Yes, I know that the Coliseum is a football arena, and I know that I am using a baseball metaphor. But I can’t think of a better way to describe what a rousing success the LA Weekly’s “Burgers & Beer” event was. In the past, many events have suffered from huge crowds and long lines, but the Weekly has a streamlined check-in process, and the venue was perfect. The pavilion at the entrance to the Coliseum was comfortable with a lot of shade trees. It didn’t feel overcrowded and there was more food than one person could possibly taste. A few tents, like Animal, had long lines throughout the event, but for the most part, once people were four or five burgers in, lines disippated fairly quickly.
Although there were 35 burger stands, there were a lot of different interpretations. There was a duck confit burger, a carne asada burger, a lamb burger from Baadmash, VaKa Burger’s award-winning truffle burger, and even a peanut-butter and jelly burger dubbed “Dee Snyder” from Grill ‘Em All. I was prepared to call foul on the Pink family, but Pink’s Hot Dogs produced a fantastic Mini Jaws Burger topped with sliced Polish sausage and their fantastic chili sauce.
One of our favorites was Animal’s “Boner Burger,” an off-menu item at the restaurant, which Lesley Balla reported in Zagat is made up of bone marrow mixed with house-ground chuck and short-rib meat. The patty is topped with jack cheese, caramelized onion, poblano chile and “420 sauce,” which is kind of like a mustardy beer-cheese sauce. The marble rye can barely contain it, so it is best eaten over a plate, or in our case, a trash can, because we are so glamorous.
Next up was Barrel & Ashes’ open-faced mini-burger with bacon, cheese and pickle. Although it looked like a big cocktail skewer, it was still shocking to see one guy eat the whole thing in one bite. Barrel & Ashes was also serving addictive house-made chicharrones, a nice change of pace. Another LA Beat favorite, Cassell’s, took it one step farther with Minneapolis juicy lucys, burgers cooked with cheese inside he patty.
Bouchon presented their Prime Beef Burger with raclette cheese, heirloom tomatoes, dijon mustard and garlic aioli on a pain au lait bun, which they will be offering at Happy Hour along with a beer for $20. Slater’s 50/50 served their trademark burger with a sunny side-up egg, pepper jack, avocado mash, and chipotle-adobo mayo on a brioche bun. Not one to futz with sliders, they cooked their usual enormous patties and cut them into quarters. Seoul Sausage announced their new brick and mortar coming up on Los Angeles Street in DTLA/Koreatown.
Brooke Williamson impressed us twice, first with the Tripel Burger and then with The Hudson House’s Pug Burger, featuring Niman Ranch ground beef, blue cheese, and bacon & onion jam with little gem lettuce. The Pikey had an old-school Char-grilled beef burger with English cheddar and Worcestershire aioli, and The Oinkster also served a classic burger. Pono brought their Alekina Burger with organic, grass-fed beef, chimichurri, organic avocado, and sweet potato chips on a toasted brioche bun.
The live music was curated by The LA Weekly, so it was cutting edge.The Waylon Jennings-inspired Far West Band, the dark Johnny Cash-style folk of Geronimo Getty, and Charlie Overbey and the Broken Arrows added a nice kind of Billy Jack, cowboy groove to the beer and barbecue. Check out Charlie Overbey and the Broken Arrows’ indie-a-go-go. Craft beers from South Bay locals El Segundo Brewing, King Harbor Brewing, and Strand Brewing Co. joined the usual suspects and made for some excellent mugs of beer.
Next year I think I will have to bring three or more reporters to properly review all of the burgers. I did have one other Beat writer on hand, Michelle Nati, who is a vegetarian. I was surprised the Counter didn’t bring their veggie burger, which is as good as any beef burger in LA. Follow Your Heart was there with a vegan coleslaw and potato salad, so that was Michelle’s lunch. Burgers and Beer definitely calls for at least four non-vegetarians.
Who did the duck confit burger? I was really surprised there was no turkey burger or portobello mushroom burger or anything like that.
Sadly, I cannot remember who made the duck confit. Maybe a reader can help us out. There was a point where I was completely stuffed (I seriously had eaten around 8 burgers/sliders at this point) and I was rishing around trying to find the “dessert section” to photograph them. I was whizzing by all of these amazing restaurants, like Meat District Co., and all of these fascinating burgers. “Duck confit burger!” was called out to me like a barker, and I could only lament the ironic yet sad fate of a gourmand with a full belly as I passed.
As for alternative burgers, I can pretty much guarantee there were no vegetarian burgers as Michelle had scoped the entire place out during the VIP hour. As for alternatives like turkey burgers, I can only say, “Not that I saw.” There was an embarrassment of riches, and I could not eat or even photograph every single burger.