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30 Burgers in 30 Days: The Aftermath

[Missed an installment? Catch up with 30 Burgers in 30 Days in our meaty archive.]

"You're not nearly as fat as I expected." That's about the nicest thing anyone can say to a reporter who has spent over a month embedded in Burgerville, a metaphorical landscape spanning LA's vast burger sub-culture.

Extra Calories Consumed: 16,000 (approx.)

Pounds Gained: 5.

Money Spent: $1107.25.

Number of Times We Were Recognized: 1 (Not by the waiter but by the busser at Bar Bouchon. "You are the burger lady from TV, yes?" Yes.)

The Decision

30 Burgers in 30 Days... On the surface, it was nothing but a bit of whimsy. A fanciful idea to which we ultimately committed just so we could use words like "whimsy" in sentences like this. In truth, exploring the burger in its myriad forms was one of our long-burning but largely dismissed ambitions. Then our health care coverage kicked in. What better way to tempt fate while systematically (if unscientifically) cataloging The Burger?

Proximity helped. Eating so many burgers in such a short span of time allowed us to parse the nuances: meat quality, coarseness of its grind, fat content, bun integrity, topping choices. These were the main ports of call on our odyssey. Along the way, we learned a lot -- not just about burgers, but about our bodies, about ourselves.

The Results

We won't rank the burgers, because, as we told Grubstreet LA, we segued between traditional burgers and gourmet burgers, so it would be unfair to compare them to each other. Besides, it's a burger. How bad can it be? To paraphrase a cliché about pizza and sex: even at its worst, it's still pretty good.

We are, however, attempting to formalize a GUT (Grand Unified Theory) for burgers. A model that combines particle physics, evolutionary theory and sociology to explain the evolution of the burger along two parallel tracks.

There's the traditional, fast-food burger: a wide, flat, mildly seasoned patty topped with iceberg lettuce, raw onion, tomato, cheese and, possibly, mayo. (Our favorites include Bill & Hiroko's and Cassell's.)

Then there's the gourmet, pub burger: thick, tall, coarsely ground, loosely packed, usually cooked medium rare, topped with some obscure cheese and an assortment of fancy condiments. (We like Lazy Ox Canteen, Osteria La Buca, Stout, The Oaks, Rustic Canyon, The Bottle Room and Comme Ça.

In between are "mish-mash" burgers, which combine elements of traditional and gourmet burgers. The patties are usually thicker, saltier and more heavily seasoned than fast food patties but not as thick as gourmet burgers. Toppings for mish-mash burgers have a lot of flair (eggs, pastrami, grilled onions) but aren't posh like toppings on a gourmet burger. Most so-called "ghetto burgers" are mish-mash burgers. (We recommend Mom's Burgers, Hole In The Wall Burger Joint and The Bucket.)

As a side note, there are also stunt burgers (a.k.a. glutton burgers) like the Cardiac Burger at The Bucket and the Chi Chi Burger at Blue Dog Beer Tavern.

The Consequences

Did it do any long-term damage to our health? Probably. To our waistline? Definitely. Just as ballerinas suffer broken toes and skiers tumble down mountainsides, we all make sacrifices for our art. Around Day 20, it became something of a slog, but we did what the pros do: We ate through it.


Methodology: Archetypal burger emporiums Father's Office, Hungry Cat and Umami were excluded from this quest at the outset. Nothing against these now-iconic burgers, but it was time to visit less traveled lands.

Our burger list had over 50 venues on it. There are many other burgers we still hope to try including 26 Beach Cafe, B&R's, Cafe del Rey, Fraiche, Fred's Downhome, Gorbals, Hawkin's, Hinano, Josie, The Market Grill, Mo's, Petrossian and Street -- to name just a few. Thank you to everyone who commented or emailed us with tips and suggestions. We regret that we have but one stomach to give for our burgers.


The Complete List: