If you drive down Culver Blvd until it reaches the sea, you end up at Dockweiler Beach. Dockweiler is one of the only places in Los Angeles where you can still have a bonfire on the beach. Fire pits have been built into the sand, and on most nights the sand is lit up like some very organized post-apocalyptic refugee camp. It is one of my favorite spots in the whole city. You can drive down there and roast marshmallows and hot dogs while the sun sets over the waves. It’s like a little piece of wilderness at the edge of the city.
All of this is to explain why after years of driving down this stretch of road, I never noticed The Tripel. Right before Culver Blvd curves and is reborn as Vista Del Mar, there’s the tiny beach town (suburb?) of Playa del Rey. The size of a shoe box, this gastro pub is warm and inviting. Candle light glowed off the wood paneled walls and an impressive row of beer taps above which the word “lubrication” was written in red.
Even though it was a Tuesday, I had to fight for a seat at the bar at 7pm. It wasn’t hard to figure out why after perusing the menu. Spicy coconut and red curry biscuits with clotted cream? Crispy pig ear salad with poached egg? Melted brebirousse d’argental with soaked wild mushroom toast? These dudes were not messing around. Why the hell had I been roasting hot dogs on the beach when I could have been in here dining on charred baby octopus? Ah well.
They had two beef burgers on the menu and one lamb, and I regret to inform you that I had only brought one buddy along. There was not enough appetite to demolish all three. So we stuck to the beef. (Of course, this meant that all of the other diners scolded us for choosing incorrectly AFTER we had ordered. Apparently the lamb burger is something of a legend. Figures.) The hand ground beef patties were luscious and came in two varieties the Pretzel Burger and the Tripel. The Pretzel Burger (shockingly) came on a pretzel bun and was draped in aged cheddar, poppy seed coleslaw, and carmelized onions. It was a thing of beauty, reminding me very strongly of Langer’s Deli’s famous #19, which features hot pastrami on rye bread with coleslaw and cheese. The sweetness of the coleslaw and onions contrasted with the sharpness of the cheddar, but didn’t overwhelm the burger or the pretzel bun. There was something very comforting about the whole thing, like a hug from your Bubbe.
The Tripel burger on the other hand was kind of a mess. It wasn’t bad, but it reminded me a bit of a date trying too hard to impress you. It’s listed as duck confit, pork, and aged beef patty on an onion brioche bun with truffle pecorino, arugula, and house made apricot jam. Sounds hot, right? That’s why you would agree to go out on this date in the first place, but when you get close to your beau your nostrils are assaulted with cologne or in this case apricot jam. Now I am not opposed to apricot jam in theory. It’s very nice on biscuits or cookies or with cheese. I’m even open minded enough to admit that it might be nice with a piece of meat, in the right proportion, but I’m telling you this thing was covered in it. All of those complex flavors were drowned in the sweetness. Like Axe bodyspray, it overpowered everything it touched. It was such a shame. No amount of scraping could rectify the situation. So if you find yourself in that part of town, do yourself a favor and get yourself a pretzel burger. It’s lovely.