With our three-month probationary period successfully completed and our health care benefits starting today (welcome to the real world, Rep. Andy Harris, you whiny little hypocrite), we decided it's the perfect time to launch 30 Burgers in 30 Days, an initiative we're pretty sure will hasten the end of our life or at least our eventual reliance on blood thinners. (Village Voice Media has a generous prescription drug allotment... right?)
Beginning today, we'll be eating and reviewing one burger, specifically a gourmet burger, every day. No fast-food burgers; they're awesome but belong in a category entirely to themselves.
In the movie version of our life, right now you'd hear trailer king Don LaFontaine intone: "In a city with a million burgers, one woman ate them all. This is her story. 30 burgers in 30 days. A lifetime to recover."
We start with the recently opened GO Burger in Hollywood, the first L.A. outpost from corporate parent BLT Burger, now without chef Laurent Tourondel (the "LT" in that word sandwich). BLT Burger has big ambitions: competing with expanding burger dynasties like The Counter and Umami while differentiating itself from nearby solo eateries like The Bowery and Hungry Cat, which are known for their burgers.
The first way they're trying to do that: price. If you want to spend $18 on a burger made with prime, 30-day-aged brisket, sirloin and short rib, you can. And because we're chumps, we did. Ground medium-coarse, the "Prime STEAKHOUSE Burger" (random capitalization is theirs) is incredibly juicy, teetering on the brink of unappetizing but reigning itself in as the fat and juices soak through the sweet brioche bun.
The complete burger, a little more medium than the medium-rare we had requested, is a study in spareness, the meat predominantly flavored with black pepper and topped only with grilled onions. It's a nice contrast to some of the overladen burgers that have become de rigueur at every bar with "gastro" recently appended to its designation as pub.
Some things are priceless. This burger is not one of them. It's a damn fine burger but hardly worth the $18. GO Burger also has several less expensive burgers. Its classic angus burger is $9 and its bacon burger is $11, a much more realistic pricing scheme, especially if you plan to spend $6 on a side of finger-thick fries cooked in duck fat (do it!) or $11 on a boozy milkshake (do that too!), two standouts that put GO Burger at the front of the pack.
The half-dozen spiked milkshakes include fantastic sounding combos like the Aztec Mocha made with tequila, coffee ice cream, cayenne pepper and chocolate syrup but we stuck with a more basic combo: a lagoon of thick vanilla ice cream with rivers of caramel and a liberal dose of Maker's Mark. GO Burger calls it Grandma's Treat, which probably explains why grandma was both so fat and always passed out on the couch.
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GO Burger's signature offerings include a $14 "UltiMELT" (again, the capitalization is theirs), a burger smashed between a grilled cheese sandwich. Go for one of these and you're taking your life into your hands. It's four pieces of rye bread, at least two slices of bacon, grilled onions, a layer of congealed gruyere (not that you'd notice because it's overwhelmed by the other flavors), a dripping burger and an unnecessary coating of Thousand Island dressing. Where the Steakhouse burger walks a fine line between righteous excess and grease overload, this burger is just way too much. Too much wetness, too much grease, too many ingredients, too much going on. It's more of a PR stunt than a burger.
The Upshot: Stick to the basic burgers and splurge on fries and alcoholic milkshakes.