Browsing Category

Los Angeles

Hopdoddy Burger Bar Edition

Arizona, Austin, Burgers, California, Chain, Colorado, Gourmet, Los Angeles, Texas, West Coast By August 6, 2016 No Comments

I’m really scratching my head on this one. As I struggle to tickle the keys on my beat to hell 2007 Macbook, I face the stark truth that I am about to give props to the one burger joint in Austin that seems like it came out of the Wachowski brothers’ Matrix trilogy: Hopdoddy Burger Bar. The customers don’t wear nearly the same amount of leather as Carrie Anne Moss, and I’m pretty sure open carry in Austin’s City Limits doesn’t include Matrix level hardware, but the almost too perfect polished feel of the place seems jarring enough for me to take the red pill. In this case, the “red pill” meant taking on three(actually 4) burgers to see how deep Bang for your Burger Buck can go here. And how deep does the rabbit hole go at Hopdoddy? Let’s just say by the end I was waxing poetic on these burgers with the Mad Hatter and Alice.

On paper, places like Hopdoddy are why I began the search for Bang for your Burger Buck. The $10 and up burger trend was shifting burger discourse away from beautifully imperfect burger stands to chef driven concepts dripping with start up cash from dudes in Teslas who just started saying the word “dude” again after a 5 year hiatus post college/grad school. With a full bar, boozy milkshakes and several well positioned monitors blasting ESPN, the temptation to stay awhile and get loose at Hopdoddy is great. $50 later you may find yourself asking how a burger and beer experience bordered on a light sushi dinner. Well, it’s not really a conspiracy on the part of joints like Hopdoddy. They figured out awhile back that people will spend money in all kinds of settings, whether they be quiet white table cloth lined dining rooms or a burger joint with kobe on the menu and kobe highlight reels on the TV. So why should you spend your hard earned buck here? Because in this instance, the crowds indeed gather for good reason: their burgers rock. Their burgers are also all over the map. In fact, it kind of irks me when a burger joint can’t pick one burger version and run with it. In Hopdoddy’s case, they have 12 burgers that showcase extreme topping creations versus that one single interpretation of what they believe a great burger truly is. After an initial dud, I honed in on three burgers that struck me as compelling on their own and fine to compare and contrast. Like shopping for a car or a Mac(hint hint), budget will drive your journey. So here are three great Hopdoddy burgers, in ascending order of Bang for your Burger Buck, that are indeed worthy of your hard earned buck. And I freaking enjoyed eating every one of ’em too.

Share:

Burgerlords – Los Angeles, CA

Burgers, Los Angeles, West Coast By February 25, 2016 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: two patties of a custom triple cut grass fed beef blend, on a sponge bun with lettuce, tomato, onion and thousand island dressing and american cheese
the bucks: $7
the coordinates: Los Angeles, CA

Last night I dreamt about Zankou Chicken. For those of you who are ignorant to the work of Beck, or happened to have never called LA home, Zankou Chicken is one of those dirty bird chains blessed from the Gods. A Lebanese-Armenian take on the typical fare one finds in a fast casual Middle Eastern/Mediterranean, order at the counter kinda spot. The place not only fed me for my 20s and some of my 30s, but it also served as my first introduction to cheap eats staples like shawerma, falafel and hummus. When you eat at a place for a decade, you can catch off days. And truth be told there were better(albeit pricier) renditions of Lebanese Armenian throughout LA, but I always kept coming back. Now I’m 8 months away from Zankou Chicken and the city that chicken shack calls home, and it doesn’t take Sigmund Freud to tell me that my belly is a little homesick. Which brings me to the burger at hand: a straight outta Los Angeles, in the style of In-N-Out, flat top griddled stackable burger. Fast food in design but not in the ingredients. A burger style that is the standard-bearer of burgers in SoCal. A brilliant design whose appeal to youth certainly carries over into the kind of adult who responds to questions like “Is In-N-Out good?” with a “oh dude, you just don’t know . . .” When I arrived in Los Angeles some 20 years ago I tried In-N-Out and just never got what all the fuss was about. But now, 8 months removed from a 20 year sentence in Southern California, I look back with fondness on the style, and in the case of Burgerlords, I have my own version of In-N-Out that is worthy of some pontification. And pontificate I shall.

Share:

Belcampo Meat Company – Los Angeles, CA

Burgers, Los Angeles, West Coast By August 19, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: Double Fast Burger: two 3oz patties of enlightened grass fed beef, house made American cheese, custom burger sauce, lettuce, tomato and onion
the bucks: $8
the coordinates: Los Angeles, CA

One of the most compelling debates on how to make great food erupted perfectly on Twitter a few years ago between Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert over which factor was more significant: technique or ingredient. Bourdain’s argument for technique sort of “won”, as he pointed out that whole cuisines developed around humbling circumstance thereby elevating “lesser” ingredient into what we now know as American Soul Food or Countryside French. Ripert’s retorts for the case of ingredient highlighted the fact that in the food world of today, Chef’s who demonstrate good technique have an almost unparalleled access to fine ingredient, making the debate somewhat moot: Technique and Ingredient are equally significant though don’t always exist in perfect harmony.

The debate haunts my mind with every great meal I encounter. Few times is there true balance between technique and ingredient, and when it comes to Bang for your Burger Buck, often it is technique that is taking the spotlight. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying this fine debate but ingredient comes down to bucks, and saving a few means technique has to step up. There are loads of excellent burgers that I don’t cover and the reason is price. Though I don’t want to think of Bang for your Burger Buck as a “$10 and under club”, it kind of is. Because of this journey that is driven by value, of feeling compelled to make “the find”, I have deprived both you and I, the pleasure of encountering and documenting an “ingredient” driven burger. Until now. After visiting many a burger joint, primarily in Los Angeles, I have come to a place where I am overwhelmed to make the following declaration: the Fastburger at Belcampo Meat Company is the best Bang for your Burger Buck in Los Angeles. Yup, I said it. I don’t do the stars thing – every burger in here is a case for value, but the Belcampo Fastburger is the best deal in town and this is because the burger embodies the balance of excellent technique and superb ingredient. Even crazier than making that kind of contentious “throw down the gauntlet” kind of statement is that the sheer greatness of this burger, the Bang for your Burger Buck, does not stem from the quest of making a great burger but rather from the philosophy of sustainable food. Ethical farming seldom enters the forum of Bang for your Burger Buck but exemptions are made when a burger tastes this good. Add to that an asking price of $8, and this double cheeseburger is an exception welcomed with jaws and wallets, wide open.

Share:

Hinano Cafe – Los Angeles, CA

Burgers, Los Angeles, West Coast By May 15, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: double cheeseburger with house toppings(lettuce, tomato, red onion)
the bucks: $8.50
the coordinates: Venice Beach, CA(12 miles west of Los Angeles)

It has been said that etiquette may well be a thing of the past. And perhaps images of young men holding open doors for the elderly or school children rising when a teacher enters a classroom are indeed as frozen in time as those crude etchings of Wooly Mammoths found in the caves of Southern France. Contrary to this notion, I do believe that, in certain instances of modern context, etiquette still does occur, though in ways that may seem more subtle or unexpected to our forbears. Take for instance the dive bar. That hallowed home away from home where the working man or woman spends some quality time and dollars, in libation and revelry, with fellow working men and women. A place where convenience, affordability and joy intersect. The dive bar is more than just a bar, it is a pseudo private club for the blue collared. They are places that are claimed, that are deserved of our loyalty. It would be poor etiquette to covet another man’s dive bar. Therefore I cannot honestly claim Hinano as my own because it aint in my hood. I am no beach dweller, and it may well be at least a lifetime or two till the day when I can afford to hang my hat walking distance to the beach. But I can visit. I can pay to park so I can essentially pay to put my feet in the sand. And since I have an hour or two left on my meter, I might as well go crush a burger.

Share:

Super Burger – Los Angeles, CA

Burgers, Los Angeles, West Coast By April 30, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: 7.5oz bacon cheeseburger with house toppings(lettuce, tomato, thousand island dressing)
the bucks: $6
the coordinates: Pasadena, CA(14 miles northeast of Los Angeles)

Eating alone is a fascinating thing to observe. In the modern era, thanks to smartphones and social media, I suppose we never are really alone. All the Twitter followers and Facebook friends in the world can’t mask that lone diner. The lone diner is certainly more common in certain venues as the likelihood of spotting one dropping $300 on a tasting menu at Alinea seems far less likely than catching one at a roadside stand for a $1 taco. Regardless of a venue’s pomp and price, or a menu crafted from foie gras or frankfurter, watching a diner eat alone is captivating. Captivating because of our own imaginations and the questions that pop in our heads. Who is she? What does he does he do? Does he live alone? One would assume certain professions would embrace eating alone. Spies, Vigilantes, certain Super Heroes. Travis Bickle definitely ate some meals solo. Paul Kersey too. While a mohawked Robert DeNiro would be tough to picture at Super Burger in Pasadena, I could buy a Charles Bronson circa 1974, sitting alone, getting a day’s worth of calories in one sitting, before looking for trouble on a subway platform. After all being a Vigilante means you work ’round the clock and best to get a full belly in one sitting whenever possible. Which brings us to a bacon cheeseburger with the most bacon I have seen on a cheeseburger, or a lumberjack breakfast special for that matter.

Share:

Grill ‘Em All – Los Angeles, CA

Burgers, Los Angeles, West Coast By April 16, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: “FTW” Burger. Bun. Cheese(American). 
the bucks: $6
the coordinates: Alhambra, CA(10 miles east of Los Angeles)

We are in the age of pretentious foodie bullshit. If talk is cheap, foodie talk is going for Costco/WalMart wholesale prices. Blame it on Twitter. Blame it on Food Television. Hell, blame it on marketing, that’s where it all stems from really. But cry not, honest and humble lover of all things edible, there is an oasis in the sea of gluten free, farm to table, non GMO, double organic with a dash of free range, foodie discourse. One is most certainly the site you are reading. The other is the post you are about to sink into, or more accurately, this burger you are about to sink your teeth into:

Share: