Monday, February 28, 2011


Los Angeles, CA

The Canuck and I were starving come lunchtime Saturday, and I suggested a westside place, I'd been looking to try for a while- Hole in the Wall Burger Joint. It's tucked away off Santa Monica Blvd in a strip mall (sort of) behind the Winchell's Donuts. It looks like a junkyard dive from a cult classic movie. The front is painted to look like rusty metal sheeting and there's a neon sign that says 'BURGERS' over the door. Inside, it felt like a tiny taco shop, or a small midwestern mom & pop diner. Much like The Counter, you fill out you own menu, picking meat, bun, toppings, extras and sides. The menu looked good and the buns on the counter by the register looked tasty. I ordered a beef patty, with an original bun, onion mayo, tomato cheddar and bacon. The Canuck went for the beef patty and original bun as well, but switched it up with chipotle mayo, pepperjack cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato. We both ordered the kennebec fries (we could have easily shared one order.)

At first, we were excited. Food came out in brown paper bags, the burgs were huge, wrapped in white wax paper and the fries were in their own little sleeves. We took our first bites and kept going up to maybe five bites and then we looked at each other.  "I'm not so into this." We were so hungry initially that we weren't really assessing, but as our hunger pains abated, our more discerning pallets took charge. The burg's were hearty and homestyle, but the plain ingredients lacked flavor and the large buns were overpowering. It felt like a ground beef sandwich, not a cheeseburger.  

The pepperjack on the Canuck's burger was overpowering the bacon. I think the meat and bun were just so big and plain that you couldn't taste the condiments. On top of that, the meat was juicy/greasy and dripping out of our hands. The one quality I did appreciate however, is that the cheese was on the bottom of the burg, between meat and bottom bun. It served as a protective layer to keep that excessive juice from creating a soggy mess.  

Note the cheese barrier!
Now for a redemptive paragraph: The fries were amazing. Just absolutely delicious. Crisp, salty, excellent flavor. And they offer three dipping sauces. The first is their homemade ketchup with crushed tomatos and garlic. The second is regular boring ketchup. The third, and my favorite, is a ranch dip made with sour cream, mayo, onion, dill, parsley, lemon juice, dijon and salt and pepper. I could not stop dipping the fries in it. The Canuck has more willpower than I do and was able to stop when he got full, but I kept going.  I wanted to bottle the ranch and hoard it, and then put it on everything I eat year round.

Magical Ranch Dip
They serve soda in cans which added to its dive feel. The inside was a little claustrophobic to me so we sat out front in the sun and fought off some pigeons. For the two of us, the total was nearly $30 and after tasting the burgs its definitely overpriced and not worth the cost. Oh, and by the way, its CASH ONLY. If you are craving a proper french fry, or you have a naked salad that needs dressing, this is the place to be.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Recon: UMAMI La Brea

Los Angeles, CA

Last week a friend of mine had a show at the Comedy Union, and I jumped at the opportunity to hit up the Umami on La Brea- because each menu is a little different, and every time I have a different burg. The Canuck and I were in a rush though, and told our server we had half an hour, was it doable?  And great success, more than doable.  

The Canuck ordered the Triple Pork Burger which consists of pork, chorizo, and applewood smoked bacon all ground together in the patty, with manchego cheese, pimento aioli, lettuce and tomato. I opted for the Port & Stilton burg which has bleu cheese and port-caramelized onions, and nothing else. I was about to ask for skinny fries when the server told me they had truffle fries with a truffle cheese on top, I said stop, you had me at the word truffle. Now I'd like to point out that there is a truffle burger on the menu, but for some mysterious reason I hadn't ordered it, and with the truffle fries it would have been overload anyway.  

Food came out quick as requested, and it was heavenly. Some of you weaklings might be saying, 'port, bleu cheese and truffles? too rich!' but no, my friends, it was fantastic and the saltiness of the truffles complimented the sweet port onions. I really enjoyed the simplicity of this burger. (Above) The Canuck's burger tasted like a spoonful of hearty chili, I kid you not. [Note to self: use pimento peppers next time you make chili.] It was the oddest thing to take a bite of burg, but then be chewing straight chili. (Below) We both liked my burg a little better so we cut them in half and shared, because we're nice people like that. What I also love about Umami is that the buns are just a little sweet, which counteracts the savory elements of the burg. Bleu cheese wasn't overwhelming, the meat is high quality- soft and filled with juicy flavor, but sog factor is still an issue. The bottom bun soaks up all the burger juice, which in theory is tasty, but a little gooey. Oh, and the branded bun was a nice, new touch.

The truffle fries with truffle cheese can only be described as rich, buttery goodness.  (Served with Umami ketchup)

As far as setting goes, I liked their operation. Valet was only $2.50, and a hostess greeted us as we stepped out of the car. She sat us on the back patio which had heat lamps and lights strung above us. It was a little crowded out there, but I imagine the crowd only builds the energy on a busy night.

Every time I visit Umami, I like it a little more. Damn, I'm starving... I really need to stop writing reviews at 9am....