Following are some of the additional reflections, aborted videos, also-rans and other tidbits that didn’t make it into my main burger odyssey posts. But which I thought worth sharing either as humorous asides or worthwhile nuggets of wisdom. You decide.
Best Burger I Never Tried
In the face of burger trends and zeitgeists, I admire those who hew to their own path. Toni’s Soul Burger, a stand in a part of Inglewood not on any of my itineraries, got a full-page spread in the L.A. Times Food section awhile back. Sort of the opposite of the upscale gourmet burger. So I thought it worth a trek south and set out one fine Monday around lunchtime. I wound my way up and down the streets of Inglewood searching for the joint (see video below), only to finally discover upon finding it that: a) it was in the ugliest strip mall in Los Angeles (which is saying a LOT); and b) it was closed on Mondays. Unless in the unlikely event I happen to be down that way again on a non-Monday, I probably won’t be trying Toni’s. But if you happen to be down that way on a non-Monday, their BBQ Soul burger sounds good — turkey patty (for some reason all their burgers are turkey), pastrami, cheese, egg, greens and secret spicy barbecue sauce.
Best Non-Burger Burger
One of the best things you can eat in the Hawaiian Islands — besides the Ono Char-burger on Kauai — is a loco moco. A favorite of plate lunch stands throughout the islands, the loco moco dispenses of lettuce, tomato and bun in favor of a pile of white rice, some gravy and an egg. (The egg makes it a suitable choice for breakfast, especially if the previous evening involved a few too many mai tais.) Just like with burgers on the mainland, you’ll find fancy places adding unnecessary gourmet ingredients. Avoid these loco mocos and follow the locals to where they eat. I’m not going to give you a recipe, as I suggest you hop a plane and try it where it lives.
Best Use for a Leftover Cheeseburger
I made cheeseburgers for dinner one evening. As usual, my daughter Willa ate about a third of it. So we wrapped the rest in plastic and put in the fridge. A few days later I discovered the burger, still there. The bun was limp and soggy, and I figured no one would ever eat it. I considered downing it myself, but even that held limited appeal. So instead, I removed the last bits of wilted lettuce, fried some minced carrots, celery and onions in a large pan and boiled some water. Into the water went some fettucine, into the pan with the mirepoix went the burger, bun and all. I mashed the burger with a wooden spoon, added white wine, milk and tomato paste, and simmered it all for 30 minutes or so, mashing and stirring, adding a little more milk here or there as it thickened… and prego! I had a fantastic Bolognese sauce over fettucine.
Best Backyard Burger in the Wine Country
We’re fortunate to have a wine maker in our family. The family wine is called Wine Guerrilla, and the “maker” is my mom’s longtime partner, Bruce Patch — the “Wine Guerrilla”. (It’s a long story, but you can read more or order some of these stellar wines at their website. Tell him Skinny Girls & Mayo sent you, and see if he’ll send you a copy of his cookbook, “Grillin’ with the Wine Guerrilla.”) Bruce makes an epic blue cheese burger, thick and medium rare, with crispy lettuce and juicy tomatoes, and a smear of crumbled blue cheese — even better with a glass of big, jammy Wine Guerrilla zinfandel.
Longest Commute to Get a Burger
While it may not have been as far away as the crow flies as some of the other burgers I had (or tried to have), Laurel Tavern seemed to be a state or two away as I tried to commute there on Los Angeles freeways at 5 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon. My suffering was absolved somewhat by tasty burgers, cold beer and the convivial companionship of Sidekick Greg once I got there.
Burgers of My Childhood
There’s no talking about Southern California and burgers without addressing the white elephant in the room — McDonalds. I’m comfortable enough with myself to admit I like McDonalds. A trip to the Golden Arches was a rare treat when I was a kid, and the Big Mac held the promise of all that was possible in the world. If you could eat one, you could do anything. I still think it’s a pretty darn good burger. Their sausage biscuits may be the best breakfast on earth, and there’s no cure for a hangover like a couple soft, viscous cheeseburgers. The other burger pillar of my childhood was Bob’s Big Boy. Unlike McDonalds, this was an actual restaurant, which represented fine dining. You would put your napkin on your lap and keep your elbows off the table. The Big Boy was their go-to burger — like the Big Mac, two anemic patties sandwiched between three buns. What differentiated the Big Boy was the side of blue cheese dressing you would order to dip the burger and fries into. I wonder if this was the prototype for the Father’s Office burger?? Full circle… a good place to end.