Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Where's the Beef, LA? Help me eat my first cheeseburger

It’s hard for me to write this post. Even though I’ve been planning exactly what I’m going to say for months, I would much rather leave it all unsaid – to continue down my current cheeseburger-free path. To continue eating gourmet pizza or ice cream when I want to feel indulgent instead of the cheese-laden burgers that seem to taunt me from every food site, blog, restaurant menu and publication I read.

I’ve never been a “burger” kind of girl. Or at least not since I was a child. Even then, however, I only ordered my plain, lettuce-only, well-done burger for the side of fries. More often than not, I’d take two bites of the dried out beef sandwich and declare myself “full.” I much preferred chicken nuggets and tenders, and happily noshed on Carl’s Jr. stars when my family would hit the fast food circuit.

I gave up on burgers entirely my junior year of high school – the age when I became body/health-conscious – and in college only ate two burgers during the entire four years of my matriculation. Neither of them were cheeseburgers, and the sole bite-sized slider I’ve eaten since graduation didn’t contain any cheese either.

It’s not that I’m opposed to eating a burger – or my first cheeseburger – but I never find myself craving one. I want pizza. I want pasta. I want steak. But never burgers.

Yet, it feels anti-American, narrow-minded and maybe even anti-“foodie,” to avoid such an iconic food item in our culture. While to me it seems perfectly normal to avoid ground up cow meat in patty form, I’m still reeling from an episode of “Oprah” where a grown woman made the revelation that she’d never eaten a piece of fruit before. I was horrified when she squished her nose up at a strawberry and whined about “the texture.”

Today, my revelation that I’ve never eaten a cheeseburger is met with similar horrified reactions. Nobody can quite believe that someone who loves eating so much could have made it this far in life without experiencing such a common and beloved menu item. And, to be honest, I can’t believe I’ve made it this far either.

Ultimately, I think that my reluctance to eat my first cheeseburger stems more from indecision rather than a conscious effort to keep one as far from my lips (and thighs) as possible. I want my first cheeseburger to be the perfect cheeseburger – a prime embodiment of the species that makes me swoon with every bite. I don’t want it to be too greasy, or to fall apart and drip all over my hands. I don’t want the patty to be too thick or unwieldy – necessitating me to use a fork and knife to eat it. And I don’t want the meat to overwhelm the bun.

My first cheeseburger should be relatively easy to hold and eat for an item that is designed to “get all over the place.” It most likely won’t come from a chain or fast food restaurant – I want it to be a touch gourmet lest I be overwhelmed with too many foreign antibodies at once. If I’m going to lose my cheeseburger virginity, I want it to be in a familiar or, at the very least, comfortable setting. (Preferably one that serves wine, but that term is negotiable.)

Finally, I want the fries to be a solid and pleasurable accompaniment. While I have a weakness for sweet potato versions, any fry that isn’t microscopically skinny, limp and/or overly greasy will suit my purposes just fine.

With all that (somewhat reluctantly) said, I now turn to my readers and LA food blogging friends for advice. Where should I go for my first bite of a cheeseburger?

Give me the answer and I may just give my Pizzeria Mozza addiction a rest.

30 comments:

Andy said...

I too have never been a burger kind of person. I grew up eating burgers that were well done, greasy and I only enjoyed them when they were completely doused in ketchup.

I just broke my 6+ year (can't remember how long!) abstinence from burgers two weeks ago.

It was the truffle burger at cube. As I would expect, it was a well-crafted delight that was very flavorful.

Immediately after eating it, I thought that maybe I still wasn't a burger person (which is probably true), but the next day I just couldn't stop thinking about that burger.

Rob said...

I vote for Father's Office first, then Rustic Canyon (you have to get with the fried egg), and then In-N-Out.

rebecca said...

father's office of course

the "hatch" or the "socal" at umami burger (do not get the "umami" burger it is not as good!)

Caroline said...

I am so excited for this project! I can't wait to see what you try. Are you just going to have one? I think maybe you should commit to having at least 3 cheeseburgers over the course of a few weeks so you can compare, and don't get unfairly tainted against them if you're not a fan of the first one you try. Though maybe that's asking a lot. :)

SinoSoul said...

Don't do it! Cuz cows fart a lot. Plus how are you gonna hang out w/ Harb when your breath smells bovine.

For more gravitas, I'd pose the Q to Damon @ AHT. None of our opinions matters much, but Damon's sure does.

All joking aside, I'm pretty sure that Mozza challenge was thrown MY way, so here I'm obliged: Bar Marmont, 25 Degrees, Rustic Canyon would be the ONLY places to start. The rest is nearly garbage (think: FO, Umami, Apple Pan). I love Cube, but truffle on burger is too much for a virgin. It's like asking a porn star to do anal on the first day of her first shoot.

Hungry Cat & Bowery are also great, but both pricey, and rather unwieldy. 25 Deg serves mean sweet potato fries side for only $25, plus they serve an awesome Guiness shake. The end.

Jenn said...

Umami and In-N-Out would be my choices. I haven't been to Father's Office yet but I'd love to try their food sometime. I keep heard good stuff about it.

Kung Food Panda said...

Love the pic and good luck on your challenge.

If you come to my hood, try the burger at La Grande Orange in Pasadena. If not, Father's Office is a pretty nice place to start!

SinoSoul said...

FARK, I meant $12, not $25 @ 25Deg.

Alessandra said...

You're going to eat cheese ON a burger?? I feel like I don't know who you are anymore. This sounds like an idea that Ashley "I like runny eggs" Roberts put into your head!

Ashley said...

ok, claiming that the FO burger is garbage is ludicrous. that's all i have to say about that one. please go eat one for me.

Ashley said...

ali - i would just like to point out that as of the new year, i'm testing the vegetarian waters again, so you can't put this one on me!

Rob said...

Most importantly you cannot CAN-NOT get a burger anything more than medium rare (and pretty much any meat for that matter). Medium and above is simply a waste of time. Foodies - please agree and make sure Diana does not make this crucial mistake.

Teresa said...

Father's Office!!

Nicole Euan said...

I'm pretty sure you know my vote. Hungry Cat's pug burger medium rare. I've had Umami, Father's Office, etc. Like them, but LOVE Hungry Cat.

This guys' list makes me want to try 25 Degrees & Rustic Canyon. http://bit.ly/cuitMi

rebecca said...

forgot about Apple Pan - greasy and yummy and straightforward classic style.

Bar Marmont's is also delicious, but very expensive.

Eric said...

25 Degrees.
Father's Office is a great burger, but a terrible starting point/introduction to the cheeseburger scene. It's not typical enough, more sandwich like.
At 25 Degrees you can customize it to your liking, with plenty of options (however #1-3 are amazing).
Go on an off hour so you are in a comfortable environment. It is my favorite burger in Los Angeles. FO will come in time.

Lien said...

Diana, I'm a first-time visitor, but via a SinoSoul Tweet, I emphatically have to agree with Tony that Father's Office should NOT be your first burger. It's a burger that's more about everything else (annoying arugula, gross blue cheese, dangling onions, et al) BUT the meat. And it should be about the meat! If you like steak, you should know that and be excited to learn to crave that.

I think the Bowery burger is perfect for you. You'll be able to hold it like a burg pro (it's the perfect size, I promise), choose your toppings (gruyere, yes, bacon because you're a smart lover of bacon), and it's packed full of that juicyamazingmeat taste, all while sitting perfectly on a thin English muffin, finely covered in some wonderful herb butter spread. There's wine at Bowery, too. Do it, Diana! Just one tiny thing? Please resist the urge to order it well-done.

Congratulations on this wonderful decision! And whichever burger you choose, the best of luck to you.

Weister said...

I agree with many of the people here. For a good, solid first burger in years, Father's Office is a good place TO START (we want you back on this burger bandwagon). The wait is a little ridiculous but to get that wholesome burger experience, it may be worth it (although, don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting to punch some people in the face by the time you sit down). And Rob makes a very crucial point - the burger MUST be Medium Well at most. To really get the natural aroma and meaty luxury for your taste buds, it has to be Medium Rare. Anything more you can get at a fast food restaurant. Once you have your burger, try the sliders at La Loggia next!!

weezermonkey said...

Unlike sinosoul, I love Umami. Perfect and cute and not overwhelming. I am also a big fan of 8oz., as you discovered earlier today.

One last suggestion that probably nobody else will give you -- Corkbar. Shockingly good burger, and you will be in a restaurant you already know and love. :)

weezermonkey said...

But you'll have to add cheese to the Corkbar burger to make it an actual cheeseburger.

Esi said...

I haven't had time to look at the comments, but I can't believe you freak of nature have never had a cheeseburger! Ok, had to get that off my chest. So um, where to go for your first...In N Out is pretty solid, but I only ever get grilled cheese there. Chaya is pretty good, Umami is good if you get it a certain way and I saw Andy's comment...haven't had the Cube burger yet, but I am about to in a couple of days!

Anna A. said...

I am probably going to be the only commenter to recommend Grace: The Truffle Burger on Sunday. There, what better way to break the fast than on a holly day. I stand by my word, TALF. Wouldn't let you down. Ever.

Nicole said...

Your photo is so super cute! :) Well, you know I don't eat burgers but based on what other folks have told me I would have to recommend Umami or Father's Office. Good luck, can't wait to read about what you decide to do. OH, and the big question is, will you have a nice tall frosty mug of beer to complete your experience???

yutjangsah said...

I love all the comments and the contradictory advice. No one agrees on anything. What I can say is that umami is a grease pit so not my kind of burger. I like a burger that's puritanical to some degree the kind of burger that does its taxes on time - you know what i mean? my votes for the bowery burger or an In N Out protein style. I eat a burger once every 6 months or so so it's always kind of special. Hopefully, whatever you choose, it'll be a good one.

yutjangsah said...

p.s. the hungry cat burger is too salty and big.

Food, she thought. said...

Dearest Diana,

Tavern burger, Chile burger at La Grande Orange and lamb burger at Golden State.

PS: let's wash sinosoul's mouth out with soap.

pblanton said...

I would strongly urge you to avoid the fast-food, national chain burger. While I enjoy an In-N-Out while in Vegas or L.A., It's only because we don't have them in Colorado Springs, so it's kind of a guilty pleasure. If I lived near an In-N-Out, I'd probably never eat there.

In Colorado Springs, we have a local chain called, "Red-Top". They have three locations, all family owned, all in the Springs. They are dirty and unkempt, were furnished in the fifties, and not much more than wiped down periodically since then; but have the absolutely best hamburger going. I would recommend Red-Top, but as you don't live here, it'd not do you much good.

My point is to try to find a good, local, mom-and-pop restaurant known for their hamburgers.

Gastronomer said...

Since you've already made up your mind, I will just wish you good luck! Don't hype it up in your mind too much, k? Hype always messes everything up!

Denis said...

In N Out simplifies the burger to its purest form in its 1950s goodness. If you want to chichi it up then look at the other options people mention...

Stacey said...

Golden State Cafe on Fairfax has put together the perfect cheeseburger. It has bacon (which I thought I wouldn't like on a cheeseburger, silly me).

And unless you love grilled onions and blue cheese I have to recommend against Father's Office as your first.