L.A. FEELS LIKE COMIN' HOME: A HARD HAMBURGER HABIT TO BREAK
It wasn’t the best burger in Los Angeles by any stretch of the imagination. Hell, it wasn’t even the best in this neighbourhood, with the glories of The Apple Pan only a few short blocks away (I think). But, as I bit down into my “sassy” cheeseburger made with cheddar and dipped a crunchy French fry into a sludge of yellow mustard, I had to admit that it still tasted better than 90% of the examples I have experienced in London.
And, that’s the truth of it. Hamburgers will always taste better in the U.S. even the lousy or average ones. In the end it boils down to context. Just as a pint of beer will never taste better than when it is sipped in front of a roaring fire on a cold day or fish & chips when eaten from the wrapping on the way to a lower division football game, so a hamburger needs a touch of the red, white & blue to truly hit the spot.
For all the talk of buns, meat, leaves and cheese, the secret to a good burger really has very little to do with sourcing the finest ingredients known to man. A good burger needs to be made with decent stuff, of course, but it also needs a top notch short order cook who is smarter than the skillet and it needs the appropriate surroundings. In short, for a burger to be really, really good, it needs to be made in America.
Today’s lunch was almost inevitable. I have been craving a decent American hamburger since I got back to the UK after New Year. Despite my best efforts and the opening of some new places promising much, it just had not happened. So, forgetting my declarations to Sybil that I would eat more healthily in the run up to the wedding, I caved and decided that my first lunch back in the City of Angels had to involve something slapped between two halves of a bun.
I had noticed Hamburger Habit on my last trip and research showed that it received decent crit from the locals and might be worth a visit. Unfortunately, Sybil had decided to take the car into work, which meant that, if I wanted a burger centric luncheon, I was going to have to walk. That’s almost as rare an occurrence in L.A. as finding a decent burger joint in London, but my craving was by now full on. I slapped on some factor 30 and headed out on what turned out to be a six mile route march.
Was it worth the hike? Not really, but then few things would be that don’t involve a massage from a cute 20 year old cheerleader with daddy issues. But, had I travelled the three miles each way by car as most sane angelenos would (a round trip of about all of ten minutes) I would have had very few reasons to complain.
Hamburger Heaven is a faux 50’s style diner, which normally means lousy food. But, the burgers here are sizable and cooked to order, the ingredients are decent and the fries pretty close to perfect. The end results are acceptable, if unremarkable by local standards, but seemingly impossible for all but a few back in Blighty.
The bill came to $9 including a $1 thrust into the tip jar and I was back out on the road, slurping on a free refill of diet Coke, about 15 minutes after I arrived. No muss, no fuss, no highly researched concept and no twitter campaign.
It’s good to be back in L.A. It’s already beginning to feel like home.