By Hungry Hungry Harris
As Saturday’s Burgers and Beer approached I was still in a haze from back to back Coachella weekends. As Karma would have it, I laughed at all of my co-workers as they slumped in their desk chairs while they suffered from the dreaded “Coachella lung” early in the week only for me to catch the damn sickness on Friday. I thought I was in the clear, I thought I had that iron curtain immune system. I was wrong.
But was this minor hiccup in my health going to stop me from attending one of my favorite festivals of the year? Yeah, it almost did. It took some motivation from my girlfriend to get me out of the house. Although, I think it was more about me taking her to her first Burgers and Beer than concern for my health or me fulfilling my duty as an amateur food blogger, but hey she got me to the LA Coliseum.
Right off of the Metro at Expo Park and USC you could already smell the thousands of tiny burger sliders getting grilled up. I love this festival so much even the walk to the gates is an experience. Let me set up the scene. After escaping the awkward and sometimes concerning conversations between strangers on the Metro, you cross the street and enter the beautiful Exposition Park Rose Garden. Remember the smell of grilled burger wafting in the air. As you’re walking, you take in the perfect Los Angeles spring day; 75 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, a pleasant wind coming in from the west and the smell of burgers grilling. After you’ve avoided trampling a few children or bumping into numerous Pokémon Go-ers you walk into the air conditioned California Science Center only to emerge on the other side to the grandeur of the LA Coliseum and the now more intense smell of the grilled burgers. The tease that is the walk along the festival fence is strong. You can now see the grill masters flipping these tiny adorable burgers while the other chefs top them with their signature ingredients. End scene.
Let’s fast forward to the actual festival. I had the pleasure of attending the VIP hour, which is the hour before the general admission patrons are admitted. If you get the chance next year I totally recommend buying this ticket. No burger line was more than 5 people deep and the beer lines were almost non-existent. Once the flood gates opened the lines for everything tripled in size. Everything still moves so well, as the chefs are used to producing awesome burgers for the masses.
Being that I hadn’t eaten anything all day, my beer belly was literally wasting away due to hunger. I decided I should eat before drinking any beer or my day would’ve ended pretty early. Since I was still under the weather, I didn’t really have much of an appetite. I relied on my friend’s recommendations before eating anything so I didn’t unnecessarily waste my low tolerance for food. With the strong recommendations of my friends and even some LA Weekly staff, I came up with my Burgers and Beer top three burgers.
Button Mash Double Cheeseburger
The second burger of the day ended up being my favorite of the whole festival. Once I took my first bite of Button Mash’s double cheeseburger slider I knew this was making my list. And yes you read that right, DOUBLE cheeseburger slider, TWO PATTIES! Button Mash takes a two ground chuck and sirloin blended beef patties and top them with house made pickles, Boston lettuce, thick slices of American cheese and put it all between Bimbo buns. The first thing I thought was how simply this burger was compared to some of the other offerings. It was like something you would make at home if you were a professional chef. Imagine an In N Out Double-Double but better. The people serving and cooking were awesome too. Button Mash is located in Echo Park and along with awesome food; they also serve tons of micro brews and house an old-school video game arcade.
The Pikey Cheeseburger
My second favorite burger was another burger on the simple side, The Pikey’s Char-grilled beef burger. The slider is served with English Barber’s Cheddar, tomato and a Worcestershire Aioli but what really set this burger apart from everyone else was their use of the pretzel bun. The perfectly salted doughy bun soaked up all of the juices from that burger and made every bite absolutely perfect. The Pikey only serves organic, local farm produce and certified humane meat and poultry. If you’re looking to visit, The Pikey is located in Hollywood on Sunset Blvd.
Hopdoddy’s Prime Time Burger
And rounding out my top three is a familiar friend, Hopdoddy’s Primetime burger. I remember sitting at Hopdoddy in Playa Vista with about four burgers on my table wondering which one they would use for Burgers and Beer. With all of the awesomeness on that burger menu, I’m sure it was a difficult decision but damn was it the right one. The Primetime Burger uses a Texas Akaushi beef patty and they top it with Brie cheese, arugula, caramelized onions, truffle aioli, steak sauce and beefsteak tomato. The patties at Hopdoddy are definitely their signature; they crumble differently and just have this amazing texture.
Even with my cold or flu or whatever the hell it is, there was no way I was going to pass on the beer. After we laid down a good base layer of burger my friends and I attacked the beer lines. We tried tons of new beers and washed out the flavor of the ones we didn’t care for with more beer. The beer lines were not as packed as the burger lines, which was awesome because not only did you get a beer quickly but you got that chance to chat it up with some of the beer gurus about what they were pouring. Brewing beer has always been fascinating to me but I know that I just don’t have the patience to do it myself, but I’ll sure listen to someone talk about all day long.
We got that chance to chat it up with the good folks at Dr. Jekyll’s. They are the world’s first and only non-GMO, vegan-friendly, craft beer made with organic hops and malt that is brewed with super foods in a synergistic way. All of Dr. Jekyll’s beers are brewed with over 98% organic ingredients and each one has an associated charity it donates 1% of proceeds to. I usually wouldn’t care about any of this. I don’t drink beer to get my superfood intake or because I need a non-GMO anything. But damn was this beer good and all of that stuff was icing on an already delicious cake. Plus they were serving two of my favorite beer styles: Kolsch and Irish Red. I fell in love with their Beer Belly American Kolsch Style Ale, it is the perfect summer beer. This style of Kolsch is sweeter and fruitier than a Pilsner or Pale Ale. Along with the finest organic hops, it includes super ingredients like Acai berry, Maqui berry, green tea, green coffee bean, raspberry ketone and grapefruit fiber. At only 4.5% ABV, you can drink these all day long. Their Beer Attack Irish Style Red was also pretty damn amazing. The bartender compared it to a bubbly Johnny Walker Black and by god as soon as it hit our lips we were all in agreement. Beer Attack hits your taste buds with complex flavors and aromas by combining a touch of cinnamon with mildly sweet, nuttiness along with a hint of smokiness from imported peated malt. Super foods such as cinnamon oil, garlic, Hawthorne berry, Maqui berry, algal oil and flax seed oil are all blended together to give you some of the best 12 ounces of beer you’ve ever had. They’re located out in Altadena, but you can find Dr. Jekyll’s beer at stores and bars all over SoCal.
I’m not much of a stout guy but I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention State Brewing Co.’s Right Kinda Love Breakfast Stout. Brewing out of Gardena, their breakfast stout uses rolled oats, Brazilian single origin coffee, hand toasted coconut and macadamia nut. The flavors were so damn on point and the beer was so smooth and light compared to other stouts. With comparisons to a Mounds Bar this beer is too good not to be mentioned. My mouth is watering as I write this.
With that being said I want thank LA Weekly for allowing me to come out and bring my friends, I’m usually solo on my foodie adventures. Who would have thought having your friends come out to drink beers and eat burgers with you could be so much fun? I’ve already started the countdown for next year’s event in my head. But don’t you worry, LA Weekly has another one of the signature events coming up on June 17th, the almighty gathering of the taqueros, Tacolandia. Until then, Cheers!