By Hungry Hungry Harris
Tacos have widely been considered LA’s go-to food of choice, but never rule out the almighty hamburger. Burgers play an important role in our city’s food scene and have a rich history here in Southern California. The very first McDonald’s was opened by the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino back in 1940 and you can visit the oldest McDonald’s still in operation in Downey. LA is also the home of the juggernaut of SoCal burgers, In-N-Out, born right off the 10 freeway in Baldwin Park. The rest is history, as burger spots have been popping up on every corner ever since.
With the influx of breweries, craft beer-friendly bars, and gastropubs, the hamburger seems to be in the middle of a “Burger Renaissance”. Who would have thought burgers and beer go hand in hand?
One of my favorite places to grab a good beer and a tasty burger is Public School 310 in Culver City. In my humble opinion, Public School 310 is the definition of gastropub. They have a wide variety of uncommon beers. Eddie, “the beer guy,” is very proud of the beer selection. He likes to focus his attention on self-distributed breweries. His selection is very diverse; he carries everything from a Marionberry cider to an agave tequila-barreled ale. As for the food, quality is everything. The great thing about gastropubs is that everything is meant to go with beer and everything tends to be simple and easy to eat. When chefs have a simple menu, they have to bring it with the quality of their ingredients.
The Public School brand has an internal competition called “Burger Wars.” Every month from February to July, chefs from each Public School locations use their skills and mastery of the grill to create a new specialty limited edition burger. Chefs are encouraged to use seasonal, trending or unusual ingredients plus, pair it with a specific beer. Each month a Burger Wars winner will be announced based on sales. The ultimate champion will be crowned in July.
The opening month featured some very interesting creations. Public School 805 in Thousand Oaks created the Drunken Goat Burger with crispy shallots, bacon aioli, dressed arugula, and tomato. PS 213 in Downtown LA made the California Bacon Burger with avocado, slaw, Swiss cheese, pickled onions and Sriracha aioli. Public School 818 in Sherman Oaks gave us the Down South Burger with pimento cheese, honey-cilantro slaw and fried pickles. And finally, Public School 310 in Culver City put together the candied bacon burger with truffle butter, sage aioli and arugula. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the good folks at PS 310 to talk a little about their burger creation and of course, try the food.
Based on appearance only, the Candied Bacon Burger is a very simple looking burger, but the flavors are anything but. The burger is meant to be quick to make but meant to be a crowd pleaser. The candied bacon is made with brown sugar and Cholula hot sauce. The bacon is not too crunchy and thankfully it doesn’t stick to your teeth. The candied bacon is the perfect complement to the smokiness of the burger and its other ingredients. The burger is paired with a Mission City Coffee Porter because the maltiness of the beer goes very well with sweet and saltiness of the burger. I know a lot of thinking goes into having the freedom to create a burger so I wanted to know the thought process behind creating such a unique offering.
I asked a few questions to find out how something like the candied bacon burger gets thought up and actually plated to serve. I asked, besides ingredients being seasonal, how did you choose what to put on your burger? The candied bacon was actually something Public School offered already, however it was on the Nutella Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich, but it had never been paired with another protein. According to the chef, inspiration comes directly from the ingredients they use every day but they also want to think outside the box.
Being that I like to cook a lot, I’ve always been curious about how chefs think of ingredients to add to their dishes. At Public School, chefs are encouraged to get creative. That is part Public School’s idea of “an education in the art of food and beer.” There’s always a trial because they taste test and try everything before they decide it’s ready to be added to the menu. A lot of the process of making food is a ritual, but the Burger Wars burgers are anything but typical.
I also wanted to know if there were any unusual ingredients that they have always wanted to put on a burger. The chef claimed that there is still a lot of experimentation to be done with uncommon vegetables, especially veggies that you don’t often see as side dishes in American food. Veggies can completely change the flavor profile of a protein, and depending on preparation, there are endless possibilities.
For a small chain of restaurants, Burger Wars is a fun event and it definitely keeps things fresh. I like that Public School allows their talented chefs the freedom to create something out of the norm. February may be over but it’s only the beginning of Burger Wars. Remember each Public School will be offering a new burger every month. SO be sure to get out to your nearest Public School and support the best burger. In July the ultimate winner will be crowned and that burger will be added to all of the Public School menus. I want to thank everyone at Public School 310 for having me and offering such awesome service. It’s always a pleasure when I get to cover what is already one of my favorite restaurants.