Post-Hamburger Day: Four Great East Side Burgers
National Hamburger Day may have come and gone, but the mania for gourmet ground round remains unsatiated, at least in Los Angeles, where they continue popping up in all corners. It's almost too much to keep up with, but here are some quick "bites" on four burger spots around the East Side of town, all of which have their various merits:
Fusion Burgers sits on an unremarkable stretch of otherwise hipsterizing Highland Park (well, unremarkable except for equally intriguing Maximilliano's across the street) that feels out of the way, even if you live nearby, as I do! Run by an ex-Umami father-and-son team, they take a lot of inspiration from the mothership, but I wouldn't call it a complete rip, as some have. If some aspects of the menu seem a little precious for the 'hood, certainly the decor (or lack thereof) isn't trying to prove anything, and if that keeps the burger prices under $10, amen. I skipped over versions of burgers I was likely to find somewhere else and went for the Noir, accented with garlic ailade, boschetto al tartuffo cheese (cow & sheep combined with truffle) and a thick pinot noir reduction. Holy cow, was that rich! No, the eggy-soft bun didn't quite hold up to it, but I can't say I expected it to. Gorgeous. I skipped sides and decided to spend calories on a chocolate shake, that tasted homemade, but was a little thin. Regardless, for the gorgeous beef (replacable with portobello if you desire) and its presentations, Fusion is worth a mini-pilgrimmage.
Inspired by the midwestern practice of cooking the cheese inside the burger, Juicy Lucy is also arguably out-of-the-way, even though it's located in the core of downtown at Fig & 7th (if you're walking, great, if you're driving, tricky). The signature cheddar- stuffed burger is a little overwhelmed by all the toppings--remoulade, and thousand island, and caramelized onions, let-tom-pickles. But the Wolfmother, made with blue and brie cheeses, balsamic onion compote and garlic aioli, that's one you'll be thinking about at least for the rest of the day. The big hand-cut fries smothered in fondue cheese and sriracha are required. They have some grown-uppy salads for the non-juicy types.
Little Toyko's Lazy Ox is known as one of the city's best Gastropub establishments, but the menu's original statements are constantly threatned to be overwhelmed by the dishes that have been copycatted. But one element is indelible: the Lazy Ox Burger, a very specific 7 oz, artisinal white cheddar, shaved pickled vegetables on brioche and accompanied by whole grain mustard, 1000 Island and, frankly, pitch perfect crispy chewy french fries. The bun leans toward overly dry and dense, but in every other sense, this is the icon.
Slaters 50/50 is a swiftly expanding chain (5 locations from San Diego to Pasadena; Rancho Cucamonga coming July 1) built around the concept of a burger that's 50% beef, 50% ground bacon. That's a cute concept, but it requires them to cook the burger beyond medium rare, thus dulling the appeal (for me). They do other wacky things like a peanut butter & jelly a la mode burger too, but I was more impressed with the juicy, flavorful lamb burger special. Sweet potato fries with a pumpkin dipping sauce are fantastic, and they do a Guinness mint chocolate shake that is DEADLY. Both the brioche and whole wheat buns are well done: this is a good place to craft your own. P.S. One hundred beers on tap.