The Distinguished Gourmand: Short Order

August 3, 2012

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You know how I’ve been promising my list of the Top 10 Burgers in Los Angeles for, like, two years now? Well, I thought last week I would finally be able to produce a definitive list for you. When I spoke about the impending blog post with some trusted burger connoisseurs my list was met with resistance. Apparently there were a few more big-name places that I need to try before I can say once-and-for-all that my list is comprised of the best burgers in LA.

One of those three eateries — the other two I won’t mention at the moment — was Short Order. And, since I’ve spent two years keeping my list under wraps, the fact that I’m devoting a stand-alone blog entry to Short Order should imply that it is not, in fact, one of the ten best burgers in Los Angeles. It’s good, but it’s not in the Top 10.

For those of you who are unaware, Short Order was something of a myth long before it ever existed. Nancy Silverton (Osteria Mozza) had spoken publicly about her intentions to open the restaurant for what felt like years, working in conjunction with the late Amy Pressman. With Silverton’s name attached, expectations were quite high when the place opened at the Farmer’s Market last year. Would it be the Mozza of burgers? If the press Short Order received before opening was any indication, it almost felt as if a resounding “Yes” had been sounded before its doors opened in November.

The setting feels cut from the same cloth as many a new trendy LA restaurant, right down to the beers served in mason jars and Julian Cox designed cocktails. Design aesthetics aside, the food being served at Short Order is good but falls short of achieving greatness.

My dining partner and I started with an order of hot wings (they were on the short, discounted Happy Hour menu) that were very tasty. We also ordered the fried dill pickle chips, which aren’t deserving of anything nearly as flowery as the praise Jonathan Gold once heaped upon them. They’re too thin, the cornmeal sturdy and crunchy but not accentuating anything, and the vinegar flavor is cooked right out of them. As for the ranch dipping sauce…well…I don’t like typically like ranch so I found myself dipping in the little bowl of hot wing sauce instead. Still, house-made ranch seems like a safe play here. I would have liked to see something a bit more inventive.

We both ordered Ida’s Old School Burger, cooked medium rare. My old roommate Alex said he was disappointed with the Short Order Burger, and the traditional ingredients (grass-fed beef, aged cheddar, handmade pickles, tomatoes, girdled onion, iceberg lettuce, secret sauce) made Ida’s the best choice for grading their burger. Though, if I return, I’ll probably try Ori’s Non-Animal Style Burger for fun.

The burger was cooked to perfection. That’s more than I can say for a lot of places in this city, so I have to applaud the chef for that. The patty was loosely formed, the beef juicy and coarsely ground, but I found the toppings to overwhelm the meat. The ribbons of griddled onions could be to blame. Flavorful though they were, they imposed their essence on each bite. The bun couldn’t stand up to the mess of toppings and beef juice. It was the kind of burger whose ingredients were tasty on their own, but combined they couldn’t achieve the rarified air of burger greatness. It’s an odd phenomenon, yet it’s a familiar refrain I return to when I try a new burger. It was good, not revelatory.

The side of fries might have been the best part of the meal. The skin-on spuds were cooked perfectly and packed great soft potato flavor. As filling as the burger was I couldn’t stop consuming the fries. I’ve heard great things about the Short Order Spuds and their accompanying sauces, but if you’re looking for great old-school fries, Short Order definitely delivers those.

So I return, once more, to the comparisons between Short Order’s burger and those of all the other restaurants I’ve visited in the past five years, from the sadly defunct (8oz. Burger Bar) to the new-wave of burger-centric eateries that seem to be popping up more and more frequently. And, as I previously stated, Short Order sadly falls short of my personal Top 10 LA Burgers.

The search continues.

Vashti Bunyan – Someday [MP3]

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