down and drink away the afternoon.
Their menu sports two burgers known as the Brew Burger (fancy pants) and the CT Burger (regular). The Brew Burger is the fancier item on the menu. It’s a beef patty with pub cheese, mustard aioli, and greens on a pretzel bun with a vodka-battered onion ring on top. The CT burger is much more relaxed with it’s thousand island dressing, lettuce, tomato, cheese, onions, and pickle on a brioche bun. (Be forewarned both of these items offer ways to end your life quicker. You can add pork belly to one and an extra patty to the other. I assure you it’s not necessary.) Both arrive with a knife through the middle pinning them to wooden slabs like butterflies in a specimen case. There is something ridiculously satisfying about having your food stabbed on a slab of wood. I might start doing that at dinner parties just to add a little drama.
So which one won? Like so many things in life, the one that tried too hard lost. Oh Brew Burger, you don’t need a pretzel bun to impress me, a regular bun would have done just fine. The combination of the pub cheese, mustard aioli and the pretzel bun made the Brew Burger too salty. There was no contrast of sweetness to the mix. Add a little fig jam or a brioche bun or a tomato and you might have had something, but as it is there were too many strong salty flavors fighting for dominance. The CT Burger however, was like finding an old friend at a party where you thought you knew no one. It tasted exactly like a gourmet Big Mac. From the Thousand Island dressing, down to the tiny shards of onion and round slices of pickle the CT Burger tastes exactly like McDonald’s most famous creation minus that wave of regret you get from eating one. It is absolutely delicious.
PS. One word of warning, at City Tavern they offer you a variety of sides and you might be tempted to get a healthy one in the name of restraint. Whatever you do, do not get their curried carrots. They are absolutely disgusting slimy planks of vegetation. Stick to the fries or the Brussels sprouts with bacon.