Sometimes it’s all in the name. Last week I heard of abrand new restaurant opening up in the nebulous land between Venice and Inglewood on Lincoln Blvd called Humble Potato – The Original Hambaga and I knew I had to check it out. How many restaurants can you think of with the name Humble in the title? How many? I’ll wait…think of any? Me neither. Usually places go for something big and flashy or unusual for a title, but never anything meek or mild. The second part was no less intriguing. What on earth was a hambaga? And what are these other incarnations that I was not aware of, if this claims to be the original? Turns out that hambaga is the Japanese term for burgers and I knew I had to go. How many Japanese hambagas had I ever had up until Tuesday? Zero.
The storefront is so tiny it’s easy to drive past it on Lincoln. Packed in between a number of other restaurants and bars on that strip by the airport the outside looks nothing special. Once you walk inside, however, you beginning to get the warm feelings of a favorite. When I saw the wall covered with ripped up old photos of sumo wrestlers, Speed Racer and geisha girls and a bike hanging from the ceiling I knew this place was going to be a good time. The menu was equally whimsical covered with items like Battle Royale Hambaga, Tempeh-baga (veggie burger), Little Tokyo Doggu (hotdog), Mama-san Salad, and the Yardbird (chicken sandwich). There was really something for everybody.
Going through the giant list of bagas, it seemed impossible not to try the Battle Royale. Who could turn down a burger named after a movie where little children fight each other to death? (Okay that sounded really gross.) But the description read: Organized Chaos and I was sold. So what’s on a Battle Royale? In between a fresh bun was squeezed a Angus beef patty with avocado, romaine lettuce, thick cut tomato, onion, Applewood smoked bacon, a fried egg (or as they call it a “fried egg-splosive”) and spicy HP sauce (which is not to be confused with the totally disgusting British brown HP sauce. This was house made Humble Potato sauce.) I also went big on the fries. Sweet potato fries? Please! Not when there’s shichimi and garlic parmesan fries.
As most people will tell you, too many cooks in the kitchen will really screw up a burger. When our hambagas arrived I was genuinely worried that there was too much going on. But one bite and I knew I was in love. I’m serious. I’ve been thinking about this burger since I ate it on Tuesday. I’ve been scheming of ways I could justify going there on my lunch break from work even though I know it’s too damn far. I love this burger. The proportions are perfect. The cool creaminess of the avocado matches the salty sharpness of the bacon, which counters the crisp crunch of the lettuce, and the golden drippy goodness of the egg, the shards of sweet tomato counter the meaty comfort of the burger, which is kept interesting by the spicy tomato sauce, and kept in line by the soft freshness of the bun. The thing is an unholy mess. Once you’ve picked it up, it cannot be put down. Your fingers become rivers of spicy yolk, but the proportions are perfect. It at once reminds you of a BLT, breakfast, and a burger all in one sandwich. I’ve never been so happy.
I regret to tell you that the shichimi and garlic parmesan fries are not nearly as exciting. I mean, they’re fine. Thick cut garlic fries never went amiss in my book, but they were a bit too greasy. The real winner of the evening was my companion’s regular fries with the housemade HP spicy sauce. The simplicity was gorgeous. Sometimes all you want is a humble potato. Also, I would really recommend going to this place before everyone and their mothers starts waiting outside for their hambagas. Because they’re so new, the entire staff makes rounds around your tables asking “Are you alright? How is it?” with the eagerness of a newly adopted puppy that is unsure whether his owners really love them yet. I felt like writing on the wall, “I love you, Humble Potato. I really really do.”
And now I must confess that I let you down. Yes, I did. I am sorry. I did not get any dessert. I’m so so sorry. I was so full that I didn’t try their Abocado Shake (Avocado and chocolate) or the Mocha Custard. Forgive me. I will not be so weak next time. I’m going to buy a muumuu for round two.