The Oinkster

I drew a picture of masculinity. Here it is.

Portrait of Masculinity

That’s a lie I didn’t draw it, I stole it off of SuperMachoMao’s flickr page, but the rest is true. That drawing is of Nick Offerman, and he is masculinity personified. When Nick is not making canoes with his hands, or shaving and growing a new mustache every 6 hours as he likes to do, you might find him collaborating with his favorite local restaurant, The Oinkster, on the ultimate mascu-meal: the burger.


The “American Ham” as curated by Mr. Manliness himself is constructed as follows: 6-oz. ground chuck patty topped with shaved ham, two layers of gruyere cheese, hot sweet mustard, mayo, and house-made bread and butter pickles on a sourdough bun. If a Cuban sandwich bore a child fathered by a monster truck that runs on fireworks, you would have this burger. My bench press max went up 40 lbs after the first bite. All that cheese and warm smokey-sweet ham were meant to be together, and atop a meaty burger the match is truly heavenly. The healthy mound of house-made pickles aren’t terribly sugary and are brined with thin sliced onions, making for a little crunch and tartness that ties it all together. A sourdough bun trumps all other choices because if you don’t like it you’re obviously a vortex of testosterone. It’s a lot of meat. And cheese. And bread. And it’s fucking AWESOME. Awesome like “God Bless America” sang by a chorus of 50 bald eagles with perfect pitch as lead by Bruce Springsteen. It’s heavy and delicious and you’re going to love it because you’re a MAN (or at least you like to eat like one).


All good things must come to an end and The American Ham is no exception. This triumph of nationalist cuisine is only available for the month of October, so if you hope to ever really be an American, get to Oinkster stat. While the burger itself will not be with us for long, mourn not, the chest hair you grow as a result of eating it will be with you forever. One nation, under this burger. God Bless Nick Offerman.

– Geoff Sawyer

– Photos by #BURGERLORDS

The most American of them all

The Bell Beefer

What a week. The Oinkster has delivered again on it’s 3rd annual promise to bring the good people of Los Angeles seven consecutive days of awe inspiring burgers, be they homages to long-time staples, or original creations. The turnout of loyal burgerlords put last year’s attendance to shame, with some customers waiting 2 hours to place their order multiple nights in a row. 235 people successfully completed the challenge, meaning ate every burger on the week’s menu, one day at a time; myself included (duh). Though there were no real lowlights, there were a couple burgers at the head of the pack and one in particular was a clear favorite for me.

The Oink-o-Nator

Monday kicked off with the Oink-O-Nator, a shout to Wendy’s Baconator: 2 patties, cheddar, ketchup, mayo and a ton of bacon on a Kaiser roll. As is always the case when Oinkster does a tribute burger, the quality of the ingredients blew the doors off the original. That being said, there wasn’t much to this one- just simple and heavy. I was glad to get the meatiest task out of the way early. Tuesday was a Bob’s Big Boy recreation, and while like the previous day this burger did not boast frills, they nailed it, and blew the original away. Batting 1000 so far.

big boy

Burger Lord of the Rings

Day 3 was the Burgerlord of the rings, an original creation named after the theme of its toppings. Served on a bagel, this burger had grilled onions, a panko breaded fried pineapple ring, truffle Gorgonzola cream cheese, arugula, and chipotle bacon ketchup. Wild indeed, but in the bites heavy with bleu cheese, the sweetness of that pineapple was delightfully subdued and your 4-second flavor journey commences. My burger could have used more of that cream cheese overall, so my sincere hope is that this one will reappear as a burger of the month in the future giving me many more chances to decide just how highly it ranks on my love meter.

Weedeater (Grill Em All)

McRibster            The Grill Em All takeover day was predictably excellent, just as it was last year. Pulled pork, Jalapeno bacon, and Funyuns topped their burger, because they obviously know how to get baked and think of awesome shit. Day 7’s McRibster was great too, and again no surprise. From now on a half rack of de-boned baby back ribs is the only acceptable filler for a “rib” sandwich. The Bell Beefer was a bit more special, and required much higher levels of ingenuity. Taco Bell doesn’t make burgers, so there was some room for translation on this one. Oinkster’s solution was a Dorito crusted patty (I think they fried it), shredded cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, ranch dressing, and Tapatio. Why or how those things add up to taste exactly like a Taco Bell taco, I cannot speak to, but rest assured, they do. While it wouldn’t be the first burger I’d order from the week’s lineup, the Bell Beefer was perhaps the most impressive offering of the week (photo at the top of the page).

If you followed this blog last year when we covered burger week, you may recall my face melting off at the taste of the single original creation on the week’s menu, the adobo burger. Much to my dismay, the exact same thing happened this year, and the burger to leave burger week 2013 with the crown is none other than the menu’s misfit: The Thrilla from Manila. A lumpia style patty made from ground pork, shrimp and mushroom is wrapped and deep fried, then topped with pork belly, papaya relish, sweet Thai sauce on Pan de Sal. It was the least impressive looking, and the least photogenic burger all week, but with every bite I sat in stunned silence as to how so much flavor could possibly fit into so little space. Perhaps the fact that my palate is far less developed when it comes to Filipino flavors than more traditional American burger dressings makes me more susceptible to the elation experienced every time chef Andre Guerrero (owner) reaches into his motherland’s bag of culinary tricks, but I couldn’t care less. Each of the two times that he has made a burger that challenges what I think a burger is/should be, my world has forever changed. Let’s keep our fingers even more tightly crossed that this one shows up for a month in the near future, because anyone who missed it deserves a second chance.

The unassuming holy grail of burger week.

The unassuming holy grail of burger week.

Having survived another burger week challenge and lived to wear the shirt, I tip my hat yet again to the boys of Oinkster. I saw first hand this week that their following is a cult. The genuine joy and camaraderie present in that 90 minute line to order a hamburger is rarely seen ANYWHERE, much less a scenario that sounds awful if you don’t know it to be otherwise. If you were there, you get it. Oinkster is building a brotherhood- visible in the twinkle of every glance exchanged between a proud “burger week survivor” T-shirt wearer and each passing person who knows what that means. To quote a completely insane but surprisingly eloquent lady who cornered me on the way to my car on day 3: “Everybody loves something. For the lucky ones, it’s food.”

-Geoff Sawyer

Burger Week 2013 Line Up

One year ago today, Hoodburger was born. On the commencement of The Oinkster’s 2nd annual burger week, Molly and I began our quest by covering the week’s wild happenings at one of my very favorite neighborhood restaurants. We’ve since gone on to eat at over 50 more of Los Angeles’s finest (and a few not so fine) burger joints so that we can tell you the tales. Look for a soon-to-come highlight reel of our year in burgers, as it has been a great one.

This week however is not really about us, it is about burgers, and it is about Oinkster. They have concocted another stellar line-up of fast food homages and original creations this year, each of which has my interest piqued and appetite in hulk-mode. Unlike last year, there will not be a daily review of the previous day’s burger because it seems mean to rub in your faces that which you can no longer have each and every day. I will however be there every night affirming my title of burgerlord (peep this tumblr if you don’t already know about it) and talking amazing burgers with any and all of you whilst the bread breaks. Come say hi.

-Geoff Sawyer

photo: Frederick Guerrero

photo: Frederick Guerrero

Happy New Year!! Mine is going to be anyway, and I certainly hope the same is true of your 2013. At the very least it is a continuation of this divine quest on Earth, and more specifically, our search for Southern California’s finest hamburger. In the spirit of acknowledging the fact that many folks make incredibly predictable New Year’s resolutions, I had planned to only review veggie burgers this month, in that I never otherwise see much reason to focus on them. However I abandoned that idea nearly as fast as some of you have abandoned your ambition to eat more healthily, so let’s celebrate what’s truly cause for jubilation: life on this planet post-apocalypse is not NEARLY as bad as I thought it was going to be. I’m kidding of course, and since I am sure we can agree the world didn’t end 3 weeks ago, we can probably also agree that filling our basements with long-life batteries and non-perishable foods was maybe not the smartest use of our Christmas bonuses. True as that may be, we should all find solace in the fact that one restaurant in particular has found a positively superb way to disseminate its unneeded stockpile by way of perhaps the wildest burger we have discussed to date, brought to you by long time favorite, The Oinkster.

For those who don’t know, the Oinkster has begun to do a “Burger of the Month,” each of which so far (there have been 3) is a pretty brave step away from the king of their permanent menu, the perfectly crafted Classic Burger. The prior two have been awesome: the first in November was a turkey burger that captured all the flavors one would expect to encounter at a proper thanksgiving dinner (including among other ingredients sautéed leeks and celery [that when combined in a bite with bun totally resemble stuffing] and cranberry sauce), and last month’s Cochinita Pibil burger (all pork patty, slow roasted Yucatan pork stew not unlike adobo, lettuce, tomato, mayo, guacamole, refried black beans and pickled onions). I ate and thoroughly enjoyed both of these but have never intended to cover burgers that you guys can only get for a few weeks- it just seems like such a tease. Today I eat those words because January’s burger blew my mind. It is titled: The Doomsday Prepper’s Burger.

photo: Frederick Guerrero

photo: Frederick Guerrero

You are going to be skeptical when I tell you what’s on this thing. I certainly was. It was obviously designed in the spirit of Armageddon bunker foods and consists of: 6oz. angus patty, grilled Spam, rehydrated onions, a healthy slab of melted Velveeta, thousand island, Funyuns, pickles, and fruit cocktail chutney(!!!) all on a sesame seed bun. Truthfully I only ate it out of morbid curiosity but please believe me when I tell you that it does not even make sense how delicious this burger is. The sum of the parts vastly outweighs their individual strengths and as you probably know I am rarely a fan of a busy burger. Go ahead, scoff. Assume that I must have just grown up eating trashy factory-made stuff like this (you’d actually be right to do so but I have not gotten excited about Velveeta processed pasteurized cheese food product since the early 90’s). Think that it just can’t be good. Think, “Who eats Spam?” All of these thoughts are natural and were native to my own mind until I bit into the burger. I made them bring me a little side of the chutney so I could figure out what made it so yummy. By itself, it is easy to tell that it’s flavored with curry but on the burger you almost wouldn’t ever pick it out. It just works. I grow ever fonder of throwing crunchy things in the mix too, in this case Funyuns. A dash of texture in a sea of soft savory salty stuff is always pleasant. This burger is one juicy sloppy doomsday mess in the best possible of ways.

Doomsday Guts

The Doomsday Prepper is rich and hearty, so don’t plan to play basketball immediately afterwards, but do yourself a favor and go get one. I have done you all a disservice by waiting until 10 days into the only month it will ever exist before sharing my experience with you (sorry!!). Also, if you go, tell me about it. I could really use some affirmation that I am not out of my mind and that against all odds, this burger is confoundingly delicious. I suspect you’re all going to be as blown away as I was.

-Geoff Sawyer

photo: Frederick Guerrero

photo: Frederick Guerrero

The Art District downtown is a multifaceted ever changing thing. Moving neighborhood to neighborhood, street to street, people are always fighting over where it begins and ends, which warehouses are cool and which ones ain’t. It’s as nebulous as it is magical. Restaurants, galleries, lofts, and theaters are popping up all over the urban landscape in the most unlikely of places.  And burgers. Did I mention that? Gourmet burgers are popping up too.

Little Bear is a gourmet Belgian bar that takes their pub food seriously. Created by the same awesome family that built Oinkster, one can only guess that is an homage to Belgian beer and their Belgian style French fries (I just made that up. Those fries are worth building a restaurant around regardless.) Nestled on Industrial St. between Mateo and Mill, the place is unmistakably inviting with its bright red door, which acts almost as if it’s taunting (the delicious) Church and State across the street with its flare. I was almost surprised there wasn’t a sign on the side of the building that read “Yo Church and State, do you serve burgers? I didn’t think so.”  (Church and State does not serve burgers. Why? I don’t know. It’s disappointing. They should, but I digress.  Back on topic.)

Inside the doors the place is spacious and modern, while remaining warm and inviting. Maps of Belgium line the walls and giant nets hang from the ceiling in aesthetically pleasing formations. It’s got the feel of a hip bar in Chicago or Minneapolis.  As advertised, there is an incredibly long beer list as well as some creative cocktails and pretty much anything else your heart desires.

The menu is full of gourmet things that are supremely bad for you and very tempting. (I’m looking at you grilled cheese list. I’ll come back for you another day.) In terms of burgers, they’ve got three: The Little Bear burger, the Classic burger, and the Veggie burger. I’m proud to announce I ate all three (not at the same time. I’m not that impressive). The Little Bear burger is an exercise in showing off. Fresh ground beef, truffle aioli, stilton cheese, mushrooms, arugula, crispy onions aka thinly sliced onion rings, and cherry gastrique on a brioche bun.  Or in other words how many fancy ingredients can you fit on a bun without going overboard?

The question was did it pay off? Yes and no. The truffle aioli overpowered any hint of stilton on the burger, which isn’t good. A good Stilton should be able to overpower anything be it man or beast or aioli. But the sweetness of the onions held their own against the earthy truffle flavor and the result was a damn fine burger. The cherry gastrique was completely lost on me until I read the menu later online. I had no idea that was on there, which means it should probably be taken off. It’s like when the dealership tries to talk you into putting fancy nitrogen air in your tires.  Let’s stop kidding ourselves. If you don’t notice, there’s no point.

The surprise of the night was the Classic burger. Whenever a “classic” burger is on a menu, I’ve always assumed it’s for the fussy eaters who want something that they recognize. It usually means American cheese, ketchup, iceberg lettuce, a slice of onion, a slice of tomato, and at best no effort from the chef (at worst disdain and probably some spit). At Little Bear it means the Oinkster burger which is a whole other story. Yes, it contains the usual suspects but the ingredients are fresh and the proportions are perfect: ground beef, heirloom tomatoes, raw onion, dill pickle, Thousand Island dressing, Bibb lettuce, and a brioche bun, and by God it beats the fancy pants burger by a mile. Blasphemy, I know. How is it possible that the Classic burger with its thousand island dressing could possibly beat out something covered in truffle aioli? I couldn’t tell you. Both are delicious, but for reasons only known to the chef, the Classic cannot be improved upon.

Footnote: You need to try again with your veggie burger. It is a hot, sloppy mess. It tastes like bean chili on a bun. I know you just put it on there to appease the vegans (because honestly who wouldn’t choose a grilled cheese?) but you can do better. I know you can.  Take out that old drawing board and have a do over.  Call me when you do. Love, Molly.

-Molly Bergen


Classic and Farro Burger Photos by Adam Carver.

I spent all night dreaming of pickles. Well no, more specifically one pickle. But more on that later. Yesterday was Day 7 of Oinkster’s burger week and like every single day previous, they had a line out the door. People’s hunger for cover burgers could not be quenched. And who could blame them? I for one was dying to see if Oinkster could handle the Big Mac because the Big Mac isn’t just a burger. Oh no. One could argue that McDonald’s Big Mac is an American icon right up there next to tater tots and Buffalo wings.  It is the burger cover equivalent of screaming out “Freebird!” at a concert.  In fact many people have composed their own musical odes to this thing. It is a huge part of McDonalds “billions sold” claim that they plaster their welcoming signs. So the question was…could Oinkster do it?

Absolutely. The “secret” sauce is no longer a secret.  The Big Max was eerily similar to the actual Big Mac with one glaring exception…the ingredients were better. The beef fresher, the sesame buns fluffier, the cheese…okay the American cheese was exactly the same, but the thing that has been driving me crazy are the pickles. How on earth did they manage to do that? The right size, the right ridges, the right flavor? How? Unless this is all an illusion and they bought them from the same place (If that is true, please let me know. Maybe then I can get some sleep.) Mimicking sauce is one thing. Mimicking pickles is a whole new level of talent.

Unlike the actual Big Mac, the Big Max did not make you feel ill afterwards, which is actually a very strange sensation. Having all those flavors together and not having any consequences is a little unsettling. (I mean, aside from the consequences of having to hike the entire Santa Monica mountain range to make up for the glory that was burger week.) It’s amazing what good ingredients can do.  In fact if this week has shown anything, it’s what the fast food chains could be capable of if they actually gave a shit about their customers.

Yes, the Oinkster claims this is a “tribute” week, but it’s more of a wakeup call week. (Or as Geoff puts it “a nut flexing exercise”). The Oinkster outshone all of these fast food joints by cooking their signature burgers better than those who actually created it, but that’s not the most interesting part of the experiment. Is it impressive that they built a better Big Mac than McDonalds? Yes. But what is more impressive are the conversations heard around the tables this week. Everyone was talking about the ingredients and the effects that they were having on their bodies. There is nothing like being shown the ghosts of poor decisions past to really take stock of what it is we’re eating and how it’s being prepared. It was a week of taking a good hard look at the fast food burger and how little we settle for if it costs 99 cents.

-Molly Bergen

One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t… no actually it totally belongs. This week is about bad-ass burgers right? Absolutely, and the Pork Adobo burger of Day 6 was definitely bad-ass. It’s different because as we all know by this point, the purpose of the week was to pay tribute to the burger recipes made famous by others, and this one particular burger is a chef/owner Andre Guerrero original. For Day 6, rather than pay respect to another great burger, he paid respect to his Filipino heritage, with inspirations drawn from traditional Adobo stew, and pandesal. Just how little I know about Filipino cuisine became instantly apparent with this one, as I not only had to google basically everything, but also use life-lines. Though in fear about my ability to intelligently discuss this particular burger right up to this moment, I can say one thing in total confidence: holy pig it was good.

Unlike any of the other burgers of the week, this one is all pork (yes you can do that. It’s still a burger). A ground pork patty sits right in the middle, and is topped with shredded Adobo stewed pork. According to the flyer The Oinkster posted on facebook to describe this sandwich, the Adobo meat is stewed and then fried for texture, which is the first of many things that I might have never guessed. Topped then with pico de gallo and a smear of garlic aoli, it’s all held together by a pandesal bun, which feels and tastes a bit like a firmer version of an American yeast roll (think Golden Coral, but in a somehow flattering way). The next and perhaps most important thing that I would have never known, is what made this burger taste like what it tasted like. Thanks to the Internet, and The Oinkster’s willful relinquishing of some insider info, I was made aware that the Adobo flavor comes from soy sauce, white vinegar, black pepper and bay leaves, none of which with the exception of soy I was able to specifically identify. This burger was the perfect example of melded flavors. Knowing that it would be my job to review it, eating this burger was a little stressful because with each bite I had one less chance to figure out what the hell was making this thing taste so good, but contrarily seemed to have zero control over the hand that continued lifting it to my mouth. I got a couple bites with the specific zing of tomato from the pico, and a couple wherein garlic in the aoli was distinguishable, but all told the Pork Adobo burger was a clinic on the blending of ingredients into a finished product. I’m surprised to find myself saying this because I think of burgers as beef (even after reading the wiki page), but Mr. Guerrero’s singular original creation of the whole program turned out to be the highlight of my week.

This review was a learning experience for me (admittedly new to food writing) and in hindsight, my approach would have been different knowing what I now do. In order to successfully identify any of the flavors in this burger one would have to pick it apart and try each ingredient separately. Maybe you should do that anyway if you truly wish to enjoy any given dish, or at least if you need to discuss it. The dichotomy of my nearing anxiety attack while coming to grips with the fact that I had no idea what to say about this burger, and simultaneously loving it about as much as anything I have ever eaten in my life ever- was fortunately specific to Day 6 only.

– Geoff Sawyer