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Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Bistro Burger

Since Hoodburger began there has been a process of steady revelation for us that there is a frequently recurring style of burger in Southern California, which I have (for lack of a more clever name) dubbed SoCal style. Made famous by In n’ Out, who appear to have just added tomato to the toppings of a Big Mac, SoCal style is lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, American cheese (usually), and Thousand Island dressing. Several places employ this formula, and some of them are excellent (see Oinkster’s Classic Burger). What I did not realize though until this week, is that there is a second formula at work in this region’s burger scene, and it is responsible for some of the best and also most famed burgers around. I am not sure who did it first though I would not be surprised to find out that Father’s Office can claim the fame. Los Angeles’ second burger archetype is as follows: Patty with 1 or 2 kinds of melted cheese (usually a blue and sharp cheddar), strong bouillon flavored caramelized onions, arugula, and some sort of aioli (in most cases, though Father’s Office uses no condiment). This week, I went to 6th St. Tavern in DTLA, who just so happens to have both of Southern California’s burgers on its menu.

The Classic Burger

Catty-cornered from the Standard Hotel, 6th St. Tavern invites any passerby who might find joy in its modern décor and craft cocktails. On a Saturday afternoon they were busy but not crowded, and the vibe was mellow without being fully subdued. You order at the bar, and in my case the food came very quickly. As mentioned, these guys make 2 burgers, and each accurately represents a very similar list of ingredients to those of its competitors. The “Classic Burger” (it’s even named the same as the one at The Oinkster), is classic indeed: double patty, lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, American cheese, 1000 Island and pickles (though they came on the side). Perfectly good in every way you’d imagine, and feel free to openly refer to it as Animal Style, because it is. I mean, if it ain’t broke…

Inside the Bistro Burger

The other Burger 6th St. offers is the “Bistro Burger” featuring a collective group of components that I have yet to nick-name, but much like Father’s Office and King’s Row, this burger comes dressed in Port Salut cheese (like a higher fat muenster- melty and mild), Worcestershire onion compote, arugula, and aioli. For my taste, this was a clear winner of the two, but in that the burger is constructed in the image of the King’s Burger at King’s Row (my favorite in LA), The Bistro Burger wearing the 6th St. Tavern burger crown comes as no surprise. The strength of the flavor of the onions and the excellent seasoning of the meat made this one the standout, bite after bite. And did I mention they have duck fat fries? The have duck fat fries.

Duck Fat Fries(!!!)

So the steady revelation continues. A talented few have thus far determined two failsafe means of assembling a burger, and intelligent burger peddlers are following suit. The good folks at 6th St. are doing at least as good a job as any one else in the same lane. If you’re looking for something amazingly unique or culinarily challenging you may want to look elsewhere, but if you’re in the market for superb quality pub food, be sure to add 6th St. Tavern to your list. As if the eats weren’t enough, the beer and whiskey selections are stellar too. Definite hoodburger green light.

-Geoff Sawyer

Classic Burger Guts

The Bistro Burger

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The Rosewood Burger

The Rosewood Burger

I’m pretty sure this situation happens quite a lot. You find someone who makes the perfect latte or martini or cuts your hair exactly the way you like it, and then one day you walk in to that establishment and they’re gone. Poof! No warning. Just gone. And because you never expressed your admiration for their work, you have no earthly idea where they disappeared to, but you would move heaven and earth just to find them again. You ask your friends if they’ve seen them. You start scouring local similar businesses in hopes that they were hired somewhere near. And if by some lucky chance you find them again, the overwhelming flood of joy reaches down into your finger tips. That rush is what my friend was looking for.

So we sallied forth to see if her bartender was at the Rosewood Tavern. It turns out he wasn’t working that day, but he does work there! Hooray for minor victories. Rosewood Tavern is just down the street from two burger giants Animal and Golden State, so it had never appeared on my radar, but on entering the place, I realized that it should have. With incredibly high wooden ceilings and exposed iron beams, the tavern had the feeling of a Wild West saloon. It was dark and cool on a hot summer’s day and by the liquor menu it was clear that they took their drinking very seriously.  All of the whiskeys were divided up by region and the beer list went on for days.

rosewood3

Their pub menu was equally well thought out. It was typical pub food with gourmet twists.  They had everything from candied bacon to tandoori spiced chicken wings to spicy fried green tomatoes with burrata. Their burgers were no different. The Rosewood Tavern burger had house made Thousand Island dressing with a great kick to it, melted cheddar cheese, onions, lettuce, and tomato on a pretzel bun. It was a very beautiful burger to look at and tasted pretty much the way you would expect it to. The flavors were balanced and the quality of ingredients was good, but it wasn’t anything to write home about.

Their second burger the Seoul Man Burger, was not a glamorous thing to behold.  The bun flopped sadly on the plate and everything seemed to droop. However, one bite and you instantly knew that this ugly duckling was actually a swan. Layered with bulgogi, spicy aioli, and daikon and Napa cabbage kimchi slaw this burger was the perfect fusion of Korean bbq and a hamburger. The crunch tartness of the kimchi was perfectly balanced against the sweetness of the bulgogi, but the flavors didn’t overwhelm the gorgeous flavors of the beef patty. It was absolutely unforgettable. So if you’re on Fairfax and you want to do some hard drinking, but are in the mood for a spicy burger, the Seoul Man has your back.

The Seoul Man Burger

The Seoul Man Burger

The Playground Burger

This week’s burger comes from the bustling metropolis of Santa Ana, which, as the less geographically challenged of you have probably already noted, is not Los Angeles. Is hoodburger taking over all of Southern California you ask? Absolutely! To eventually be followed by the rest of the universe of course. Thanks to a reader submission, this week I went to a little spot I had never before heard of called Playground deep in the guts of Orange County. The one thing I hope to bestow upon you by way of my following words is this: Playground don’t play.

This is not a burger joint by any means. As a matter of fact, there isn’t even a burger on the menu- you have to ask for it (not unlike Café Stella). Rather, playground has an eclectic variety of high quality single plates inspired by cuisine from all corners of the Earth, and upon being seated you are given a letter from the chef to you explaining why you should love them. The letter is perhaps unnecessary, but the food is not cheap and they don’t take special requests, so perhaps it usurps some of the “yeah but I hate shallots and if I’m gonna pay twenty four dollars for a…” that I’m sure they get, and for these guys’ sake I hope it does. It is extremely unlikely that you are qualified to tell them how a dish should be constructed, and after having eaten there once all I would have to say to them is “teach me.”

Fried Cauliflower

My meal began with fried cauliflower (with pickled onion, aji panca oil [I think], cashew puree and candied lime), and what a way to start. The pepper oil provides the slightest amount of spice, the cashew brought cream and smoothness, while the pickles and lime were very tart- the lime seemed dried but minimally sweetened if at all, and the cauliflower was fried hot enough to give it great flavor and color but still keep a bit of firmness. Excellent. Next up was a pork belly steam bun because I just can’t seem to go anywhere that serves these without eating one. No big surprises aside from a tartness to the bun (I think they steam with vinegar in the mix) but the pork belly was perfectly cooked, and who doesn’t like radish and guacamole? The stage was well set for the main event.

Pork Belly Steam Bun

Playground’s secret burger is an attempt at simplicity that is wildly successful without exactly achieving the stated goal. As the chef to whom I spoke put it, and I couldn’t agree more, it’s all about the meat. Steak trimmings are double ground to make their burgers, and on the second pass, rather than drop it in a bowl and hand press patties, these guys lead it from the grinder in a whole 5in. diameter meat wand that they ever so gently lay on plastic wrap, roll up, and slice, so that the patty’s texture is as delicate as physically possible, because all of the threads of ground beef run parallel and vertically. Then they season it perfectly, and drop it on a la plancha that is probably in the neighborhood of 70,000 degrees. The crust and char on the outside made this burger taste like none other I have ever eaten. Ever. I could easily and happily have eaten the patty by itself. Fortunately for everyone who orders one however, you also get: a house made bun (phenomenally moist) that is slathered with Playground’s 50/50 aioli/parmeasan spread on both sides and GRILLED, leaving you with the experience of eating browned butter that’s crunchy. It’s topped with maple-bourbon onion compote, fontina and Gruyere cheeses, ribboned iceberg lettuce, and a very liberal application of yellow mustard (about which I was as skeptical as you are right now but I assure you it was perfect). I’m going to go ahead and call this burger a work of art.

Note the browned parmesan aioli just under the top of the bun. Mmmm...

Note the browned parmesan aioli just under the top of the bun. Mmmm…

My sincerest thanks to our Instagram (@hoodburger) followers for bringing me to yet another positively stellar meal. Despite having only eaten at Playground once, my guess is that I fully cosign this place; not just the one item that has not even earned menu real estate. Playground’s burger might not be for the culinary novice, as it’s served a la carte, is $14, and at a glance is confusingly constructed- the dichotomy of involved process and a couple incredibly plain toppings seems an odd choice, until you taste it. However, if you eat burgers because the flavor of skillfully handled ground beef is near to your heart, I beg you, do not skip this one. I can’t wait to eat it again.

-Geoff Sawyer

The letter

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