Hinano Cafe – Los Angeles, CA

May 15, 2015

The Vitals:
the burger: double cheeseburger with house toppings(lettuce, tomato, red onion)
the bucks: $8.50
the coordinates: Venice Beach, CA(12 miles west of Los Angeles)

It has been said that etiquette may well be a thing of the past. And perhaps images of young men holding open doors for the elderly or school children rising when a teacher enters a classroom are indeed as frozen in time as those crude etchings of Wooly Mammoths found in the caves of Southern France. Contrary to this notion, I do believe that, in certain instances of modern context, etiquette still does occur, though in ways that may seem more subtle or unexpected to our forbears.

Take for instance the dive bar. That hallowed home away from home where the working man or woman spends some quality time and dollars, in libation and revelry, with fellow working men and women. A place where convenience, affordability and joy intersect. The dive bar is more than just a bar, it is a pseudo private club for the blue collared. They are places that are claimed, that are deserved of our loyalty.

It would be poor etiquette to covet another man’s dive bar. Therefore I cannot honestly claim Hinano as my own because it ain’t in my hood. I am no beach dweller, and it may well be at least a lifetime or two till the day when I can afford to hang my hat walking distance to the beach. But I can visit. I can pay to park so I can essentially pay to put my feet in the sand. And since I have an hour or two left on my meter, I might as well go crush a burger.

IMG_4104I had heard about the burger at Hinano for quite some time. My lagging for the inaugural visit meant a raised eyebrow when I peeped the price tag. Good rep plus prime real estate usually means a steady, if not an eventual, staggering escalation of prices. It certainly holds true for the double cheeseburger at Hinano which will set you back $8.50, and that’s a cash price folks.

To add fuel to the fire; Hinano’s burger is a carbon copy of a quality classic burger stand. No fancy cheese, bun out of the bag, and toppings as predictable as Jared in a Subway commercial. These factors allowed my brain to entertain the idea of the single patty option. Nowadays even in cases of extreme Bang for your Burger Buck, the addition of an extra beef patty for a $2 surcharge is part of the game. This holds true at Hinano, and while the idea of walking in and out for $6.50 for a burger experience is tempting, walking out half full is terrifying. So with that, let’s look at what $8.50 of beachside burger gets you . . .

IMG_4111A Tale of Two Cheeses

It would be fair to assume that Hinano’s perspective on the burger experience is that the final product should represent little more than the sum of these classic elements: bun, beef, typical sandwich roughage and cheese. But with the double cheese option for no extra charge, there is just a touch of room for creativity.

I’ve gone on record more than once for calling out Swiss cheese as some sort of 80s fast food burger throwback. Save for the good stuff – real deal Swiss like Gruyere or Emmenthal, the mass market variety is at best a mild queso for the impatient gringo, a cheese that serves more of a textural purpose than a flavorful one.

But bring cheddar into the mix and suddenly this slice of Kraft ain’t so bad. The mix of two buttery slabs of elasticity, cheddar offering a slightly sharper and saltier taste, makes for a more interesting cheeseburger. Simple food done well is still good food; just ask my three year old’s cheese quesadilla that I more than occasionally sneak bites from. The Hinano burger is no different. Oh and they dish out some complimentary pickled peppers?

IMG_4112Peter Piper would be proud

Sauceless burgers are an interesting phenomenon. Personally, I can’t imagine making a burger without some liquid condiment as an integral part of the burger concept. This is not the case at Hinano. While there are ketchup bottles and even small serving cups of salsa(usually reserved for the ever popular breakfast burritos), their application falls squarely on your shoulders, should you feel the need to further your burger creativity.

But if only an additional blast of heat or bitterness you seek, then look no further than the pickled peppers nestled in the corner of your burger basket. Usually seen as an option for epic Italian subs, these peppers do wonders for a burger when you have had a couple cold ones, and maybe a bite of spice and vinegar is the next best thing to a 5th shot of jack, perhaps a better option when looking at the long run to your Saturday brunch debauchery.

IMG_4127A familiar sight for the boozer’s sore eyes

Aside for some semi clever cheese ordering tricks and the fact that you can eat this burger three sheets to the wind, what is the compelling factor to include Hinano into the annals of Bang for your Burger Buck? The answer is the beef. No it is not Wagyu, nor is it Hormone free, or even Angus – heck the source is probably the last thing you would want to know about, but a darn good grind it does have. Just coarse of enough to stand out but not so much to hint that a hipster butcher blend is at play here. It exceeds any initial expectations one could have and after that first bite you instantly get why people jones for this burger and this place.

A burger to be had three sheets to the wind is a good thing, a great thing even, and the one at Hinano is certainly a step up from the slew of hamburger stands one tends to visit after a drunken night out. To put it in NFL terms: this burger is like a long, grind it out, all running game play to the end zone. It may not have the flash and panache of a Peyton Manning 60 yard long bomb pass to the end zone, but it gets the job done. A small, boozy culinary victory in a world where Jack in the Box and Del Tacos drive thru’s can lead even the grandest gastronomes astray.

IMG_4131 After all those beers

The Bang for your Burger Buck at Hinano comes from more than just the burger itself. Being beachside and booze ridden are equal factors in why the $8.50 is indeed worthy of your hard earned buck. And the Tiki themed atmosphere is spot on Bang as well. Perhaps there was a time where a dollar stretched further at a Los Angeles Dive Bar, even one a literal stone’s throw from the ocean. But with the seemingly never ending escalation of prices, inflation of the dollar and ultimately the imminent growing divide of rich and poor in America, the blue collared club for the working class known as the dive bar, carries on as best it can. And for that reason, I respect the hell out of Hinano and do so with tactful conduct whilst on their Tiki themed premise.

Anything more would be poor etiquette.

Hinano Cafe
15 Washington Blvd
Venice, CA 90292

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