In order to not raise of ire of pundit Joel Stein, this isn’t about the “best burger”. It’s about burgers that represents the irony of LA’s food culture. [Of note, Stein's "Intolerable Foodie" column on LA Mag is undoubtedly the stupidest writing he's ever done, and probably the most unamusing food humor to be produced this year. It's pure rambling hogwash. This, coming from someone who can barely produce a proper three paragraph essay.]
Local is Korean owned. Usually, this means a mound of raw fish scrap enveloped by gochujang over a bowl of bad lettuce and cold rice. Instead, Local is serving locally sourced food done cafeteria style. Despite the fast casual counter ordering service done the way of Boston Market, Local isn’t affordable. Nor is it fast if you want to order something that hasn’t been pre-made, or been sitting under the heat lamp. Yet the public loves this place mostly because the ingredients are good, and you don’t need to tip. So then, it’s an American salad bar amped up on steroids. People come here because they want to feel good about their food even when they’re not cooking. Extra coffee points to Local — they have Blue Bottle for sale. In contrast to Hyperion Public, subpar ingredients isn’t the problem at Forage.
Since opening, Local has proceeded mostly on cruise control. Yet people got bored, and Local started offering burgers. The burger menu looked great: house baked bread, grass fed beef from the US, etc. etc. But none of it comes together. The patty is much too hefty, and immediately produces a sinkhole in the crumbly shortbread (with scone-ish properties). Yet the bread is also too big, too wide, in its attempt to contain the burger. To compensate for the grassy beef, the patty is over salted. Four bites in, and the entire machinery is imploding from its own heft, and the faltering mess — too much beef titty up front, too much bread booty in the rear — leaves one desperate for sani-wipes. The eater is also left wanting for gulps of water to combat the sodium patty exacerbated by the dry bread. $13 dollars for a Fukushima nuclear disaster of a half-pound burger? Can we please say yes to less?
In contrast, Storefront is a delicate study of a burger.
Witness the careful stacking, witness the unusual-for-four-ounces hockey puck quality of the patty. It’s a bit Hungry Cat, but it’s a bit all on its own. To produce a viable medium rare (by default) quality in this 4 ounce dry-aged patty, a certain thickness had to obtained. Instead of going the smash-burger route, Storefront produced a 4″ wide patty instead of mimicky Burger King (which is about the size of Forage’s burger). At first glance, some may dismiss this as a teasing, unworthy slider. Ultimately, once the first dough-manipulating squeeze is put on the burger, everything makes sense. The four ounce patty is perfect for lunch. It may even bode well during dinner for those not so fond of AYCE KBBQs and Chinese buffets.
The prosaic burger bun here is also baked in house, but it carries a Hawaiian dinner roll chew without all of its sweetness. It is a bit denser than Umami, and a bit more bready than Short Order. The top half of the bun could shed half of its dough, but the bottom was sufficiently muscled to endure the entire pile of condiments: pickles, iceberg lettuce, sweet pickled mustard seeds, red onion, cheese, thinly sliced Salt’s Cure bacon.
Next time, consider halving the red onion, halving the sweet mustard. Both bring too much nasal crushing sharpness with the red onion ending in unpleasant oral odors for hours to come. Some may complain the pickles resulted in too much distraction from the beef, but the acidity thankfully cut right through the suet. The Salt’s Cure bacon here is sliced thinly, and produces a pleasant crunchy bite after bite despite its extremely saltiness. With slight modification, Storefront’s single patty cheeseburger may be LA’s most interesting “new” burger in 2012. I have no penchant for the beastly half pound double pattied version here.
Bottom line: this is a Davidian burger compared to Local’s unwieldy Goliath. And it’s about 100% tastier even if it costs 70% as much.
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