Since it opened nearly two years ago, we've heard nothing but praise for The Bottle Room (@thebottleroom) and its well curated list of local and craft beers (24 on tap and another 60-80 in bottles), but it's not often we're Whittier-adjacent. After trying The Bottle Room's burger, however, we plan on making a beeline for the upscale American contemporary gastropub (how many worn-out descriptors can we use in one sentence?) next time we're near Richard Nixon's childhood home. A mostly Quaker community for many years after its founding in 1887, Whittier is perhaps best known among foodists as the childhood home of M. F. K. Fisher. But like we said, we come for the burgers.
Meat & Bun: Cooked on the rarer side of medium-rare, the $12 burger is firm on the outside but so soft on the inside it almost has the consistency of rice pudding. Yet through some miracle of nature or a trick of culinary skill, it holds together until the last crumbling bite. This burger oozes with juice -- and a little grease, but mostly juice. The meat is flavorful and strong, brought out with a medium char on its exterior. With the consistency of Hawaiian bread but not the sweetness, the milky bun softens but never falls apart.
Toppings: On its own, the meat would make an excellent burger, but chef Tony Alcazar has topped himself -- and his burger. This is clearly another Father's Office-inspired burger with its "sweet onion relish" (read: caramelized onions) instead of something pre-fab and pickled, bless Alcazar's heart. The mild sharpness of the Swiss cheese plays against the acute sharpness of the blue. The sprigs of arugula are mostly decorative, perhaps paying homage to the pale leaf of iceberg lettuce one might find on a classic American burger, but this is an entirely different beast.
Sides: It's $1 extra to ditch the salad that comes with the burger and upgrade to fries. Do it. You get a hill of shoestring fries, probably frozen in large batches, but cooked to a light crisp and made impossible to resist with plenty of garlic and a light dusting of parsley. If that's not strong enough, the fries come with an aoli not for the faint of heart or anyone planning a makeout session immediately after dinner.
True decadence, however, lies with the mac 'n cheese ($3.50), one of the best restaurant iterations of this dish we've tasted in ages. Little braids of gemelli floating in enough downy, truffled bechamel a baby could swim in it. The trio is earthy pecorino, sharp Cheddar and salty Parmesan topped with a microplaned pile of more Parmesan. One bowl of this, and the portion is generous, can -- make that should -- be shared by two people, maybe more.
Dessert: We're told the chocolate bread pudding is a must-have, but we ordered dessert first: the Mad Monk, a mix of Old Rasputin Stout and nutty bourbon butter pecan gelato topped with a gob of caramel. It doesn't have the sweetness or the overwhelming force of the milkshake we once tried at McMenamins made with their Terminator Stout and probably a basin full of Hershey's chocolate syrup, but the mellow and malty stout played off the sweet caramel, and had us mining for every stray pecan bit.
Deal: On Tuesday nights from 6 to 10 p.m., the burger is only $8.
The Upshot: Get thee to Whittier. You may come for the beer, but you'll stay for the burger. Or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, The Bottle Room doesn't just stop at making an excellent burger, their killer mac 'n cheese and terrific beer selection make this a must-eat when you're in the neighborhood.
Exercise: 45-min. elliptical trainer