In our already burger-soaked city, all of a sudden it's practically impossible to keep up with the flood of new burgers on the scene. It seems as though every day a new burger-centric spot is opening up. In the hopes of giving you some insight into a few of these new options, I checked out three of L.A.'s new burgers and gave them a taste test.
Meat District Co.
This flashy new spot in Pasadena is owned by a company that runs a number of upscale corporate-type restaurants in Australia. In case you were wondering, they're into meat: The menu is in the shape of a cleaver, and a whole section of their offerings comes on meat hooks. They serve a variety of burgers, including a truffle burger and a "surf and turf" burger, which comes with chili crab and shrimp on top of the meat patty. I opted instead for the "American Old Faithful" burger, which comes with greens, tomato, caramelized onions, pickles and "house sauce."
Despite being the simplest of the options, there's a lot going on with this burger. The bun is topped with multicolored sesame seeds, the onions are pretty sweet, and the house sauce — a creamy, mayo-based concoction — is also kind of sweet. It's a thick patty that was cooked fairly well, but the meat is heavily seasoned. There's no doubt this is a messy, meaty, in-your-face burger experience, but I found it a little overwrought.
Over on Sunset in Silver Lake is Haché L.A., a business built on the most popular item at Mick's Karma Bar in Irvine: the Karma burger. Owner Michael Schepers aims to introduce Americans to the steak haché, a French-style burger made from freshly ground steak. The patties are ground fresh, cooked immediately and seasoned only on the exterior (as you would a steak). They aren't anywhere near as fatty or mushy as burgers made from traditional ground beef.
The thing is called a "karma burger" because of its special karma sauce (there are other variations available; I didn't try them), which is a mayo-based tangy sauce. The burger is served with American cheese, lettuce, slivers of red onion and beautifully ripe tomatoes. It's not a thick patty, and though it's advertised as being cooked medium, it's more like medium-well. But there's a whole ton of brawny flavor in the meat, and something honest about its simplicity. Along with a $5 beer from the short but well-chosen draft selection, this burger made for an incredibly satisfying lunch.
Replacing Allumette in Echo Park is the Holloway, which is more of a sports bar than a full restaurant. For those of us who loved Allumette, it's a wee bit depressing to see the space filled with big-screen TVs and the menu filled with burgers. But judging it completely on its own merits, the Holloway is a smart concept catering to the beer-and-cheap-food crowd.
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The chef is Brian Huskey, who worked as a research and development chef for Ricardo Zarate, helping with the menus at Picca, Mo-Chica and Paiche. He also had a run on the most recent season of Top Chef, sticking it out through about half of the competition. Huskey's menu is incredibly simple: a couple of salads, some burgers and sandwiches, hand-cut Kennebec fries that are more like fried potato wedges, and a side of truffle mac and cheese. I tried the Holloway burger, with caramelized onion, cheddar, butter lettuce, aioli and "smoky ketchup."
The Holloway presents a thick burger patty, cooked to a fantastic, almost-bloody medium. The sweet-smoky-tangy flavors of the other elements make for an incredibly rich little burger (and it is kind of little — not a slider, certainly, but it's no behemoth). I don't think the Holloway will enter into Los Angeles' burger hall of fame, but for a game-time snack, it's pretty hard to fault.