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Glendale

Double Double

March to the beat of your own drum. Generally, we talk about fancy-pants burgers, which makes sense because that’s what we like. There have and will continue to be exceptions to that rule not only because we see you burger-traditionalists, and we respect you, but also because not all delicious burgers need come topped with 27 syllables worth of cheese and exotic vegetation. Over the course of our handful of hat-tips to the simpler burgers out there we’ve even come to coin the phrase “California Style” which, if your memory fails is, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, and Thousand-Island dressing. What we have managed to NOT do (until now anyway) is pay homage to the creator of that style. To give credit to the establishment who re-wrote the fast food bible that WackDonald’s imposed upon the world. To shout out the institution that is a culinary pillar of Southern California, and whose quality and consistency will keep them adorned in that accolade. Today friends, we are going to In ‘N Out.

Animal Fries

Animal Fries

This is a burger blog about Southern California’s offerings, and if you’re reading this (you are), you probably live in Southern California and you probably like burgers. If both of those things are true, I’d bet the farm that you don’t need me to tell you about In ‘N Out’s food. So, I won’t. It’s great. You know that. Sometimes I crave their food in a way that can only be cured by their food. You probably do too. In very few contexts, processed-pasteurized-American-cheese-food-product is pure joy and the greatest of those contexts is known as “Animal Fries.” None of this is news to you. However, you may not be rich with fun facts about the company that has become a staple to residents and a to-do list top-liner for everyone who visits Southern California. Let’s change that.

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If you haven’t read Fast Food Nation, you should; though it will probably have you questioning (and rightfully so) not only what you eat but also just how shameful you should feel about it. Though the whole book is informative,  the very beginning describes Southern California as the Fertile Crescent of hamburgers and how that came to pass, which, if you’re like me (fat), is simply fascinating. Ray Crock, the industrious entrepreneur who took McDonald’s from one popular restaurant to a National force, created a blueprint that nearly all other fast food chains modeled their businesses after: Prime convenient locations and plenty of them, profitability through extremely low costs of both food and labor, market saturation, and a franchise business structure. In N’ Out’s philosophy agrees with exactly zero of those things. They only have approximately 300 retail locations despite nearly 70 years in operation, are entirely privately owned by the family that started the business and have offered no franchises, take excellent care of their employees both financially and in terms of available benefits, and have higher food costs so as not to compromise the company’s quality standards. If that wasn’t enough differentiation, the diversity of the menu is nil (there are basically a total of 4 things: burgers, fries, shakes, sodas, though one has a couple of style options per category), every store looks identical, and the pro-Jesus culture is subtle but visible on the bottom of every cup. So according to the fast food model followed by most of their competitors, In ‘N Out does everything wrong. Somehow that doesn’t equate to failure. I implore anyone to find an uncrowded location at mealtime.
In ‘N Out is another solid example of “if you build it, they will come.” Uncompromising standards yield consistent quality, and that makes for consistently happy customers, who are loyal. This chain’s contribution to SoCal’s burger Mesopotamia is an important one, and one that I suspect will continue to enjoy slow and steady growth at whatever pace it chooses, as has been the case thus far. If it ain’t broke…
– Geoff Sawyer

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Firehouse Burger

This week’s review is purely the product of social media. Powerful stuff, that hand held internet. These guys followed our Instagram, and after seeing a few gorgeous photos of my favorite food (and never otherwise hearing of Eden Burger Bar in my life) I had all the evidence I needed to justify a meal with them. Subsequently, they will definitely join my list of pleasant finds.

Truffle Fries

On Verdugo Road, just south of the 134 overpass, there is a very unassuming (and generally pretty busted) little strip mall, featuring the usual fare for the area: a tobacco shop, a liquor store, a cheap Chinese restaurant, a nail salon, a dentist, etc. and none of these businesses really look like anywhere you’d be thrilled to go. However, a lone island of building in the parking lot bears secrets worth discovering. Eden Burger Bar is not significantly more impressive than its neighbors from the outside, but the inside is an entirely different story. The interior design looks like a bottle service Night Club owned by the Tao Group more than a hamburger restaurant. You probably wouldn’t bat an eye if you to walked into this establishment on the Vegas Strip, but being in a totally unimpressive pocket of Glendale makes it almost seem like a  film set that you can enter and order a hamburger, and a delicious hamburger at that.

Baller booth

Since Eden doesn’t have a namesake on the menu which is always my move when I know nothing about a place- I just got the first thing that looked intriguing, which happened to be the very first thing I saw. The “Firehouse” is described as: 35 day dry aged 8oz. beef patty, house spicy bacon, habanero jack cheese, giardiniera (which I had never heard of by name but have eaten over and over; it’s pickled jalapenos, carrots and cauliflower), tomato, and avocado mayonnaise, on a brioche. The whole time I was eating it, all I could think about was “Umami on steroids.” The burgers at Eden are probably 30% larger than at Umami, the same price, and though the menus of these 2 restaurants share virtually no parallels in terms of burger topping combinations, the grind and bread are strikingly similar in both cases, and neither are short on originality. The Firehouse patty could have been a little more seasoned, but otherwise there is not a thing I would change. It’s spicy but nowhere close to overwhelming as long as you like spicy food, while being just cheesy enough, just messy enough, and cooked perfectly rare. The bread is chewy, the aioli is mild, the bacon is thick, salty and cooked dark, the tomato gets lost but is probably helping cool your tongue off and not getting credit for role it plays, and before you know it, the burger is gone and you’re stuffed. Mine was accompanied by truffle fries, which, size, shape, and texture-wise are also very similar to Umami, though rather than cheese on them there is a healthy toss of parsley and truffle oil.  A delightful meal over all, and delivered by a very cheery bartender.

Inside the Firehouse

I am already looking forward to my next visit to Eden. The rest of the specialty burger menu looks swell (they have 10) a few of which feature exotic meats. I have never tried boar or duck in burger form, and Eden Bar offers both. The more innovative beef options include the “Rehab” which boasts spicy bacon, swiss cheese, sweet potato/sausage hash, maple-mustard/mayo, and a fried egg (a hangover cure if I’ve ever seen one) and the “Fig” which is dressed in fresh figs, lemon basil aioli, smoked gouda, sundried tomato, crispy prosciutto, and fig & olive tapenade. You can build your own as well, if you prefer a more traditional presentation, and their beer and wine selections are surprisingly comprehensive. So hats off to Instagram, for leading me to burger salvation. The food is sinful, but my guess is you’re going to eat it anyway. I certainly plan to.

-Geoff Sawyer

Fries close

Purple rain

Ceiling

This is 15 feet wide and it sparkles.

Firehouse Guts