the burger: two patties of a custom triple cut grass fed beef blend, on a sponge bun with lettuce, tomato, onion and thousand island dressing and american cheese
the bucks: $7
the coordinates: Los Angeles, CA
Last night I dreamt about Zankou Chicken. For those of you who are ignorant to the work of Beck, or happened to have never called LA home, Zankou Chicken is one of those dirty bird chains blessed from the Gods. A Lebanese-Armenian take on the typical fare one finds in a fast casual Middle Eastern/Mediterranean, order at the counter kinda spot. The place not only fed me for my 20s and some of my 30s, but it also served as my first introduction to cheap eats staples like shawerma, falafel and hummus. When you eat at a place for a decade, you can catch off days. And truth be told there were better(albeit pricier) renditions of Lebanese Armenian throughout LA, but I always kept coming back. Now I’m 8 months away from Zankou Chicken and the city that chicken shack calls home, and it doesn’t take Sigmund Freud to tell me that my belly is a little homesick. Which brings me to the burger at hand: a straight outta Los Angeles, in the style of In-N-Out, flat top griddled stackable burger. Fast food in design but not in the ingredients. A burger style that is the standard-bearer of burgers in SoCal. A brilliant design whose appeal to youth certainly carries over into the kind of adult who responds to questions like “Is In-N-Out good?” with a “oh dude, you just don’t know . . .” When I arrived in Los Angeles some 20 years ago I tried In-N-Out and just never got what all the fuss was about. But now, 8 months removed from a 20 year sentence in Southern California, I look back with fondness on the style, and in the case of Burgerlords, I have my own version of In-N-Out that is worthy of some pontification. And pontificate I shall.Nestled in a Chinatown going through a major revival thanks to a seemingly never ending resurgence of downtown Los Angeles, Burgerlords is a welcomed addition for those who seek Bang for your Burger Buck in this shiny new patch of the 213. The inevitable In-N-Out comparisons will naturally draw ire from the typical detractors who cry foul on a $7 cheeseburger, but there point is soon made moot once the menu informs that them that they will be dining on grass fed beef. This burger stands in a somewhat lonely category as it is neither typical fast food nor over the top chef driven burger. And that is another reason why the $7 is reasonable, though unlike other Bang entries, at Burgerlords you might be tempted to knock down some fries, as this burger is no gut buster.But it does drip with delish. Earlier reports cite that Burgerlords missed the mark when it came to the beef to bun ratio, but my visit certainly proved otherwise. Despite the tomato sliding into the backseat on this pic, what you see is what you get at Burgerlords: juicy stackable patties, glazed with American cheese, green leaf lettuce, that aforementioned shy tomato, a thousand island dressing that makes it a trademark SoCal burger and what I find is nothing short of a stroke of genius – a perfect slice of onion. Yes, there is such a thing. And it should be a repeated burger thang.If I had my druthers, I would opt for the onion to be placed on the bottom so it can collect all the jus of the burger. But the perfect thickness of the onion slice was the key and it just adds to the beefy flavor factor of the burger. While implementing grass fed beef can justify the $7 price tag, the subtle flavors that grass fed beef can bring seems to get lost amongst the tang of the thousand island and the salt punch of the cheese, but Good Lord if this didn’t taste exactly how a burger in Southern California should. If steak in Tuscany is best finished with olive oil, than so should a burger be sauced with Thousand island in Los Angeles. This won’t sway In-N-Out loyalists, who will claim that the same can be had for a 30% price drop. But there ain’t no In-N-Out in downtown and no plans of one coming soon. Even with Shake Shack soon to make a DTLA debut, this makes for a burger shortage of this style in a part of Los Angeles that gets as much attention from the New York Times as it does the LA Times for it’s vibrant dining scene. Bottom line is that Burgerlords is about delivering quality in a burger genre content with players who are happy to go through the motions. And seriously wouldn’t you pay $7 for this?Attention detail comes through in the even slices of tomato and onion. Confidence in product allows any spot to deliver burgers with a little pink in the middle – all of this helps these Burger Lords to justify the cost. As I mentioned earlier, this burger is no gut buster so don’t expect to alter any dinner plans because you indulged in a burger lunch. Nor is this the most obvious case for Bang for your Burger Buck. But it is a compelling burger addition to downtown Los Angeles for well under the $10 mark. And it extols a style that should make any SoCal locals feel proud to dine on, as it is a style they can truly call their own. There is a pedigree in burger making here at Burgerlords, as the fellas in charge are the sons of Andre Guerrero of Oinkster fame. A dude who made a name for himself with a remarkable passion for burgers as well as straight up establishing the concept of a chef driven fast casual joint that helped put Eagle Rock on the hipster map. All of that shakes out to be a straight outta LA burger experience that is worth your time and dime. As downtown keeps gentrifying and continues to light up the food world with more restaurant openings, it is nice to see that a simple burger shack is among them, one that also turns up the dial on burger quality while staying true to a fine local burger tradition. It remains to be determined, but perhaps Burgerlords may even spur a burger dream or two, where I’m so taken over with nostalgia that I board a plane for a burger – stranger things have happened. I imagine while on that flight I remind myself of the saying “you can’t go home again”. And while this certainly may be true for downtown Los Angeles, I know that I could be just one bite away from being back to a place where I spent a monumental chapter or two of my life. And those memories are best relished with a little thousand island.
943 N. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012