Hamburgers are about as American as one can get, right up there with apple pie and baseball. However, a number of Los Angeles culinary connoisseurs have managed to elevate the traditional beef patty to something of a gourmet cynosure, drawing a mix of both high-brow burger aficionados and adventurous Epicureans alike. With promises of succulent grass-fed meat and a veritable rainbow of coma-inducing toppings, these four gourmet burger bistros have managed to top most of L.A.’s food-centric “best of” lists through 2011 and 2012.
Chef David Myers has managed an improbable feat, creating a divinely sapid burger that’s synonymous with the Melrose haute couture. On the other hand, this may not be that surprising after all considering the numerous years he spent working at Les Crayères, a three Michelin-starred eatery in Riems, France, or his mentorship under New York-based master chef Daniel Boulud. Ground chuck is kneaded with salt and pepper, mayo and a pinch of cayenne peppers, broiled to perfection, placed on a brioche bun and then topped with shredded lettuce, sharp cheddar and a mouthwatering sauce akin to Russian dressing. In addition, an extensive wine list assembled by a master sommelier features such ideal complements as Château Lassègue and Domaine de Chevalier. Private parties can book a 32-person back dining room with discreet sliding doors, although reservations for the main dining area are equally recommended.
Some restaurants have brushed off the hip, pretentious drumbeat of the Los Angeles zeitgeist in a vain attempt at seizing the counterculture. Not so with Father’s Office, which gleefully embraces all that the city represents – a boisterous, award-winning gastropub where it’s fashionable to see and be seen. The oft-touted “Office Burger” is made from farm-raised beef, generously graced with caramelized onions, arugala, gruyère, Maytag blue cheese and Applewood bacon, all served with a side of sweet potato fries. And the bar boasts a rotating selection of 36 craft beers to wash it down with, including Anchor Bock, Orval Trappist Ale and Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. Fashionable starters range from spicy lamb skewers to Sobresada to a cheese plate with Bavarian limburger and queso mahon. Office hours are extended from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekend nights.
The Hungry Cat
Prime real estate on the corner of Sunset and Vine is not the only thing that’s invited jealous sneers from competitors. A tantalizing all-beef burger topped with blue cheese, house-smoked bacon and avocado has drawn lines of hipster foodies and curious tourists, despite its provocative $17 price tag. (For an extra two bucks, the chef will even throw a fried egg on top.) The wryly-named “Pug Burger” is spectacularly outnumbered on the menu by seafood-heavy entrees like snow crab legs, scallop ceviche and white sturgeon caviar, yet daringly manages to remain atop the brasserie’s most alluring dishes. The grade-A grass-fed beef is shipped fresh from Alameda’s famed Niman Ranch, known for its humane animal-raising standards, and is served with a piping hot side of home-style fries. Yes, competitors have found they have little recourse now that this cat’s out of the bag.
Rarely does one imagine a gourmet burger being functionally compatible with a restaurant chain, but Umami Burger has managed to pull it off somehow, serving consistently palatable patties whether it’s at their Studio City, Santa Monica or Hermosa Beach location. The namesake burger is adorned with shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomato and a crisp parmesan wafer, while the “Greenbird” sports Shelton Farms turkey, sprouts, crushed avocado and green cheese. Those with a hankering for spiciness can try the “Hatch Burger,” with four different types of green chilies, while the more subtle “Earth Burger” features a mushroom-and-edamame patty capped with white soy aioli, truffle ricotta and cipollini onions. The restaurant borrows its name from the Japanese word meaning “rich and savory,” and those who have eaten there are more than likely to agree.