Boutique, gourmet burger joints are opening with greater regularity across the country. Burger Kitchen in Beverly Grove (8048 West 3rd Street, midtown Los Angeles) is the latest promising a unique, artisanal take on the benchmark of standard American fare, the hamburger. And, like with so many others, it fails to offer anything uniquely enjoyable to distance itself from the already crowded field.
There is some variety to be said for the father-and-son (Alan and Daniel Saffron) owned restaurant’s set of burgers (22 different variations on the menu, not to mention the build-your-own option).
Such ambition can easily backfire when one’s flagship meal is a sandwich that often works best when it’s kept simple. Despite that reservation, I gave Burger Kitchen an honest try.
To wit, the menu—which spans three pages not including beverages—is a bit overwhelming. There are eight standard beef burger offerings (categorized under “From the Ranch”), eight more “Around the World” options with regional twists, and five others presented as lighter fare alternatives which use turkey, portabella mushrooms, or seafood as a beef alternative.
The variations range from the relatively normal (Capitol Burger — beef patty topped with caramelized onions and pears, grilled onions, and cheddar jack cheese for $11) to the wild (Bangkok Visitor — lamb patty with spicy peanut sauce, chopped carrot and cucumber, and a green leaf lettuce bun substitute for $12.50).
Many of the more traditional burgers feature an unexpected ingredient or twist on an expected one, which may turn off those craving a simple classic.
Upon being seated by one of the owners, my guest and I sampled a few of their 20 craft beers (10 tap handles, 10 bottles) to kick things off. It was a good start, as the beer list was full of bright, accessible options (many of which were in the wheat/white ale/pale ale spectrum).
I began with one of the two hefeweizens on tap, and my companion settled on the bottled white ale. The wine offerings were typical of an American casual establishment, but the lack of glass options (one house white, one house red) was dismaying.
However, an early red flag popped up when we progressed to ordering food. Burger Kitchen’s sides are served a la carte exclusively and, for some reason, are delivered as appetizers instead of alongside our burgers.
An odd choice, but the onion rings ($3.50) were light, crunchy, and delicious. The “Truly French Fries” ($3.50) were far less enjoyable, mimicking the kind of average-at-best sort you’d receive at an Applebee’s or Chili’s (where at least they’re served alongside your entrée).
As a matter of fact, the more I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt and hoped they could find something that caught my fancy, the more they kept letting me down miserably.
Moving onto the main event, I ordered the Moroccan Bazaar burger (a lamb patty with roasted tomato and mint-ginger sauce for $12.50), and my guest picked the Mountain Burger (beef patty with barbecue sauce, smoked bacon, and jalapeno for $10).
Mine was quite lacking in the finished product, with naught but a single slice of tomato, a sad, solitary leaf of lettuce, and—with the kitchen being out of ginger for the mint-ginger sauce—an overwhelmingly tangy mint sauce that pervaded each bite.
Though our waiter informed us the kitchen cooks to medium rare unless otherwise specified, my companion’s Mountain Burger arrived very pink and very rare, prompting them to send it back for further cooking.
We weren’t the only ones to experience this, as another guest sent their hamburger back twice when the first and second both arrived rare and practically bloody. They eventually left before the third attempt could arrive.
We, too, experienced an overly long wait for a re-do. Mr. Saffron apologized to our table personally, informing us that the wait was due to the strict adherence to Bobby Flay’s method for cooking burgers.
As he detailed the finer points of the Flay method, it struck us both as odd that they had not developed their best practices to fit the specific offerings on their menu.
When my companion’s Mountain Burger arrived the second time, it was enjoyable enough. The jalapenos played well with the barbecue sauce, creating a smoky flavor that complimented the patty well. Nothing remarkable, but a decent enough burger all things considered. And seeing as what I had seen, I could at least begin counting my blessings.
That being said, the quality of the dishes (and the overall experience) did not justify the bill we received in the end. Even using the Eater LA half-off promotion $34 seemed a bit much for the experience we had.
To give some indication as to how underwhelming the overall experience was, I’ve had to correct myself several times for writing “Burger King” instead of “Burger Kitchen,” which is an apt analogy the disappointing evening. That’s certainly not a good sign for an eatery aiming to stake out its claim to a piece of the gourmet burger scene.
I opened this review touching on the recent prevalence of these sorts of dine-in burger joints. Even for a new place that serves quality hamburgers and sides, the glut of established choices (for example, Umami Burger) threatens to make any new entry into the market redundant and disposable.
Add in the odd food truck with better-than-expected offerings, and it seems the whole genre is a bit too crowdy. So to try Burger Kitchen with some pre-existing reticence and then experience a haphazardly varied menu, underwhelming service (our waiter left after taking my drink order but neglecting to ask my guest what they would like to sip on), raw burger patties, and a slavish dedication to someone else’s preferred cooking method on my first visit—well, it quickly moved Burger Kitchen from unnecessary in my mind to irredeemable.
Without a greater focus on the menu, better service, and a more consistent dining experience, Burger Kitchen seems certain to be relegated to the pile of long-forgotten flashes in the pan; a trend-follower that could not do enough uniquely or properly to merit its existence.
Should enough change happen, it may merit a second look but, personally, it will take a lot of convincing for me revisit it. And even then, I may just opt for The Golden State Café instead.
8048 W. 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90048