[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.
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.
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.
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.
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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:
- Day 31 [Bonus]: Preview of the Dork Burger at Mohawk Bend
- Day 30: Rabbit Burgers at The Standard
- Day 29: Burgers & Fried Gnocchi at Osteria La Bucca
- Day 28: Hamburger Habit in West LA
- Day 27: Taylor's Prime Steak in Koreatown
- Day 26: Master Burger in Jefferson Park
- Day 25: Burgers & Burrata at Little Dom's in Los Feliz
- Day 24: Morton's The Strakhouse in downtown LA
- Day 23: Rustic Canyon Wine Bar in Santa Monica
- Day 22: Bar Bouchon in Beverly Hills
- Day 21: Stout in Hollywood
- Day 20: Mom's Burgers in Compton
- Day 19: Bill & Hiroko's in Van Nuys
- Day 18: Pacific Dining Car in Koreatown
- Day 17: Pie 'n Burger in Pasadena
- Day 16: Blue Dog Beer Tavern in Sherman Oaks
- Day 15: Exotic Meats at Billy's Burgers
- Day 14: Ground & Pound at The Bucket
- Day 13: Bacon Heaven at The Oaks Gourmet Market
- Day 12: Lazy Ox Canteen
- Day 11: Cassell's in Koreatown
- Day 10: Burgers & Beer at The Bottle Room
- Day 9: Pretzel Buns at Hole In The Wall Burger Joint
- Day 8: Late Night Burgers at Eveleigh
- Day 7: Apple Pan Keeps on Truckin'
- Day 6: Perfection at Comme Ça
- Day 5: The Fix Is In
- Day 4: Fun with Buns at Rounds Premium Burgers
- Day 3: Whipped Cream & Other Delights at The Counter
- Day 2: Kimchi & Cultural Fusion at Kalbi Burger
- Day 1: Alcohol & Excess at GO Burger