Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Portland Burger Blog; Los Angeles Edition

Bright Lights Big City, Real Tan Fake Titties: I hail from a quaint oceanside village called Long Beach, California. You may know it as the city that brought you Snoop Dogg, sailor tattoos, and the street scenes in every action movie ever. I visit once or twice a year to remind myself why I moved, but my last visit left me with an excess of feels - the feels that make it particularly hard to bail. In and Out Burgers may have contributed to some of those feels. 
I traveled from the warm beaches of Hermosa to the rich hipster paradise of Silverlake all the way to back to the cacophonous streets of dowtown Long Beach and no joke I ate a lot of burgers. The results are in; here are the best burgers I ate on my Smog Angeles adventure:

Umami Burger: Everybody and their momma wanted to get me to Umami Burger... 5 years ago. I'm obviously too cool (or dorky- they're the same thing now, right?) to be on trend, plus I live 1,500 miles away, but hallelujah! I finally made it there half a decade after I first heard about it.
Umami, for the uninitiated, refers to the satisfying mouth feel of meat, or any other dense, savory protein. It calls to mind certain satisfaction. A sense of "yum". Umami Burgers are aptly named, not just for the flavorful beef of their patties, but for the deliberate composition of their cleverly constructed burgers. There is a lot of "yum" happening here.
The classic Umami Burger (shown here) consists of shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, parmesan crisp, and a house ketchup. Depending on your way of looking at burgers, it may seem basic, or it may seem over-thought. I assure you, it is both, and therein lies Umami Burger's genius. It's essentially a cheese burger with grilled onion and mushrooms, but it's on some next level sh*t. If low brow in the key of high concept is your bag, and you find yourself in  Los Angeles or NYC  it's worth your while to seek out an Umami Burger.  Visit for locations

Congregation: In the new (to me) promenade of downtown Long Beach, tucked in the bottom corner of a high rise with ocean views, Congregation is nestled. It's stark resemblance to East Portland's Church gave me immediate religion shivers- but I poured one of their craft brews down my neck and was all, "Bring me a burger, Satan! Also, get behind me!" Pictured here is their signature Turkey Burger, because variety! Served on a lightly toasted english muffin, (a style that I was first introduced to at Dig A Pony) and topped with a roasted tomato, caramelized white onion, wild bitter greens and some fancy aioli, the picture does not do it any kind of justice. The turkey patty- notoriously easy to dry out into a cardboard mockery of a burger- was moist and seasoned with a sweeter, less savory profile than a traditional beef burger. And though I could have done with a tad more brown on that muffin, I was too happy to be scarfing a burger on my beloved hometown's sparking Promenade to really care. Your experience may vary. Visit Congregation Alehouse online. I understand their pretzels are also the jam.

Rockwell: Right off the bat, I know that picture should get me fired, but look, Rockwell is romantic and dim and very stylish and I was not trying to be that blogger in the corner blowing up everyone's spot with multiple obnoxious blasts of Iphone flash. When it comes to delicious foods, Rockwell don't play, so lets imagine that instead of that Instagram fail over there, you could clearly see the juicy char of a half pound of medium rare, freshly ground chuck, smothered in pepper jack cheese and thick, smokey pepper bacon. A simple, A1 aioli is dripping from the sweet, whole grain bun and the bright green of the romaine is contrasting spectacularly against the crimson hothouse tomato and the paper thin red onion. Beside this masterpiece of a burger is a huge pile of onion rings, breaded in Capt'n Crunch Cereal. Yes, you read that right. Yes they were delicious. Yes, this is "fine dining." Put away your WTFs and marvel at what will surely be my heart attack in 5 years. Let it also be known that there is a goddamn tree growing in the middle of the dining room up into an open air, roofless situation that could literally NEVER happen in Portland. Thank you L.A. The reasons I hate you are the reasons I love you. Visit Rockwell LA for reservations.

In and Out: If I was giving out fast food Michelin stars I would give In and Out ALL THE STARS. As in, it is worth the drive, ride, flight, price of travel, etc. to experience it. It’s everything you want in a fast food burger- the grease, the salt- with the winning amount of freshness. Prepared almost exclusively by idealist teenagers in paper hats and clean white uniforms, it is a warm Southern California night on the beach, it’s a mouthful of sunshine, it’s the wind in your hair while you drive down PCH in your dad’s convertible. Alright, maybe I’m confusing my objective burger science with my hometown pride, but honestly, as a burger lover, you must eat an In and Out Double-Double at least once before global warming or type 2 diabetes makes gross corpses of us all.

Hey, chill out. Of course I’m going to talk about the secret menu. What am I, new here?

In and Out has the same limited menu it had the day it opened; Burger, Cheeseburger, Double Double (as in double meat double cheese-get in my mouth double time!), french fries, ice cream shakes and a slew of sodas. BUT, if you are a person in the know, you can make your double double a 3x3, 4x4 ad infitum, you can go animal style, go protein style (thank you LA diet jagoffs), make your fries extra American and insane by adding 1000 island dressing, cheese and grilled onion. I mean, the list goes on and on- anyone willing to do a Google search on “secret In and Out menu” is going to be richly rewarded for their burger sleuthing.

Afterword: I know that Los Angeles has many, many fantastic burgers.  These were the best burgers of  the burgers that were most convenient for me to eat. One day I will make a trip down south for no reason other than eating burgers all day every day for a couple of days (because any more than a couple of days will probably kill me). PS, any LA readers who are planning a trip to PDX, holler at me and I will blow your burger socks off.