Today’s New York Times article about burgers struck me as odd. Not because there was an article about burgers. Burger stories is what food publications do for the Fourth of July, which might as well be called: National Burger and Hot Dog Day because four out of five Americans probably couldn’t tell you: Independence from what? But I digress… There’s only so much you can say about burgers and the author pretty much covered the bases. She even tried to go national on the story. But here in Los Angeles, she chose to cover, of all places, the French bistro, Comme Ca. Huh? Okay, so evidently they serve one, but… does anyone in this town talk about the Comme Ca burger or wonder about the secrets behind it? In L.A., when it comes to burgers, people talk about the Pug Burger at the Hungry Cat, Nancy Silverton’s burgers, based on her signature fatty burger grind sold at Huntington Meats, and the have-it-their-way burger at Father’s Office (to be clear, that’s, the restaurant’s way, not the customers’), and that new joint on La Brea whose name I can’t remember that offers nothing but burgers–including nothing in the way of ambience.
When people ask me what my favorite burger is in Los Angeles, my standard response is that the best burger in L.A. is in San Diego. The one I’m referring to is the Drugstore Style Hamburger made by chef Jeff Jackson at the Lodge at Torrey Pines, an Arts & Crafts style architectural wonder perched over what many say is the nation’s best public golf course on the cliffs of La Jolla that may also be my favorite hotel on the planet. Jeff is from Oklahoma, and he named his burger after those you buy at drugstores. You know? All those burgers you’ve eaten at drugstores!? I don’t have the heart to tell him that those of us who grew up in Southern California (or maybe anywhere but Oklahoma) did not eat burgers in drugstores, and what’s the point, really? Because his burger is just so good. Chef Jeff uses all the best ingredients, of course–good meat, makes his own mayonnaise, farmers market veggies, and all that. But what I like best about this burger is that it is just a burger. Nothing fancy. No foie gras. No short ribs. It looks pretty much exactly like Big Mac without the useless third slice–right down to the shredded lettuce, pickles, and soft, sesame seed bun. You can even pick it up with your hands and put it in your mouth. Try doing that with a Pug Burger. Or at a French restaurant for that matter. God bless America.