A long time ago I was a vegetarian.
For those of you that know me or have followed my culinary adventures, you know how utterly bizarre it is for me to go without meat. Yet, early in my arrival to L.A. from Chicago (the land of meat) I decided I wanted to "get leaner." At the time, I had reason. It was all vanity and not health related--I was probably carrying around an extra 25-30 pounds and figured giving up meat, eating more vegetables and working out (I actually belonged to a gym at the time, that's even more bizarre for me) would help with the extra weight. It did. I was a vegetarian for six years.
Then, one day I was driving down Sunset Blvd. and I thought--I need a cheeseburger. That was it. I pulled into In-N-Out and had a double cheeseburger with fries and a shake. Chocolate. I have never looked back and that was at least 12 years ago. I'm not even a huge In-N-Out advocate. Don't get me wrong, their burgers are fine. Their fries, well--I've had better. I like their shakes. Their employees and the cleanliness of their stores are rock star quality.
When I want a rock star burger in L.A. I go to the OINKSTER in Eagle Rock. My backups are the APPLE PAN in West L.A and PIE 'N BURGER in Pasadena.
That's why I was super excited to try SHORT ORDER at the Farmer's Market in Los Angeles. It just opened. The space looks amazing. The neighborhood offers lots to see and do AND it's from the incredible team of Nancy Silverton and Amy Pressman. Hellooooo, L.A. food legends. SUUUUPER food geekdom at it's finest. Then, I had the food. The "Old School Burger." It was tough, nodule filled and the bun was lack luster. How?! How, is this possible? The service was lovely. The place looked amazing. I kept eating thinking my mind and taste buds were not fully functioning. I could literally feel my mouth and tongue working towards a common goal: FIND THE TASTE. FIND THE TASTE. It was like a mantra. Yet, all I kept finding was tough hamburger meat, lots and lots of salt and condiments that did nothing to work with the meat.
OK, this can be remedied, right? Potato time--the "old school fries" and the "short order spuds." I ordered both. I loves me some fried potato. Hell, any kind of potato. Alas, my old nemesis "Over Salt" from my burger was back and with a vengeance. Plus, they were both cold. Again, how? I finished my burger because I was hungry and was thankful that my glass of red wine was good and nearby. I went with a friend and he was so disgusted with his burger, he couldn't even finish it. I felt awful. Was my recommendation and excitement for this place misplaced? I really wanted to like it. Then it dawned on me. Every burger joint I have ever been to and have experience a great cheeseburger, a really great, classic, not over the top fancy cheeseburger has had one thing in common---simplicity of execution. Of course great ingredients, the perfect medley of flavor enhancing (not overpowering) condiments, ideal bun to meat ratio, etc., all had a lot to do with the final outcome. BUT, the key ingredient was simplicity. The good ones either never try too hard OR they don't let you see "the try." It's like good design. It should seem like it was like that all along. This place was trying.
Oh well, I leave for NYC tomorrow morning. My ultimate, forever cheeseburger lives there. At this place, BURGER JOINT. Please forgive me for straying. -angelo