Product is key. If you want to sell something, pour your energy into making that thing awesome. An amazing product does not require particularly creative marketing, because people want the thing; they don’t want to win a game to get it or be wowed by how cleverly and/or strangely said thing is presented to them. Radiohead hardly markets their records at all anymore; they just put it out, and people find it and tell everyone they know. Ok Go on the other hand, has constructed an entire career (and a lucrative one at that) on their penchant for making brilliant video content centered around their otherwise unremarkable music. Not to say that they are bad by any means but I, like many others, would never have heard of them had it not been for this viral video. Smoke and mirrors, bells and whistles, call a concept whatever you like but a gimmick is a gimmick and is most functional as tool used to draw attention away from the mediocrity of a product. This week we travel to Skid Row to the Escondite: which is flush not only with gimmicks but also, perhaps predictably, mediocre burgers.
The Escondite is unfortunately located in a particularly neglected pocket of downtown LA, just a couple blocks East of where you would ever want to go. The inside is lit like the type of club that reeks of Axe aerosol cologne during all operating hours, and a large sometimes covered outdoor patio would be more inviting if it faced something other than a huge parking lot. They have a pretty comprehensive menu (it’s not JUST a burger spot, as you can read in the pages of would-be witty literature on their website), but they do have a pretty lengthy list of specialty burgers and not a single one of them is not weird. Each burger is named after something you’ve probably heard of, in many cases fictitious TV characters and in others more failed attempts at levity, but there doesn’t seem to be much method to the naming. I tried the Boss Hog, and Slim Pickins; both of which appear on the regular menu. There is also a rotating burger of the day menu, which features a few more weird burger formulas named after 80’s and 90’s TV roles. I had one of these the only other time I went, and I don’t remember what it was called but it had Mac and Cheese on it. Maybe a Seinfeld character. I digress…
The Boss Hog is the Escondite’s chili-cheese burger, and was the better and less strange of the two I tried. It features vegetarian chili(?), sour cream, cheddar cheese and a “special crunch” (Fritos). The burger is not bad, but is generally unimpressive and the low quality of ingredients was obvious. The buns look attractive but were just dry white bread, and the flavor of the meat was disappointing. The Slim Pickins was even more lackluster- boasting Canadian bacon, cheddar, onion, BBQ sauce and its own special crunch, which this time was Funyuns. Not much more to say about it really. You know what all that stuff tastes like. The chosen sides were poutine (pretty good actually), fried pickles (breading was too think and they served them with thai chili sauce because these guys are clearly the only people on earth who know about fried pickles but do not know that ranch dressing is the fried pickle’s universally irrefutable soulmate), and a side salad that was comprised of shit that I laughed when I saw, including 2 types of cheese cube.
If you, like myself are on a Los Angeles burger quest, let me do the work for you on this one: you can guiltlessly skip this place. If a burger served on doughnuts with maple syrup sounds good to you, or you would prefer yours to be topped with garlic mashed potatoes and gravy instead of things that belong on a burger, then maybe this is your spot after all. I however, am content to save my naughty meals for places that focus on the quality of their product, rather than cloaking them in silly ingredients and silly names.