Burgers Done Right
Beef, lamb or cod, Burger Lounge lets the flavor of the meat speak for itself
By Richard Foss (email@example.com)
It looks a lot like we have passed the crest of the wave when it comes to the throw-everything-on-top-of-a-burger fad. Some of the combinations that were momentary sensations were brilliant, some gruesome, and most were merely overly complex. Somewhere down there was a burger, but its flavor was obscured by the layers of stuff on top.
Instead, more places are now offering simpler combinations — even retro items that are like the classic burgers of the 1950s drive-ins. Before you scoff, remember that in the era before giant chains and prefabricated food, the buns just contained flour, water and yeast, and most ingredients were fresh and local. Makes those Neolithic burgers sound pretty good, doesn’t it?
You can get both old-school and contemporary styles at the aptly named Burger Lounge, a rapidly growing Southern California chain that recently opened a location on Maxella Avenue in Marina del Rey. The interior has stylish Mid-Century Modern touches, and the menu offers burgers made with beef, lamb, turkey, codfish and organic quinoa with vegetables. The sign over the door has the words “grass fed,” which I assume applied only to the beef and lamb, since turkeys and codfish aren’t big on eating grass.
On my first visit my wife and I decided to try one traditional beef burger and one lamb, with sides of mixed fries and onion rings and a romaine and kale Caesar salad. The salad was topped with shredded fried sweet potatoes instead of croutons, a nifty idea that worked surprisingly well. The flavor was a bit sweeter than croutons would have been, but it balanced the slightly bitter kale very well. The fries were decent with the house-made catsup though not really crisp, but the onion rings were remarkable. The batter was lightly seasoned, the onion strings tender, and while they came with a good ranch dressing I was happy to crunch away at them unadorned.
As for the burgers, I had ordered the “Lounge Burger” rather than their “Classic” variety because no amount of nostalgia will make me give up good aged white cheddar in favor of American cheese. It’s not really cheese, though it can be mistaken for it by someone who has never had the good stuff. The only other difference between the lounge burger and the classic is that the classic has Thousand Island dressing, which I also like in moderation. It isn’t always applied moderately, but there was just enough to add a bit of tanginess to the sandwich. As for the meat patty itself, it was pan-broiled rather than cooked on a char broiler so it didn’t have any smokiness, but it did have the slightly more robust flavor of grass-fed beef. Some people do prefer less flavorful grain-fed meat because … I don’t know, maybe they don’t like the flavor of meat … but I enjoy it and I enjoyed this burger.
The lamb burger had an interesting innovation; it’s a fattier meat than beef and lamb patties tend to be greasy, so they smashed the meat patty flat and cooked it quickly so it was a wide, crisp disc. The burger was topped with a mild jalapeno relish that further cut the fattiness, plus a mild tomatillo aioli that I wish I could have ordered as a dip for the onion rings because I’m sure it would be delicious.
To drink we had a vanilla milkshake (freshly made to order and very good, saith my wife, who likes them though I don’t) and a glass of red wine.
The full meal for two ran us under $50, which is higher than average for fast food burgers, but these were not average fast food burgers.
I liked the experience enough that I came back to try the codfish, which is lightly breaded and pan-fried before being put on a bun with romaine, tomato and tartar sauce. Once again the natural flavors were left to shine, the amount of sauce moderate but a small container of it was provided in case I wanted more of the tart, lightly pickled flavor. If the fish hadn’t tasted that good I would have, but it worked fine as it came from the kitchen. Had I been a truly devoted experimenter I would have ordered a different salad, but I wanted more of those onion rings.
Burger Lounge is not the fastest fast food because they do cook to order, but it is fairly fast and very good. It’s a burger joint that you might select for a quick business lunch or a pre-movie date snack if you wanted to show off your good taste. It’s no surprise that this chain is growing — they’ve figured out how to deliver on the often broken promise of healthy and tasty fast food.