What the hell was I thinking? Seriously, this was a stupid idea, I can feel the cholesterol from each meal making itself at home in my arteries, bro-ing out. I might be done with burgers for awhile… Ok, LAST post of JLM’s Special Cabin Food Series: The Great OC Burger Roundup!
There are a few firmly established food rules (5-second rule, Don’t buy food where you buy your gas, etc.), but I feel the “Don’t eat anything more than 8 inches in height” rule needs to be carved into the commandment tablets of food. Don’t get me wrong, the G Burger was luscious (the bread & butter pickles were superb). The option to add any extra toppings was something I couldn’t pass up, so I threw on a fried egg, bacon, and some avocado since I’m single anyway. Yet at a certain point, massive piles of tasty vittles become unappetizing. G Burger doesn’t skimp on the quality, but if they un-jumbofied everything, I’d be much
421 East La Habra Boulevard, La Habra, www.gburger.com
This one happened by mistake, as this is the last place I expected to order, let alone have, a hamburger in Orange County. Now I (generally) love everything Chef Florent does here (best French food in Orange County btw, screw Pascal), but he has outdone himself with his ode to America, the Burger Moderne: brioche bun, angus beef, mustard emulsion, avocado, Irish cheddar, bacon, blah blah blah. What makes this totally worthwhile is the cucumber relish that spills out the sides of this thing. The cucumber slices are sweet and just tart enough to bring together all the other flavors inundating your taste buds. It’s (almost) the most expensive burger I’ve ever had, but it’s one I won’t soon forget (what a cliché ending sentence…whoops, shouldn‘t have written that).
3333 Bristol Street, Suite 3001, Costa Mesa, www.marchemoderne.net
I hope it goes without saying, but just in case, please remember that these reviews are just for the burgers, and not necessarily reviews of the restaurants themselves (unless otherwise noted). Having said that, I really like R+D Kitchen, but the burger here sucks. Shredded lettuce, tomato slices, firm but juicy patty, onions, and cheddar are fine and good, but I’ve seen it all before. Basically it just doesn’t have that extra thing that makes it stand out from all the other burgers, especially for $15. Do the Reubenesque sandwich instead, best reuben in the county.
555 Newport Center Drive (Fashion Island), Newport Beach, www.rd-kitchen.com
You’ll read more about Playground in the next real review, but their burger is some serious shit. Dry-aged ribeye and Wagyu chuck (ground in-house), maple-bourbon onions, arugula, and a mild Tomme de Savoie cheese. The meat is smokey and buttery it’s like biting into a steak sandwich, but so juicy and well-combined it screams freshness. The bun is rich but not too rich, baked by Blackmarket Bakery in Irvine (I think…). The onions and arugula add a necessary and much appreciated tang to the symphony of strong flavors, making this one of the finest burgers around. And I swear, if you say it’s too expensive before you even try it, I will slap you in public.
220 East 4th Street, Santa Ana, www.playgrounddtsa.com
Yeah, I get it guys, you’re festooned like a bordello/whorehouse, very subtle décor. Maybe apply some of that can-do-our-waitresses attitude to fixing your food. Tried the Number One burger, with gorgonzola & crescenza, caramelized onions, bacon, arugula, and thousand island. Too many heavy flavors, not enough acidity to cut through them, and the bread smothered the burger. Sorry fellas, but a slutty aesthetic does not a good burger make.
412 Walnut Avenue, Huntington Beach, www.25degreesrestaurant.com
312, 120. That number represents the amount of possible permutations and combinations of hamburgers possible here. That’s great and all (really, I applaud the effort), but my whole thing is that if I’m gonna have a burger, I should be able to decide on it within 5 minutes without relying on remedial chaos theory, wondering what could have been with a different set of chosen ingredients. Thus, I had the Old School Burger, which is most comparable to the R+D burger in that it just lacks that extra zing. A well made burger, sure, but still an overall “meh.” Also, a burger in a bowl? Wrong, just….wrong.
6416 Irvine Boulevard, Irvine (+ other locations), www.thecounterburger.com
The Rider’s Club Cafe
I wish I wasn’t so lazy, otherwise I’d be down in San Clemente at least once a week instead of once a month. The Burger (literally named The Burger, love it) at the Rider’s Club Café might be enough to get me off my ass. Grilled onions and a well-seasoned medium-prepared patty make this thing messy in an oh-so-good way, and their potato chips are refreshingly offered as a standard side. The casual, pretense-free atmosphere absolutely adds major points to the overall enjoyment of this straightforward sandwich. The perfect Saturday? Catch some waves, a burger and a beer, and enjoy the scene.
1701 North El Camino Real, San Clemente, www.ridersclubcafe.com
Muldoon’s Irish Pub
Huh. It’s crazy how many times I’ve found an amazing rendition of a classic dish out of it’s traditional context. A cheeseburger in an Irish pub? Sure, why the fuck not. The Traditional Burger: Half a pound of 100% certified Angus, char-broiled to perfection. Tillamook vintage cheddar, crisp cool lettuce and thickly sliced tomato. Simple, clean accoutrement’s really allow you to taste the genuine flavor of the beef in this straightforward classic. Paired with the best-poured Guinness in the county? Shut up and take my money!
202 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, www.muldoonspub.com
The Ruby Burger has never disappointed me in the 20 odd years I’ve been eating here, and it’s not just one specific location. Any Ruby’s, anytime, does it well. It’s comforting, like an old hole-ridden blankie you wrap around yourself on a cold, rainy day (one would imagine…). It’s not blow-your-mind amazing, but it gets the job done without resorting to gimmicks like bacon or shoestring onions. Oh, and endless golden trans-fat free fries? And the milkshakes. Oh god, the milkshakes!
And so we come to it at last, the end of all things. I present my definitive Top-10 ranking:
1. Mick’s Karma Bar
2. The Playground
3. Marche Moderne
4. The Rider’s Club Cafe
5. Peter’s Gourmade Grill
6. The Beachcomber
7. Slater’s 50/50
8. The Crow Bar
9. Muldoon’s Irish Pub
10. The Habit Burger Grill
Thanks for enabling my gluttony and reading along!
P.S. If you’re wondering why I didn’t review In-N-Out, that’s because it’s In-N-Out. Old reliable, enough said.