Hailed as the first of its Internet-era kind, Burgerlords is a popular Tumblr page that became an eatery serving up the very thing the blog spent years obsessing over. But does eating and blogging your way through L.A., arguably the country's best city for burgers, qualify you to start selling your own burgers? Maybe — if your family business is the Oinkster, a burger and sandwich joint with two locations (and whose annual Burger Week is the stuff of gluttonous legend).
Fred and Max Guerrero are the sons of Oinkster owner Andre Guerrero and worked with their dad for years, all while maintaining the Burgerlords Tumblr, rife with photos of local burger porn, meaty memes and GIFs of cheesy waterfalls.
Last month, the Guerrero brothers held a pop-up at Fred's gallery in Highland Park. A few weeks ago, they opened the real-life Burgerlords: a food shack inside Chinatown's Central Plaza, on the bottom floor of the building that houses independent art bookstore Ooga Booga and steps away from the bronze Bruce Lee statue.
Burgers are certainly a rare offering for the neighborhood. There are dozens of old-school Chinese restaurants within walking distance, as well as newer eateries such as Chego, Ramen Champ, Little Jewel and Pok Pok, which are making Chinatown a new-again dining destination. But burgers? The closest burger of interest is up Main at Chimney Coffee, where there's an Asian-style larb burger inspired by a Thai 7-Eleven.
Burgerlords makes American burgers of the classic sort: a beef patty covered with melted orange cheese and topped with lettuce, tomato and raw onions on a cushy, white-bread bun. For spread, a simple Thousand Island will do. Fries are not cut from potatoes on-site, but the rest of the operation — its simple setup (a prep area, a grill and a register), its minimal menu (hamburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger and vegan burger), its presentation (in a paper-lined box, with fries in a bucket tray) — is reminiscent of In-N-Out (though In-N-Out costs a few dollars less and would never stand for patties so much smaller than the bun).
There is nothing fancy or revolutionary about Burgerlords. Many bigger, better, greasier, cheesier burgers probably could be had for much cheaper at any number of burger joints around L.A. But those burger joints are not in Chinatown, and they were not birthed from the loins of a website run by L.A. burger royalty.
On a recent visit, the Guerrero brothers' blog-to-restaurant project attracted equal numbers of Financial District suits on their lunch break and too-cool 20-somethings in Supreme hats and red beanies. Burgerlords' tiny walk-up and four picnic tables provides the area with some much-needed daytime activity.
As the office workers rushed off to clock back in, a group of high school students rolled into the plaza, finding rest for their bags and notebooks at an empty picnic table, not realizing that it belonged to the new neighborhood burger stand. One of them walked over to take a look at the menu above the service window, studied it closely, then walked back to his friends. “Where's the fried chicken at?” he asked.
He grabbed two more friends and they headed out, away from Central Plaza, in search of food, while the few remaining scrounged change and together inhaled a single helping of fries.
943 N. Broadway, #102, Chinatown; burgerlords.com.