If you've been driving around the intersection of La Brea and Wilshire, squinting to find the original 985-square foot home of Umami Burger, you can rest your eyes: It's gone. In its place is True Burger, which took over the space earlier this year and quietly began grilling burgers a little over a month ago. So how does True Burger stack up to their behemoth predecessor? The answer is strictly a matter of taste.
At first glance, there's not much actually separating True Burger from Umami Burger. The glass-and-wood decor is almost entirely the same, save for a few nameplate swap outs and sleek new chairs in the dining area. The clustered little back patio is as simple as ever, except where there was once a stenciled little Umami Burger logo on the wall, a large X has been spray painted through. Not very subtle. At least True Burger has opened up the small adjacent lot to free parking, instead of forcing valet parking on us all like the original Umami used to.
Even the menu will offer glimpses of the former ownership, with phrases like "slow roasted tomato" and "onion straws" that have long had a home on various classic Umami creations. There's also a house-made ketchup, albeit with a lot more oomph than the one that came before it. Things start to get interesting on the specialty burger side of things, however, thanks to a few international influences. There's a chana masala vegan patty, made with curried chickpeas and a heavy dose of mint. The punny Lamb-Brea burger utilizes a straightforward lamb patty with lots of add-ons, including hummus, tzatziki and feta cheese. You can even get a burger made of ground carne asada, with pickled onions and a dab of fresh guacamole.
Beyond the 100% Angus burgers (ground in-house, of course), you can find a fried Jidori chicken sandwich that utilizes puffy waffles as the bun and comes with a side of Vermont maple syrup and a fruity aioli spread. While not exactly uncharted territory, a chicken and waffles sandwich plate with a side of heavily-truffled fries certainly fills the "dude food" quota for a place like True Burger. It's important to note, though, that you won't find much outside of those fries that has been doused in truffle oil. Rather than following Umami down the funky, earthy, sixth taste rabbit hole, True Burger opts instead for big-flavored spreads and some seriously salty sear on their burger patties.
If you're a longtime fan of Umami's small, juicy patties with the puffy bun and lots of truffle, you may not find a new favorite in True Burger. Much of the menu is more substantial -- the size of the patties, the heftier buns from Melrose Baking Company, and the array of options that don't include beef. But if you're open to new burger interpretations, in the same space that once served as a launching point for one of L.A.'s greatest burger exports, you might be pleasantly surprised by what True Burger has to offer. And if you're looking to do some real comparison shopping, there's always Mo Better Burgers across the street.
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