Reviewed by: Kevin
It’s Burger Week! Well, by the time you read this, it will no longer be burger week. It will be just some week. But for me, as I type these words in the past, it is Burger Week. And as far as weeks go, they can get a lot worse.
The Oinkster in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles is a “slow food fast” restaurant, which is supposed to mean they serve food that tastes as though a lot of time and care has gone into it, despite the speed in which it arrives at your table. But today The Oinkster is a “slow food slow” restaurant, because much of Los Angeles has shown up for their annual Burger Week. Believe me, I’m not complaining.
The premise is this: The Oinkster is proud of their burgers, and once a year they craft seven unique, not-normally-on-the-menu burgers to satisfy their creative urges and my stomach. Each day, a different burger is showcased. To LA burger enthusiasts, this week is truly special, leaving participants anxiously awaiting the new burger profiles and clamoring for the burgers of old. If you, burger-loving reader, can make it to The Oinkster all seven days of Burger Week, you get a t-shirt and the title of #BurgerLord. Read on, constituents of my lordship. I shall tell ye of my quest become a #BurgerLord.
Let’s start with…
On the first day of Burger Week, The Oinkster gave to me (for the almost reasonable price of $14.44), the Cheesesteak Burger of Philadelphia. This burger, topped with sliced Nebraska Angus chuck (think the meat from a Philly Cheesesteak), provolone cheese, and grilled peppers and onions. There were things to like and not like about it, thus I ended up somewhere in the middle.
For starters, the bun was soft, yet sturdy enough to hold a moderately greasy burger (thanks mostly to the sliced Philly cheesesteak meat) together easily. Taste-wise, it did not grab my attention one way or the other. It was merely functional. I appreciated The Oinkster’s generosity with meat, piling the sliced chuck atop the burger patty. However, the sliced beef added no new flavors to the burger. I had trouble distinguishing the patty itself from the sliced chuck.
The grilled peppers and onions were good, and provolone is my favorite cheese, so no complaints there. But all in all, the patty and sliced chuck came together to make this burger very one-note. It was a pretty good, but definitely not great, start to Burger Week, and it successfully whetted my appetite for a week’s worth of burgers.
Burger Flavor: 2/5
On the second day of Burger Week, The Oinkster gave to me a HotBurg on a Stick, a cornbread battered, deep-fried angus patty stuffed with cheese. The Oinkster went full-on fair food on Tuesday, and as an Ohio native who had his twelve year streak of Ohio State Fair attendance broken upon moving to California, I was excited about it. There were no butter cows to be found, but there was fried food on a stick. What could go wrong? As it turns out, a lot.
I’ll start with the good. The cornbread batter was an inventive approach to the bun, and it was delicious – crispy, with a great balance of sweet and salty. But even the batter was flawed. After a few bites, it didn’t hold up on the stick. It tore and slid, and I was forced to manually hold it to the stick to get a cohesive bite.
Inside the batter was an Angus patty stuffed with cheese. What kind of cheese? I couldn’t tell you, but if I had to guess, I’d say “Hamburger Helper Powder”. Honestly. Take away the noodles in the cheeseburger flavored Hamburger Helper mix, and you’ve got the contents of the HotBurg. The meat was subpar – barely seasoned, clumpy, and all-at-once completely bizarre. The cheese was watery and very un-cheese-like. The limited-time-only Limeade they served with the burger had been prepared well in advance, to the point that the ice in my cup was almost completely melted when I received it. As a bonus, it tasted a lot like Kool Aid.
When I was seven, I loved Kool Aid, and I had similar feelings for Hamburger Helper. But I’m an adult now, and so are the people who prepare the food at The Oinkster. The HotBurg gets points for creativity, but the execution gets a large, gloved, Hamburger Helper thumbs down.
Burger Flavor: 1/5
On the third day of Burger Week, The Oinkster gave to me the Turducken, a turkey patty topped with a chicken breast, duck pastrami, cherry gastrique, and rosemary garlic relish on a potato bun.
Recently, I went to a Jason Mraz concert, and it was the strangest, saddest concert I’ve ever been to. Jason (can I just call him by his first name?) spent the majority of the evening playing songs from his album to be released in July, entitled Yes!, and from his most recent album, Love is a Four Letter Word. Here’s the thing about these two albums, though. The casual listener doesn’t know anything about them, and they’re not very good. Eventually, in the encore, he closed out the night with I’m Yours, his most recent relevant single.
And yet, despite being disappointed when he unveiled a song about dirt – literally, just dirt – I was not truly sad until I’m Yours. As soon as he played the first few notes, the crowd ignited. This was the first song he played that they cared about. I thought about how that must feel – to show a new set of songs you’re truly proud of, and have an entire auditorium meet them with blank stares. And I vowed to never again confuse unfamiliar with terrible.
When I told friends about Wednesday’s Burger Week offering, they thumbed their noses at it. A burger with cherries on it? Gross. But I didn’t want the Turducken to fall victim to Jason Mraz’s fate – to be laughed off because it wasn’t familiar. I went into The Oinkster on Wednesday with an open mind was met with a successful burger. The Oinkster triumphed where Jason Mraz failed by providing a new product I could really sink my teeth into. Pun intended.
The Turducken was the best burger of the week. I particularly enjoyed the chicken breast. It wasn’t too salty, and it matched the other toppings well. The cherry gastrique provided a sweet, juicy jolt into the burger, but didn’t overpower the other more delicate toppings. My favorite topping though, was the relish. The rosemary paired perfectly with the chicken, and brought a unique herbal flavor to the burger. It really tasted like Thanksgiving.
The duck pastrami, however, was mostly flavorless, and the burger patty itself offered even less. I’m noticing a pattern with The Oinkster. The flavor of the burger patty is consistently disappointing. All things considered though, this was an enjoyable burger – one I would order again if it ever came out of The Oinkster’s Disney-like vault.
Burger Flavor: 2/5
In my last review, I wrote of my apathy for soccer. “I’m an American!” I boasted. “I don’t understand it!” I whined. And yet Sunday, as the World Cup came to a close, I was glued to the television, watching a match that would produce no goals until the 113th minute. A month ago I might have complained about a goalless soccer match, but today I’m completely swept up in the spectacle.
Burger Week at The Oinkster could have swept me up in the same way. As far as burger-celebrating goes, Burger Week had a similarly grand scale. But I couldn’t buy in. The patties too flavorless, and the drinks too weak. When I woke up on Thursday morning with a terrible stomachache that would not subside until Friday afternoon, I decided to forego those burger offerings, and I felt no remorse. The Oinkster had done little to prove their burgers were worth the pain of continuing to eat them.
So I took a two-day hiatus, and I would go on to skip Sunday as well. No, I’m not a Burger Lord, but I don’t think the title is worth the gastrointestinal pain.
On the sixth day of Burger Week, the Oinkster gave to me The Smoinkster. The Smoinkster features a smoke-infused angus patty, topped with bacon, smoked cheddar cheese, smoked white onion, smoked ketchup, and fried pickles on a Kaiser bun.
This ended up being my last burger of the week, as The Oinkster’s commitment to mediocrity shone in this burger like it’s brethren before it. Once again, the bun was hardly noticeable. The smoked ketchup was actually successful, though a little sweet. It put me in mind of the Hickory Sauce featured on my favorite burger at The Apple Pan. Ultimately, though, this comparison is the worst The Oinkster could have drawn for me, as the patties of each could not be further from each other in quality. The Apple Pan features a smoky, uniquely flavored patty, but The Oinkster’s, per tradition, was quite boring. Instead of causing me to enjoy the Smoinkster, this smoky ketchup just made me long to be elsewhere.
The smoked onions worked. The cheese really worked. The fried pickled weren’t the worst I’ve had. But all I wanted was a restaurant capable of combining these inventive ingredients on a delicious burger, and The Oinkster wasn’t up for the task.
Burger Flavor: 2/5
The Oinkster’s Burger Week is clearly fun. Each day I went was a celebration. Fathers lined up with their sons, each wearing armfuls of bracelets marking their achievements. Burger Week veterans sported hats and t-shirts gilded with pins of burgers old and burgers new. It would have been so easy to become wrapped up into the fun of it all – there was so much to enjoy. But all this show was proven for naught, as no burger impressed me enough to buy in. I wish a fun week to The Oinkster and their fans each coming year, but I will not be joining in. Perhaps I am no Burger Lord, but titles are rarely worth it anyway.
So, readers, what burger joint deserves a burger week? And what team should I root for, now that I, inexplicably, enjoy soccer. As always, the comments are below.