I should have listened to Geoff. I really should have. But when the venerable Jonathan Gold puts out his list of his favorite burgers in the city and there is one on that you’ve never heard of…it’s hard to resist. A Bosnian hamburger? A pljeskavica? Listed as “among the best options in the great hamburger city of Los Angeles” by the famous Pulitzer Prize winning food writer himself, I had to know what that meant. Geoff in his wisdom pointed out that The Apple Pan had also made this list, and everyone knows that the Apple Pan has a vastly overrated burger. It’s a beacon of hype and mediocrity. (I will not knock their pie, however. Their apple pie a la mode is gorgeous.)
There is a reason why Geoff Sawyer is my burger partner and not Jonathan Gold. Even IF Gold knew who I was and I could afford to pay him, I wouldn’t take him on because the man is just plain wrong about this burger. I need taste buds I can trust. Sawyer’s never lets me down.
The Aroma Café is an adorable establishment wedged in a strip mall in West LA on Overland St. The insides are covered in fake vines and paintings of the Dalmatian coast. You can buy mayonnaise in giant tubes and feta in great tubs. I ordered the pljeskavica with a side of grilled potatoes. I will say this, they do not skimp. The burger was the size of a 7-inch record wedged between two slices of fresh flatbread with sliced tomato, hunks of feta cheese and a lettuce leaf. Inexplicably it came with a side of raw white onions that had been liberally peppered. I took a bite and was immediately sad. This was not an amazing burger. It was not juicy. It was not flavorful. It didn’t even have mayo or ketchup to give it some oomph. It was a perfectly ordinary chargrilled burger. The kind one might find at their cousin’s tailgating party in the parking lot of Soldier Field. It was dull.
The grilled potatoes however did not disappoint. Golden and charred, they were perfectly paired with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheese. I ate the whole plate.
This is not to say I won’t be back to the Aroma café. They had a lot of really enticing things on their menu. Next time I go there I’m going to try their kebabs or their goulash. I’m a sucker for a good goulash. I bet it’s terrific. But never again will I listen to Jonathan Gold and order their hamburger. That dude has lost his burger recommendation privileges for life.