By Hungry Hungry Harris
With LA Weekly’s Burgers & Beer coming up at the end of the month I found it necessary to revisit one of my favorite burgers from last year’s awesome event. After trying just about every burger the festival had to offer, Hopdoddy’s Goodnight/Good Cause burger left a lasting impression on my taste buds and my conscience. The Angus beef patty topped with Tillamook cheddar, caramelized onions, sliced jalapenos, hickory BBQ sauce, red leaf lettuce, beefsteak tomato and their signature Sassy Sauce is not only one of the best burgers you’ll ever eat but it helps a great cause. For every Goodnight/Good Cause burger sold, $1 is donated to Friends of Ballona Wetlands. Hailing from Texas, Hopdoddy Burger Bars have started to pop up around the Southwest and each location has its own charity that they donate their proceeds to.
All Hopdoddy locations live by one mantra, “The FRESHEST available, all natural ingredients. Our beef comes from HUMANELY RAISED COWS, never, ever given growth hormones or antibiotics. We grind everything in-house daily. Our fries are HAND-CUT from select Kennebec potatoes. Our buns are made from scratch & BAKED FRESH every day. ENJOY!” I know I’ve said it before, with so many burger spots popping up all over LA you have to come hard with the best and freshest ingredients. Hopdoddy understands that.
I knew Hopdoddy’s burger menu was strong before I made my visit. Not only do they have the freshest ingredients, but they know how to use them. I thought to myself, with so many solid burger options why would I try something I’ve already had. John, the manager of the Playa Vista location, made some recommendations that I absolutely had to try out. When visiting restaurants I’ve made it a personal rule to always try what is recommended to me whether I’m comfortable with it or not and to always order food as is. Personally, I don’t really like tomatoes. But if a chef insists his burger be served with a huge slice of beefsteak tomato, well, who am I to say no to that?
With that being said, I followed John on this magical burger journey. He insisted I try their Terlingua, Buffalo Bill, Ahi Tuna and Primetime burgers. And no, I didn’t eat all of these burgers by myself. I’m a fat dude but I have limits, but what’s a burger with no fries? I had to tack on the Green Chili Queso fries and a Nutella & Chocolate Pretzel shake.
[GREEN CHILI QUESO DIP & FRIES]
The first thing to come out of the kitchen was the freshly cut Kennebec fries with a healthy serving of Green Chili Queso dip. On their own, the fries were absolutely perfect. They’re a bit thicker than your regular shoe string fry but nowhere as thick as a steak fry. Each handful of fries had the perfect crisp, but the star of the show was definitely the queso dip. I couldn’t get enough of the dip. I was pounding a handful of fries into the queso dip and into my mouth as if someone was going to steal my food. After realizing no one was going to steal my fries, I thought, I can’t wait to dip my burger into this. Important people of Hopddody, if you’re reading this, please make a Green Chili Queso burger. Until my voice is heard, the burgers on their current roster will have to do.
The first two burgers came out to my guest and me as if our waiter was surprising us with a birthday cake. We smiled like idiots as our eyes sparkled and followed the metal tray until the burgers were gracefully placed in the middle of our table. We stopped our conversation and just sat there staring at these two perfectly sized burgers with their shiny bun tops.
The first burger we split was the Terlingua burger. This was actually one of the burgers I wanted to try coming into this so when John recommended it I knew it had to be good. The Terlingua is an Angus beef patty topped with Chile con Carne, Tillamook Cheddar, corn Fritos, Sassy Sauce, red leaf lettuce, white onion and beefsteak tomato. I immediately cut the burger in half, and just as I thought, the cross section was so beautiful it brought a single tear to my eye. The patty was cooked to perfection, with the perfect amount of pink topped with a decent serving of chile con carne. It didn’t take long to make that burger disappear. The Fritos provide a nice crunch and saltiness to every bite. The juices from the patty and chili made a perfect topping to the fries already sitting on my plate too.
Next up was the Primetime burger. For the Primetime burger, Akaushi beef replaces the usual Angus beef. Akaushi beef comes from Japanese Brown cattle, which is a small breed of cattle known for its leanness and ideal marbling. The patty is topped with Brie cheese, arugula, caramelized onions, truffle aioli, steak sauce, red leaf lettuce and beefsteak tomato. The brie cheese totally makes this burger. The buttery brie with its tangy flavor pairs perfectly with the caramelized onions and steak sauce. The ingredients suggest that this is some kind of fancy burger and it tastes expensive but at about $13 it doesn’t break the bank.
[BUFFALO BILL BURGER]
After two burgers we thought we were done, but John had two more burgers coming. Next was the Buffalo Bill Burger. Hopdoddy switches up the protein on this burger as well, switching out the Angus beef for Bison. For those who have never had Bison, it is a very lean meat. The lean Bison is topped with apple-smoked bacon, Blue Jack cheese, Frank’s Hot Sauce, Sassy sauce, red leaf lettuce, white onion and beefsteak tomato. With the over the top flavors of the Frank’s, Blue Jack cheese and the bacon it was evident that the chefs knew exactly what they were doing using the Bison patty. John seemed pretty proud of their use of Blue Jack cheese, and rightly so. It was delicious. This was definitely my favorite burger of the night.
[AHI TUNA BURGER]
And finally, John threw in a wildcard. He insisted we try the Ahi Tuna Burger. I was a little hesitant but I remembered my golden rule. John seemed really excited for us to try it so I had to accept, and it did not disappoint. The thought of a tuna burger might weird some people out, but trust me, take the chance, you’ll love it. The chefs take Sushi-grade tuna and grind up like they would beef and form into a patty. They then sear both sides of the patty and top it with sprouts, Nori chips, teriyaki, honey wasabi mayo, pickled ginger, red leaf lettuce, white onion and beefsteak tomato. The flavor profile on this burger is insane; you have the clean tasting tuna accompanying the sweetness of the teriyaki accompanying the “horseradishy” wasabi mayo. The honey wasabi mayo played perfectly on the palette. It’s enough flavor to let you know it’s there but it doesn’t have that signature “kick you in the nose” feel wasabi usually gives you. Like the flavor profile, the different textures also blew my mind. Sushi-grade tuna already has a unique texture so when it’s ground and seared it takes it to a whole new level of uniqueness. The Nori chips were the perfect thickness and provided a beautiful crunch to each bite. The Ahi-Tuna Burger was definitely a sleeper pick.
After clearing the 4th burger I knew there was no way I could consume anything else. John came by our table and asked me what else I had in my mind. Defeated, I told him I couldn’t do anything else. Knowing I was down for the count and wanting nothing more than to go home and take off my pants, John then looked me in the eyes and asked, “What about a milkshake?” I looked him right back in his eyes and responded with a dramatic, yes.
Let me tell you something. I know I say a lot of things are awesome and delicious and I’ve even noticed some of the comments saying things like “Of course he likes it, fat guys like everything.” To those commenters, that’s not true, I don’t care for tomatoes and F*** Y** my guy! But Hopdoddy’s Nutella & Chocolate Pretzel milkshake could be the best milkshake of all time (Kanye voice). I don’t have the words to describe how good it tastes, I just know that it made me feel like a child. Like for those ten minutes, I didn’t have a care in the world and that made me extremely happy.
I want to thank everyone at Hopdoddy Playa Vista for making my experience there so great. I want to thank John for the awesome recommendations and for taking the time out from a busy night to answer all of our questions. If you get the chance, I highly recommend you visit one of Hopdoddy’s SoCal locations. If you’re heading out to LA Weekly’s Burgers & Beer keep an eye out for Hopdoddy. I can’t wait to see what they’ll be blessing the crowd with. Until next time, Cheers!