31 August 2007

Burger on the Brain

There are few things as rapturous as opening up wide and taking that first big bite of a juicy burger; it’s an explosion of sensations you can barely contain in between your lips. The soft bun is familiar and comforting in the way that only bread can be; the thick beef patty is redolent in all its meaty glory; and the melted cheese oozes gooeyness that bines the flavors and textures together for the perfect mouthful.

I like burgers, obviously; and lately, I’ve been on a burger binge. I seem order one every other time I eat out.

Let us begin with Grace—LA restaurant Grace, that is, and the burger they put on the menu Sunday nights. What I enjoyed about this burger was everything that was on the plate with it. It wasn’t just about the burger, which was wonderful; the sides and condiments also rose to meet its quality. The fries were tender and well seasoned; they were good enough to eat plain, if the ketchup and mayonnaise aioli weren’t so good to pass up.

The ketchup has a unique sweetness to it that to me was reminiscent of ketchup from the Philippines that is made from bananas, a.k.a. Filipino ketchup or Banana ketchup if you want to look for it in stores. The aioli was rich and creamy and seasoned ‘til it had an almost briny quality to it. Two pickle wedges finished the plate. And while I’m not a big fan of vinegar pickles—probably ‘cause I’ve had many badly cured ones in my past—these were good. The pickles still had their bite and they weren’t so soaked in vinegar that they became astringent. Finally to fuss over the burger, the bun perfectly soft and spongy—I’m a firm believer in soft bread for a burger—and in the right portion to the patty.

But what took my meal over the top was the chocolate ginger shake I had to wash it all down; it was probably the thickest, creamiest shake I’ve ever had. It was like drinking velvet, ultra-smooth, super rich, and divinely chocolate.

Just up the coast, the burger from the Tupelo Junction Café ruled a daytrip to Santa Barbara with a patty covered in melted cheese studded with bits of caramelized onions. It was an excellent lunch to fuel my afternoon of walking and shopping up and down State St. with out-of-town friends. The Tupelo Junction Café also serves its burger with fried sweet pickles, as well as French fries; a Southern thing that I wish would get more play in other parts of the country.

From one beachside city to another, my most recent burger was a “gourmet burger” made of ground Rib eye, New York steak, and Filet Mignon at the Library Alehouse in Santa Monica. I’ve been curious about the Library Alehouse for sometime and finally made a point to have dinner there last week. I think the server ran the burger to me the second it came off the grill, because the lovely juices that rolled in my mouth when I took the first bite were hot, not warm, and if there wasn’t all-the-fixing with it, it probably would have burned.

A good burger is satisfying—no bones about it—and I’ve had three this summer.

Grace Restaurant
7360 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: (323) 934-4400

Tupelo Junction Cafe
1218 State St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: (805) 899-3100

Library Alehouse
2911 Main St
Santa Monica, CA 90405-5315
Phone: (310) 314-4855

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